Infrastructure and operations (I&O) is becoming increasingly involved in unprecedented areas of the modern-day enterprise. The focus of I&O leaders is evolving far beyond technology elements like data centers, colocation and the cloud to instead encompass more about how an organization’s I&O can support and enable business strategy.
There is a dramatic evolution of I&O happening right now
“There is a dramatic evolution of I&O happening right now,” said Ross Winser, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner, during Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations and Cloud Strategies Conference in Las Vegas. “It’s no longer about hardware or software — it’s about delivering services that accomplish business needs. The future of infrastructure is everywhere and anywhere, and will be business-driven by nature.”
As IT leaders struggle to maintain existing operations and adapt to this new role of I&O, they rarely have time to look beyond short-term planning horizons. During his presentation, Winser encouraged I&O leaders to prepare for the impacts of 10 key technologies and trends to support digital infrastructure in 2019.
Trend 1: Serverless computing
Serverless computing, and in particular the capability known as function platform as a service (FPaaS), is an emerging software architecture pattern that promises to eliminate the need for infrastructure provisioning and management. It enables code residing as functions to be run without the need for the user to explicitly provision or manage infrastructure. Just two of the characteristics that make FPaaS particularly interesting are its rapid scaling and highly granular billing. Serverless does not replace containers or VMs, but can support requirements for utility logic, unpredictable demand and event-driven requirements.
This trend will become mainstream between 2020 and 2022, with 10% of IT organizations already using serverless computing. As such, Winser recommends that IT leaders start to learn its opportunities and limits, identify best practices, and pilot test cases to build knowledge and skills.
Trend 2: Artificial intelligence (AI) impacts
According to Gartner, global AI derived business value will reach nearly $3.9 trillion by 2022. From an I&O perspective, IT leaders must ask: What is the value of using AI to support growing infrastructures, knowing that hiring new people is not always feasible?
AI will start to get involved in failure recognition, predictive analytics and other functions within I&O. It will enable IT to do more and at faster rates, growing infrastructure without necessarily growing staff. The critical time frame for this trend is between 2021 and 2023.
Trend 3: Network agility (or lack of?)
The network underpins and enables everything IT and the business rely on — cloud services, IoT, edge services — and will continue to do so moving forward. Network teams have focused hard on increasing availability, with great improvements. However for future success, the focus for 2019 and beyond must incorporate how network operations can be performed at a faster pace. AI and building “network agility” that relies on automation and orchestration will do just that.
In 2019, network teams must collaborate heavily with other business units as new opportunities in 5G and edge computing arise. Likewise, as increasing cloud maturity stresses the network, and the scale of “things” and endpoints grow, networks must evolve to support the management of these evolving needs.
The critical time frame for an organization to develop network agility is now.
Trend 4: Death of the data center
Gartner predicts that by 2025, 80% of enterprises will shut down their traditional data centers. In fact, 10% of organizations already have. This data point does not necessarily mean everything is going to the cloud, but IT leaders do need to start thinking about where current and future workloads will live based on business reasons (e.g., customer engagement, GDPR regulations), not technology reasons.
“Organizations need to create an environment that houses more agile infrastructure both on-premises and in the cloud, the critical time frame for which is 2021 to 2025,” Winser said.
Trend 5: Edge computing
Most hear “edge computing” and think to themselves: What is it? Why do I care? What’s the impact on me? Edge computing allows workloads to be located in closer proximity to the customer to solve a specific business problem. It touches on the laws of physics, economy and land, all of which are contributing factors to how and when to use edge.
Edge computing can be used to reduce latency and will experience increasing growth to satisfy the demand for high-quality digital experiences moving forward
For example, studies show that web-facing companies lose customers after just 2 seconds of slow loading time. Edge computing can be used to reduce latency and will experience increasing growth to satisfy the demand for high-quality digital experiences moving forward, according to Winser. The critical time frame for this trend is 2020 to 2023.
Trend 6: Digital diversity management
Digital diversity management is not about people, but rather about the managing the explosion of diverse assets and technologies used in today’s modern digital enterprise. ”The importance of identifying, discovering and monitoring those that directly impact or support the business cannot be understated,” said Winser.
Some challenges that come out of this trend include “analysis paralysis,” maintaining an accurate inventory, and avoiding exponential wastage as a result of poor visibility and management of assets. The critical time frame for this trend is 2020 to 2025.
Trend 7: New roles within I&O
This trend is all about how I&O is increasingly taking on the role of supporting cloud services, requiring skills in aggregation, customization, integration and governance. One of the biggest challenges with cloud services is exposure to unexpected costs. As the business looks to I&O to optimize costs and simplify complexity, I&O must evolve capabilities to broker, support and govern many new types of services.
The critical time frame for this trend starts immediately — in 2019.
Trend 8: SaaS denial
Despite SaaS being an initial preference for many organizations, most IT professionals are still heavily focused on delivery and support of IaaS and PaaS solutions. “The shift to SaaS must be underpinned by robust I&O support, said Winser. “I&O staff need to gain insight into SaaS from a security and compliance perspective, and offer the enterprise integration and service delivery capabilities that their business expects.”
The critical time frame for this trend is 2019 to 2021.
Trend 9: Talent management becomes critical
Historically, IT staff have been organized vertically based on the technology stack they managed. The organization still needs depth of technical expertise, but also now demands better collaboration from people who can work horizontally across teams.
Because getting people to think beyond their stack is a challenge when the traditional model paid them to be expert in it, IT leaders must hack their culture and get those people out of their bubble. “The success of hybrid infrastructures depends on the talent behind it,” said Winser. The critical time frame for this trend is now.
Trend 10: Global infrastructure enablement
As an organization’s customers and suppliers grow to span the globe, I&O leaders must deliver “infrastructure everywhere.” The question then becomes: How can I&O leaders enable this within a realistic budget?
Becoming digital at scale raises the bar for I&O teams and their partners
Becoming digital at scale raises the bar for I&O teams and their partners. Leaders need to identify the right partnership strategy to surround themselves with an ecosystem of capabilities and support.
“Pick your partners wisely, as they will play a large role in helping to evolve and scale your organization’s’ infrastructure moving forward. Avoid surrounding yourself with a B team,” Winser said. The critical time frame for this trend is 2020 to 2023.