https://dwpdigital.blog.gov.uk/2016/05/17/the-dna-of-infrastructure-blood/

The DNA of infrastructure blood

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We can use the analogy of DNA to describe how the Department’s IT infrastructure sets the blueprint for future IT services. It’s core to our ability to provide better services to our customers and colleagues. We can also draw parallels with the way DNA in living organisms has evolved to changing environments, with how modern IT infrastructures also need to evolve in small steps. I want to use this analogy to describe the fundamental challenges we now face with our infrastructural DNA.

Infrastructure evolution

The evolution of technology has fundamentally changed society’s economic and social structure. We live in an ‘always on’, mobile and connected society, which expects to carry out all their interactions using technology, irrespective of location.

Today’s generation (Y and Z) is ever growing: ‘digital natives’ that have grown up addicted to technology - emotionally attached to their mobile phones. If we are to serve today’s new generation, we have to rethink how we build infrastructure. We can no longer sustain a model where we deploy new infrastructure every time a new disruptive technology service comes along.

Leading organisations have disrupted the way customers are served, by successfully harnessing digital technologies and data insight to provide compelling customer journeys. These deliver convenience and personalised interactions through tailored offerings and location relevant services. They have evolved their infrastructure to, not only provide experiences compelling for an individual customer, but to do so at scale. Customers are applying the same expectations they have of the private sector to their interactions with Government.

The Department is responding with an exciting agenda for data centre, network, software and asset consolidation - reuse and new technology - and the shift towards cloud computing to support services across multiple channels. The technology roadmap, delivered by the Department’s Technology Design Authority, builds on the Government Digital Service standards and code of practice. Mandating the reuse of proven, common application solutions and policies, these solutions must balance the need to be open, accessible and usable with the growing cyber-security threat and the need to handle sensitive information with due care.

Most infrastructures share common elements: continuing to use DNA as the analogy, infrastructures can be viewed as having some common genes and needing to evolve through an effort of continuous refresh. I compare this to the adaptive evolution of DNA, where small variations in genes over time have driven natural selection and survival of the species. What are the infrastructure characteristics of organisations that are most suited to serving their customers and, therefore, most likely to survive?

Changing to survive

We need to ensure our infrastructure is continually evolving so that it can support modern technologies, where we adopt cloud-based services like Platform as a Service/Software as a Service. A focus less about owning fixed assets and systems and more on managing data; balancing greater access to primary data whilst maintaining integrity and ensuring strong security.

Growing the gene pool

But things are changing. We are now well underway with our infrastructure DNA refresh and, in recognition of the shortage of skills and capabilities in the digital and technology sector, we are nurturing apprenticeships and graduates. This is the base from which we will grow the gene pool, create capability and deliver innovation.

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2 comments

  1. Comment by Tye posted on

    Thanks for making this interesting post. I agree with you, but a few things spring to mind:

    - Much like the DNA, we should question why employees and youth have failed to naturally evolve with the latest trends in IT technologies? Maybe this is pointing to a lack in relevant and up-to-date local area funding and education to enable this (college/uni courses in localities).

    - Being an enabler is always good, but certain area's within the UK seem more digitally regressed than others. It's about time this disparity is looked into and ameliorated. Government partnerships in IT education should be available and accessible for any British citizen who wishes to become 'enabled'.

    - DWP is becoming Digital. However, Cloud technologies suffer from the problematic security challenges inherent within public/private/hybrid cloud offerings. Effective security and the lack of control with cloud, violates fundamentals of IT Security policies, and sometimes offsets the on-site technology support costs. In essence, some archaic 'onsite' technologies may still be better suited where full security, visibility and control are critical.

    - Which leads me on to: Have you found Cloud to bring with it higher net Security related costs?

    - This isn't the correct place for detail, but from experience, I hope any base infrastructure contracts (esp. I/PaaS) look in-depth at the CPUs/RAM configs being utilized and that you demand visibility. Monitoring would be even better! Intel and AMDs past 4 year processors, while costing very differently, do not offer much effective performance improvements except in niche corner-cases. Hence, this would be an obvious area where a lot could be saved by drop-in older packages.

    • Replies to Tye>

      Comment by Juan Villamil posted on

      Security is our zero requirement, meaning security is one of our top priorities, but we never consider the cost of security as the only cost of hosting an application in the cloud.
      There are lots of benefits to cloud, some of which are discussed in numerous articles in these blogs. When looking at TCO for an specific application we are considering building or moving to cloud we consider all costs, including the cost of delivering the appropriate security.