Gartner Top 10 Trends Impacting Infrastructure & Operations for 2020

December 10, 2019

Contributor: Meghan Rimol

The influence of digital business, cloud computing and hybrid IT creates significant “cascade effects” that must be tackled by I&O leaders in 2020 and beyond.

Infrastructure and operations (I&O) has seen significant disruption in recent years, spurred by the rapid growth of the cloud and the shift to hybrid IT. A business located in the U.S. might host its website on public cloud infrastructure while storing customer information and backups across private cloud infrastructure in data centers in India and in the U.K.

Today, infrastructure is everywhere, and the pace of change for I&O will only increase in 2020 as IT leaders face pressure to more quickly create, deploy, manage and govern dynamic application environments.

Today’s I&O professionals must be willing to move beyond legacy practices and mindsets to embrace trends that will profoundly impact I&O teams

“Hybrid IT environments are becoming the new normal, with many enterprises managing workloads in data centers, in the public cloud and at the edge,” says Ross Winser, Gartner Senior Director Analyst.

“Traditional I&O tools are quickly reaching their limits when tasked with such a wide array of data-processing venues. Today’s I&O professionals must be willing to move beyond legacy practices and mindsets to embrace trends that will profoundly impact I&O teams and the capabilities they provide their business.”

Here are the top ten trends that I&O leaders should focus on as they look ahead to 2020.

Trend 1: Automation strategy rethink

To date, many I&O teams have taken an opportunistic approach to automation, resulting in automation capabilities that vary significantly between I&O teams. Additionally, independent automation tools have proliferated throughout IT. However, as digital business scales up, demands on I&O automation will increase, which will threaten the viability of this type of approach. 

I&O leaders must shift to a strategic approach to automation. By 2025, more than 90% of enterprises will have an automation architect, up from less than 20% today. This leader will guide investments through the lens of the automation strategy, ensuring that automation is scalable to digital business needs, addressing use cases that align with business strategy.

Trend 2: Hybrid IT vs. disaster recovery confidence 

Hybrid infrastructures make disaster recovery increasingly complex. In the new world of distributed applications and complex integration, I&O professionals are facing the uncomfortable truth that if a disaster strikes, heritage recovery strategies may not address the full extent of their operating scenarios. 

Rethink disaster recovery strategies to account for workloads in public and private clouds, in traditional data centers and at the edge. Ensure resilience requirements are evaluated at design stages, and that opportunities to enhance resilience when needed are achievable and work with other business leaders to decide how to close resilience planning gaps. 

Trend 3: Scaling DevOps agility

An increasing number of enterprise product teams work in DevOps environments. Yet as successes win mind share and enthusiasm builds, the practical challenges of scaling DevOps must be addressed. For example, ensuring that the skills needed are available at scale and that many teams do not end up duplicating effort in similar ways.

By 2023, 90% of enterprises will fail to scale DevOps initiatives if they do not create a shared self-service platform. A shared self-service platform provides a “digital toolbox” of I&O capabilities to help multiple DevOps teams create, release and manage products, while ensuring consistency and streamlined efforts at scale. 

Trend 4: Infrastructure is everywhere — so is your data

In a hybrid IT world, IT infrastructure is located wherever the business needs it, meaning that data is located everywhere, too. By 2022, more than 50% of enterprise data will be created and processed outside the data center or cloud, up from less than 10% in 2019. 

I&O leaders must plan for the accompanying data impacts. As data is increasingly distributed, I&O teams can struggle to provide the protection and management needed. 

At the early stages of IT solution design, mandate a data-driven infrastructure impact assessment. Identify where data is being stored, how it will likely be consumed and how important factors like its growth rate could impact I&O’s ability to protect and manage it. 

Trend 5: Overwhelming impact of IoT

Due to the transformative and far-reaching nature of IoT projects and their inherent complexity, understanding which team is responsible for each piece of the IoT puzzle can be a challenge.

“I&O must become involved early on in IoT planning discussions to understand the proposed service and support model at scale,” says Winser. “This will avoid the cascade effect of unforeseen service gaps that could cause serious headaches in the future. I&O leaders have important thought leadership to offer IoT teams regarding service and support considerations.”

Trend 6: Distributed cloud 

As businesses continue to move to the cloud, a shift is occurring — the cloud is now coming to them. This is known as distributed cloud, in which public cloud services will be available in different physical locations while the provider remains responsible for the operation, governance, updates and evolution of the services. The distributed model is likely to appeal to organizations that have been constrained by the physical location of cloud services in the past.

However, this trend is still in its early stages, and I&O leaders must go beyond the marketing hype to delve into the potential impacts to succeed. Identifying the right use cases, vendors and architectures is essential, but “Day 2” implications are vitally important, too.

For example, how will the life cycle of the hardware involved be managed? What SLA is required for the solution, and how can it practically be fulfilled? Answering these questions will help I&O leaders decide if distributed cloud is the right choice for their needs as it becomes more widely available.

Trend 7: Immersive experience

Today’s I&O customers have higher expectations than ever, influenced heavily by their experience of consumer technology provided by digital giants. Functions once considered value-adds are now baseline expectations. Users expect seamless integration, immediate feedback and very high levels of availability.

But as digital business systems reach deeper into I&O infrastructures, the impacts and potential consequences of even the smallest of I&O issues expands. If done well, I&O’s contributions to these systems can positively impact mind and market share over time. However, if these systems fail, the impacts are immediate and could have far-reaching implications for the organization's reputation beyond customer satisfaction. 

Trend 8: Democratization of IT

Low-code and no-code platforms enable users to quickly build applications using minimal code approaches. This can enable “citizen development” intended to save time and resources. However, a poorly disciplined approach risks increasing the complexity of the IT portfolio. And, as use of the outputs of these tools scales, the likelihood of requests for I&O support increases (e.g., to provision user access).

I&O leaders must embed their support and exert influence over projects that will inevitably affect their teams and the broader organization. But to do that, they will need to build governance and support offerings that make it easier for users, not harder. I&O leaders risk alienating their customers if they reject low-code or no-code approaches outright, but it’s important to determine what approach is appropriate for the use case and scenario at hand. 

Trend 9: Networking — what’s next?

After decades of focusing on network performance and availability, future network innovation will target operational simplicity, automation, reliability and flexible business models. Networking teams have traditionally been risk-averse, but will need to take calculated risks to foster innovation moving forward. Automation will be key for enabling networks that are simpler, more reliable and responsive to change — but it is only part of the equation.

“Network teams have done an incredible job of creating high levels of availability. However, what customers of network teams don’t often see is the technical debt that some teams are now really struggling to deal with," says Winser.

"Exciting opportunities lie ahead for network teams, but without the right leadership support to tackle technical debt, their ability to make progress is threatened. Culture hacks and calculated risk taking is needed in 2020, as investment in new network technologies is only part of the answer.”

Trend 10: Hybrid digital infrastructure management

In 2020, I&O leaders must seek tools that challenge silos of visibility, and some vendors are already trying to solve these issues. However, these emerging tools are not able to answer every challenge posed by hybrid digital infrastructure management, so I&O leaders must carefully evaluate promised functionality and anticipate that their own teams may be forced to fill gaps by integrating tools and growing (not replacing) their baseline.

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