Infrastructure-as-a-service is more than just IT resources on-demand from a cloud. It is akin to a workbench, with tools that either make or break an IT team's productivity.
For example, legacy infrastructure, if left unaddressed by DevOps orchestration tools, can linger as a significant obstacle to agility. More than 80 percent of enterprises still run applications on dedicated servers, while there is a widespread need for help in bridging legacy and next-generation environments.
DevOps, working with the tools afforded to it by IaaS, can theoretically solve the issue. It should bring all stakeholders together and close the gap between development and operations management. However, there are clear risks, such as siloing legacy assets away from everything programmable, which only perpetuates the problems of dealing with in-flux IT environments - namely high costs and lengthy delays.
"It's fair to categorize the typical enterprise architecture as laden with legacy applications that are monolithic and fragile," wrote Jason Mundy, Senior Director of Portfolio Marketing for Global Services at EMC. "The manpower and budget required to maintain these applications can severely hamper an IT organization's ability to drive innovation."
IaaS as a complement to DevOps
If DevOps is an abstract cultural concept (i.e., collaboration and cross-functional skills lead to better business outcomes), then IaaS, as I described earlier, is a concrete set of tools that can help bring it to life, or, conversely, be an impediment, depending on the quality of the implementation. Ideally, IaaS delivers the infrastructure environments with the rapidity, flexibility, fidelity and inter-team portability needed to make DevOps work.
In making the case of platform-as-a-service, author J.P. Morgenthal identified the close relationship between DevOps and delivering agile, service-based IT. Although he focused on PaaS in particular as a common platform for simplifying various application stacks and ultimately getting more value out of IaaS, his arguments followed a similar arc to the ones about how IaaS can help DevOps.
That is to say, IT agility requires a mix of cultural and technical components. Code needs to be transformed into value-added services, and the only way to make that happen is to have a collaborative workflow that is supported by an IaaS cloud.
The takeaway: IaaS is an important tool set for implementing and supporting DevOps. The latter is mostly cultural, with an emphasis on collaboration. For it to work in practice, an IaaS cloud is essential for delivering the speed, self-service, portability and environment fidelity required for agile IT.