Prioritizing outcomes versus the steps to achieve the outcomes is big for almost every IT organization. Cobbling together storage, server, network, and backup platforms to automate management to make it simple, is a complex process. Providing a consistent API experience across technologies significantly simplifies infrastructure integration and automation. Dell’s Developer Portal provides a “one stop shop” to access API’s from across the portfolio in an easily consumable, consistent user experience. Users and developers can now easily find and access the tools to automate Dell infrastructure to make achieving their desired outcomes simple.
In the beginning, IT created the Admin…
The role of an IT infrastructure administrator has evolved significantly over the years. Back in the day, it was typical for teams of admins managing dozens of apps across dedicated silos of infrastructure. Fast forward to today, admins face the challenge of managing thousands of apps deployed across virtualized clouds managed as pools of resources. In this new world, the need to automate administration is no longer a “nice to have”, it’s a “must have”. Skilled admins were the backbone of IT operations to making everything run seamlessly. Finding more admins to keep up with new scale and rate of growth was not just impractical, it was impossible. New levels of simplicity and automation were required to allow organizations to keep pace with these challenges.
As a result, providing a positive user experience that was simple became a major focus for technology providers. Done right, it could make automation simple and help staff stay on top of the daily challenges and changes, providing a key business value. Storage provisioning tasks that took dozens of steps and 10’s of minutes to complete had to be reduced to a few simple clicks that took a few seconds to complete. These improvements made admins more effective, efficient, and less prone to making a mistake. It was game changing and helped IT keep up with growth requirements.
Make it Simple…not Simpler
Investments were also made in management and orchestration tools to reduce the number of individual device managers. The requirement changed from making devices simple to manage to developing a “single pane of glass.” The challenges associated with achieving this were exponentially greater than reducing the number of admin clicks to complete a task. Devices used different APIs and programming languages. Management frameworks were often vendor specific, inconsistent, and fragmented across technologies. Deployments were expensive, complex, and time consuming, sometimes taking years to go from pilot to production. The “single pane of glass” became more a “pain of glass”. Long story short, results were mixed with many of these initiatives.
Fast forward to today and the management nirvana vision has moved from getting to a single “pane of glass” to no panes of glass. From fewer clicks to no clicks. From automating administration of infrastructure to making administration of infrastructure invisible. It means infrastructure is deployed and managed as code versus a stack of individual elements. It’s a new type of user experience because it prioritizes the outcome and not the steps to achieve the result.
Let’s look at a real-life example. Years ago, we would go to a physical retail store when we needed something. Much of that has been replaced by online retailers providing an improved user experience for many consumers. Making those transactions simple is a key differentiator. Making it easy to place the order by remembering who you are. Tracking the order to tell you when it was expected to be delivered, when it was delivered, and where it was delivered. All game changers for consumers.
But now those transactions are becoming invisible. Ordering an item is now just a simple voice command on a smart speaker. A single push button operation without requiring a button to push. Pretty cool stuff that makes the end to end steps and tasks invisible. The same type of user experience being applied to infrastructure management.
How can Dell make provisioning the infrastructure for an application should just as simple as reordering hair gel? By making it simple, consistent, and comprehensive for admins to build the automation. It allows IT to prioritize the outcome and making the back-end steps invisible to the user. The maturity and wide spread adoption of open REST APIs and automation frameworks such as Ansible and VMware’s vRealize Orchestrator have allowed organizations to standardize their integration efforts across technology elements. Dell is providing the APIs and tools to help developers assemble deploy infrastructure that to easily plug into their chosen frameworks.
Introducing the Dell Developer Portal
The introduction of the Dell Developer Portal provides one stop shopping for the code, tools, documentation, and support to integrate and automate Dell infrastructure into a user’s environment. The portal consolidates REST APIs and documentation covering dozens of Dell platforms. The tools are consistent across platforms which make easy to integrate different Dell server, storage, network, and backup technologies. Additional features can be incrementally added to the Portal, while new content is also being published. The end game is to provide a single location for everything needed by the development community and provide a consistent cross portfolio API experience.
The Portal is external developer focused and provides users with modern discovery and search functions to make it quick and easy to consume and implement the APIs. It provides host API access management to ensure that calls with authenticated access can run the API. The REST API’s allow developers to script and automate a wide range of administration tasks. This can include everything from “day one” operations to set up and install the platform to routine daily administration operations. New REST APIs are added as new platform features and enhancements are introduced to allow users to quick take advantage to new functionality.
Dell’s API Modernization Strategy
The overall strategy is to develop a flexible, effective, and consistent cross portfolio API experience to simplify integration and automation. The first step included a commitment to an API standardization initiative to establish and sustain API standards across Dell’s portfolio. This meant developing standardized API compliance frameworks developed to inject an “API design-first” thinking into directly into product development. It also established cross portfolio frameworks and specification best practices, process, automation.
A collaborative governance board that spans across Dell Engineering is in place and responsible for defining common API standards. The governance board monitors and tracks compliance across platforms and develops consistent success measurements. It allows Dell to track user adoption and sentiment as well as provide granular visibility into usage behavior. Feedback is collected and shared with development teams to ensure a consistent process to develop requirements and respond quickly to users’ needs.
The Power of Simple
Whether you’re starting from scratch with “greenfield” application deployments or looking for additional ways to optimize existing infrastructure deployments, delivering automation and simplicity is an important IT initiative. Having the APIs and tools to help provide the necessary end to end integration points is cool stuff. Having a strategy that not only provides these necessary APIs but delivers them in a consistent way across technologies can be a game changer for organizations looking automate and simplify everything (or at least as much as possible). Prioritizing and “program-izing” APIs as part of the solution and baking it into the technology’s development phase provides users with a strategy to building automation. It’s the difference between making administration simpler versus simple.