The SDDC & Shifting IT Roles

The software-defined data center is breaking down IT silos and prompting changes in traditional roles.

Malcolm Rieke

June 25, 2014

3 Min Read
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It's no secret that virtualization and the cloud revolution have brought unprecedented levels of agility and automation to IT infrastructure and data centers around the globe. As a result, the changing nature of the data center architecture --- moving from physical to virtual --- requires a shift in various IT roles within many organizations.

With the software-defined data center, networks are virtualized at the access layer and can support virtual network topologies independent of physical network. Virtualized security technologies exploit the speed and automation of converged infrastructure, making security controls as easy to deploy and manage as their virtual machine predecessors.

Virtualization also gives data center admins the power to incorporate security seamlessly as part of the provisioning of virtual machines (VMs), automatically have security policies follow VMs when they move, dynamically adapt network controls such as firewall rules, and block or quarantine compromised or out-of-compliance assets. Fully automated virtualization improves security by making it more fluid and context aware.

With the ability to institute predefined capabilities based on rules and execute them automatically, IT teams have the ability to design according to the needs of the applications. As a result, IT can spend less time on operations and more time building highly efficient applications -- leading to radical changes for traditional IT roles and responsibilities across network, security, and operations.

Rather than reducing traditional IT roles or diminishing their responsibilities, SDDCs expand roles by blending functions, presenting an opportunity for previously independent teams to work collaboratively and expand their knowledge and roles beyond traditional operation, network, and security silos. By expanding and shifting their roles away from silos and toward converged infrastructure administration, IT personnel can contribute more to the business, improving agility and overall security.

It's important for IT admins to realize that old-style physical security devices are not designed to protect the new virtual network components architecture of virtualization. Such traditional security depends on physical devices deployed on the perimeter of the data center or on physical networks. These physical devices depend on network inspection and are thus blind to the significant security-related activity within virtual infrastructure or to changes coming from the adoption of software-defined networks in the data center.

The SDDC has the potential to deliver ubiquitously secure applications, providing higher levels of security, provided the organization can embrace and adapt to these technologies. For IT to function efficiently, system, network, and security teams must recognize this opportunity to expand their portfolio and embrace the change.

How can business leaders approach this change management challenge within their organization?

First, they need to take a straightforward approach by assessing the state of the organization's skill set. The next step is to determine what additional skills are needed to operate the new data center effectively. Training and cross-training staff members is essential to creating a cohesive team. Leaders must identify individuals with the aptitude and disposition to adopt a new methodology and provide guidance in a top-down manner for staffing the next-generation data center. Here are a few other tips:

  • Show IT admins how to examine emerging technologies that will impact the organization, and provide guidance for being ahead of the curve from an organizational perspective.

  • Provide ways to redefine and expand IT roles commensurate with new responsibilities of the converged data center (think cross-functional).

  • Show admins how to take advantage of the change to have a more expansive role with a broader scope and more visibility into the whole data center.

Most IT teams rely today on organizational structures based on system/network/security skill siloes. They struggle to realize the benefits of their combined skill sets. However, if business leaders and IT admins can embrace and adapt to the new technologies as a team, rather than individually, organizations will reap the benefits of virtualization and become empowered to provide higher levels of security.

About the Author(s)

Malcolm Rieke

Malcolm RiekeDirector of Product Management, Catbird

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