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Why the future of IT infrastructure is always on and always available

Thu 6 Dec 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

As more organisations embrace digital business, infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders will need to evolve their strategies and skills to provide an agile infrastructure for their business. In fact, Gartner said that 75% of I&O leaders are not prepared with the skills, behaviours or cultural presence needed over the next two to three years. 

These leaders will need to embrace emerging trends in edge computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and the ever-changing cloud marketplace, which will enable global reach, solve business issues and ensure the flexibility to enter new markets quickly, anywhere, anytime.

IT departments no longer just keep the lights on, but are also strategic deliverers of services, whether sourced internally or external to the organisation. 

They must position specific workloads based on business, regulatory and geopolitical impacts. As organisations’ customers and suppliers grow to span the globe, I&O leaders must deliver on the idea that “infrastructure is everywhere” and consider the following four factors:

Agility thrives on diversity

Bob Gill, vice president at Gartner, said the days of IT controlling everything are over. As options in technologies, partners and solutions rise, I&O leaders lose visibility, surety and control over their operations. “The cyclical, dictated factory approach in traditional IT cannot provide the agility required by today’s business,” Gill said. “The need for agility evolved faster than our ability to deliver.”

Despite agility placing among their top 3 priorities for 2019, I&O leaders are faced with a conundrum as a diverse range of products is available to them. 

“The ideal situation for I&O leaders would be to coordinate the unmanageable collection of options we face today — colocation, multicloud, platform as a service (PaaS) — and get ahead of the business needs tomorrow. We must reach into our digital toolbox of possibilities and apply it to customer intimacy, product leadership and operational excellence to establish guardrails around managing the diversity of options in the long term,” Gill said.

The need for agility will only increase, so the two key tasks of I&O leaders will be to manage the sprawl of diversity in the short term and become the product manager of services needed to build business driven, agile solutions in the long term. “I&O has the governance, security and experience to lead this new charge for the business,” Gill said.

Applications enable change

Infrastructure can save money and enable applications, but by itself, it does not drive direct business value — applications do. Dennis Smith, vice president at Gartner, said that there is no better time to be an application developer. “Application development offers an opportunity to jump on the express train of change to satisfy customer needs and build solutions composed of a tapestry of software components enabled through APIs,” Smith said.

Gartner research found that by 2025, 70% of organisations not adopting a service/product orientation will be unable to support their business, so I&O engineers must engage with consumers and software developers; integrate people, processes and technology; and deliver services and products all to support a solid infrastructure on which applications reside.

Boundaries are shifting

Digital business blurs the lines between the physical and the digital, leveraging new interactions and more real-time business moments. As more things become connected, the data center will no longer be the centre of data. “Digital business, IoT and immersive experiences will push more and more processing to the edge,” said Tom Bittman, distinguished vice president at Gartner.

By 2022, more than half of enterprises-generated data will be created and processed outside of data centers, and outside of the cloud. Immersive technologies will help to light a fire of cultural and generational shift. People will expect more of their interactions to be immersive and real-time, with fewer artificial boundaries between people and the digital world.

The need for low latency, the cost of bandwidth, privacy and regulatory changes as data becomes more intimate, and the requirement for autonomy when the internet connection goes down, are factors that will expand the boundary of enterprise infrastructures all the way to the edge.

People are the cornerstone

I&O leaders are struggling to deliver value faster in a complex, evolving environment, hindering the ability of organisations to learn quickly and share knowledge.

“The new I&O worker profile will embrace versatile skills and experiences rather than reward a narrow focus on one technical speciality,” said Kris van Riper, managing vice president at Gartner. 

“Leading companies are changing the way that they reward and develop employees to move away from rigid siloed career ladders toward more dynamic career diamonds. These new career paths may involve experiences and rotations across multiple technology domains and business units over time. 

“Acquiring a broader understanding of the IT portfolio and business context will bring collective intelligence and thought diversity to prepare teams for the demands of digital business.”

Ultimately, preparing for I&O in the digital age comes down to encouraging different behaviours. Building competencies such as adaptability, business acumen, fusion collaboration and stakeholder partnership will allow I&O teams to better prepare for upcoming change and disruption.

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