The type of IT framework that you use to support applications is a major decision. In the earlier days of computing, applications were simply executables that resided on a computer's hard drive.
That is no longer the case. Now, all sorts of abstract setups are allowing businesses to do more with the resources that they have. Companies are streamlining their workflows, improving products and services and gaining valuable business intelligence with apps that run in all sorts of environments.
Untethering files from drives
In the last two decades, computing has changed from a "hard drive resident" model to a model based on logical partitioning. Instead of having an application work on a single drive, apps work on a network of drives.
The internet also changed things, as businesses moved to a model where servers take in data and internal data centers "crunch" it – this sped up the process of diversifying hardware for business use.
Software as a Service
Then came the cloud. Cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS) models mean that many applications get delivered to customers through a web browser. There are all sorts of big changes in storage, security, etc. that go along with this, and it has really changed the face of corporate IT. When you can obtain application functionality through the web, why buy it and download it in-house?
Another thing that has happened to enterprise IT recently is network virtualization. Virtualization super-charges the idea of splitting a network into logical parts. Workstations become "virtual machines," with each using its own resources in the system. Software controls and coordinates the use of CPU and memory, things that used to be manually determined by the hardware itself.
Engineers look at all this and change it to reach what experts call a "desired state"; many tools are emerging to help them do this. It is an exciting time to be in IT, and more oversight can lead to a lot less waste.
With virtualization, companies need additional application support models. One is "containerization," wherein apps run on resident VMs with their own operating system clones built in.
The choice is yours
All of this change gives businesses quite a few choices in how to support their enterprise applications. They can still run them on in-house servers and computers, or they can outsource support to a vendor who could be located anywhere in the world. Alternatively, they can use virtualization setups to support their apps and monitor their performance and the resources they use.
The ability to pursue these different types of application support has allowed companies to branch out into new ways of doing business. Manufacturers are creating "smart factories" where individual machines "talk to" each other and coordinate workflows. Services businesses are keeping better tabs on their customers. Other firms are optimizing their inventory handling practices or getting raw materials in the door in a more predictable way. And it is all happening thanks to new structural models for IT, where apps exist in more complex spaces, and business leaders do more work to invent internal systems.