Gartner Top 6 Trends Impacting Infrastructure & Operations in 2021

February 22, 2021

Contributor: Meghan Rimol

Remote work and the shift to the cloud will continue to drive infrastructure trends over the next 12 to 18 months.

By the end of 2023, more than 90% of infrastructure and operations (I&O) organizations will have the majority of their staff working remotely. COVID-19 may have accelerated this trend, but it is also the result of the changing nature of infrastructure led by the shift to cloud and edge.

“Trends like anywhere operations and core modernization have been moving to the forefront of the I&O organization for years, but the pandemic rapidly accelerated them to the point where they’ll have a transformational impact in the near future,” says Jeffrey Hewitt, Research VP, Gartner. 

Here are the six key trends that will impact I&O in the next 12 to 18 months and the steps that IT leaders can take to implement them. 

Trend No. 1: Anywhere operations

The shift to remote work has forced enterprises to realize the benefits of flexibility. It has also revealed that the traditional structured processes of I&O make the enterprise fragile in the face of disruption. 

I&O must be able to support the distributed enterprise’s operations while working from anywhere. In addition to providing more flexibility, anywhere operations benefits organizations by broadening the talent landscape, as I&O teams are not tied to recruiting from a certain geographic location. However, this will require a cultural change, as it challenges the traditional thinking of providing infrastructure and supporting operations from one central location.

To enable anywhere operations, I&O leaders should assess its feasibility for each business unit. Determine where remote working makes sense, and develop plans to enable these teams to dynamically work both on-site and remotely. 

Trend No. 2: Optimal infrastructure

Optimal infrastructure shifts I&O from “infrastructure and operations” to “integration and operations.” Different infrastructure choices, such as cloud, edge or newer technologies like computational storage, may apply to different locations and workloads. It has become a key responsibility of I&O to determine the infrastructure that is the best fit for each scenario.

This trend supports I&O and business alignment by ensuring strong returns for infrastructure investment. I&O leaders should take a business approach to optimal infrastructure, using a cost-benefit view to justify infrastructure choices and to build business cases for change. Consider risk-return ratios as part of any proposed change scenarios. 

The top six trends impacting infrastructure and operations in 2021 as defined by Gartner.

Trend No. 3: Operational continuity

IT services must be continuous, regardless of external factors. This expectation changes the traditional role of IT operations, requiring an increased dependence on automation and zero- or minimal-touch maintenance. The benefits of this include increased efficiency, faster workload deployment, reduced costs and consistency across processes.

However, operational continuity also presents challenges, as it requires the introduction of new tools and processes, it may increase complexity and it can be difficult to justify to the business. 

“Take contingency planning to the next level by considering the impacts of worst-case scenarios”

To shift the IT organization toward operational continuity, identify continuity requirements based on business priorities and begin planning accordingly. Take contingency planning to the next level by considering the impacts of worst-case scenarios and what can be done to ensure that operations can continue in such a situation. If there are time pressures, or if the team does not have the skills to implement a solution, consider service-based solutions for disaster recovery. 

Read more:Achieve Infrastructure Resilience During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Trend No. 4: Core modernization

Today, organizations are doing more to update and modernize their core infrastructures. This process helps minimize legacy drag, maximize efficiency and ensure resiliency as legacy infrastructure experts retire. It ensures infrastructure evolves in lockstep with emerging technologies, becoming more flexible to respond to digital business needs. 

Modernization is not only a technical decision. It requires funding, and therefore I&O professionals must have business acumen to make the case for it. Work with application leaders to identify the areas where modernization will have the greatest impact, and ensure these areas align with business priorities. Implement a modernization plan with realistic timelines. New skills requirements should be part of that plan. 

Trend No. 5: Distributed cloud

Distributed cloud is the decentralization of cloud resources. It enables flexibility in the enterprise’s physical location, while also reducing latency and shifting the burden of support to the cloud service provider. Each of the many different models of distributed cloud offer a variety of benefits.

Distributed cloud also comes with challenges, including complex deployment models and increased risk of lock-in and high costs, and it remains an immature market. 

I&O professionals should have distributed cloud on their radar as a trend to watch as it continues to mature and emerge as a preferred infrastructure model over the coming 12-18 months. Identify potential use cases, and plan how it could be integrated into the organization’s hybrid cloud environment. 

Read more: The CIO's Guide to Distributed Cloud

Trend No. 6: Critical skills vs. critical roles

I&O organizations are shifting to a focus on critical skills rather than critical roles. This helps reduce risk and increase resiliency, as multiple people have with the skills needed for business-critical tasks. It also helps I&O teams to align budgets more closely with business needs and move away from territorial thinking to a more collaborative approach.

This trend will require a shift in recruitment tactics, forcing enterprises to have a longer-range view when hiring. Identify the skills gaps, using the aforementioned trends as a framework for the future competencies that will be needed. Train current employees in new skills where that will be sufficient, and hire new talent early when possible. 

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