By 2017, Web-scale IT will be an architectural approach found operating in 50 percent of global enterprises, up from less than 10 percent in 2013, according to Gartner, Inc. Web-scale IT is a pattern of global-class computing that delivers the capabilities of large cloud service providers within an enterprise IT setting by rethinking positions across several dimensions.
"Large cloud services providers such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc., are reinventing the way in which IT services can be delivered," said Cameron Haight, research vice president at Gartner. "Their capabilities go beyond scale in terms of sheer size to also include scale as it pertains to speed and agility. If enterprises want to keep pace, then they need to emulate the architectures, processes and practices of these exemplary cloud providers."
"Web-scale IT looks to change the IT value chain in a systemic fashion," said Mr. Haight. "Data centers are designed with an industrial engineering perspective that looks for every opportunity to reduce cost and waste. This goes beyond redesigning facilities to be more energy efficient to also include in-house design of key hardware components such as servers, storage and networks. Web-oriented architectures allow developers to build very flexible and resilient systems that recover from failure more quickly."
Mr. Haight said that open and freely available blueprints of data center facilities and associated server, storage and networking hardware are lowering costs and disrupting the traditional IT vendor landscape.
"IT organizations have historically had a limited number of vendors from which to source their hardware, whether the need was for servers, storage devices or network equipment. This began to change when large, cloud services providers, because of their extreme needs for scale and cost control, began to design and assemble infrastructure components," said Mr. Haight. "These devices were different than those sold to traditional enterprises, because they did not have some of the basic features often available in commercial products."
Regardless of the cloud services company, a common element among all these devices was an organizational requirement to run an open-source OS, not only to reduce costs, but also to increase the control of IT environments.
This brings several ramifications for the traditional enterprise. First, and perhaps most importantly, an open approach provides more options for hardware (and data center) equipment design and procurement — where scale-out architectures make sense. While Gartner expects that traditional suppliers will provide solutions aligned with these blueprints, new providers will also have offerings. With the server hegemony broken, enterprises will have a chance to leverage the economies of scale designed into these systems — not just from a pricing perspective, but also from an operations expense position. Although this cost is difficult to measure, a new sense of innovation is beginning to pervade the industry that likely will have additional benefits further down the line for large cloud services firms, as well as traditional enterprises.
At the same time, loosely coupled, Web-oriented architecture (WOA)-based software architectures are enabling development teams to increasingly operate independently, while improving overall application resiliency. IT organizations must rethink how applications are designed if they are to meet the requirements of Web-scale IT environments. These requirements include — scaling performance proportionally with the addition of resources, adapting to the needed degree of business change, remaining resilient in the face of infrastructure fragility and being operationally efficient as the size of the system grows.
To achieve these requirements, the architecture of the application and the "glue" or technology that binds multiple Web-scale services together must be examined. With respect to the applications, enterprise architects and developers must consider a wide range of approaches to meet Web-scale needs.
Taken together, a new application and architectural approach puts enterprises on the path of design for operations. This means that having examined how to improve performance and resiliency from the start, IT organizations can begin to rethink their operational support. Combining new software architectures with DevOps-style approaches can become the catalysts to improve an IT organization's ability to adapt to change. As a result, Gartner predicts that by 2020, 25 percent of global enterprise CIOs will have had previous involvement in corporate Web-scale IT initiatives, up from less than five percent in 2013.
The influence of DevOps on IT culture, tools, processes and organizational structure is resulting in the acceleration of application delivery and an environment of continuous experimentation.
"DevOps is causing organizations to rethink much of the conventional wisdom of IT operations," said Mr. Haight. "Historically, enterprise IT has been focused on managing risk — particularly for companies that reside in regulated industries. However, the major DevOps underpinnings, such as automation, are enabling these same enterprises to realize they can be fast and 'safe.' Embracing risk is not as risky as it sounds with a DevOps mindset. Having the architecture of the application being more resilient in the first place enables IT operations teams to implement and support leaner and more agile processes that might otherwise be viewed as inappropriate for conservatively minded organizations."
Detailed analysis is available in the report "Strategic Technology Trend: Web-Scale Singularity Means Goodbye to Conventional IT Wisdom." The report is available on Gartner's website at http://www.gartner.com/doc/2661319.
This research is part of the Gartner Special Report "Top Ten Strategic Technology Trends for 2014." The special report can be viewed at http://www.gartner.com/technology/research/top-10-technology-trends/ and includes links to reports and video commentary that examine the top technology trends that have the potential to affect individuals, businesses and IT organizations during the next three years.
David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow, will provide additional analysis on these trends during the Gartner webinar, "Top Ten Strategic Technology Trends for 2014" on March 12 at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. EDT. To register for this complimentary webinar, please visit http://my.gartner.com/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=202&mode=2&PageID=5553&resId=2659116&ref=Webinar-Calendar.
Web-scale IT will be further discussed at the Gartner Infrastructure, Operations and Data Center Summit 2014, taking place May 21-22 in Sydney, Australia.
About Gartner Infrastructure, Operations and Data Center Summit
The 9th Gartner IT Infrastructure Operations & Data Center Summit is a community of IT infrastructure and operations and data center professionals charged with managing and advancing their enterprise's evolving IT infrastructure requirements. IT infrastructure and operational activities are directly impacting an organization's business more than ever before. IT departments must increase both capacity and availability while delivering operational excellence in a highly demand driven, yet cost constrained world. At the Gartner Infrastructure Operations and Data Center Summit, Gartner analysts will help delegates to manage the increased challenges and disruptions brought about by Social, Mobile, Cloud and Information (the Nexus of Forces) and lead the IT organization successfully through these changes.
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