Innovation in IT infrastructure has never been more relevant. Customer experience, revenue and overall business success rest on the shoulders of computing. Because of this, the pressure is on to rapidly bring digital innovations to market, in order to keep pace with this fast evolving industry. I want to look at some key features of new IT infrastructure, and provide some examples of hot innovations.
IT infrastructure and operations
The IT Infrastructure and Operations (I&O) organisation finds itself having an increased impact on the customer experience, top-line revenue and the success of the business overall. I&O leaders have their work cut out for them, trying to optimise their organisation’s cloud computing to span public and private clouds. Achieving this level of hybrid cloud capability is easier on paper than in practise, and many get it wrong. The result is a semi-hybridised effort but, more recently, steps in the right direction have been made towards a seamless hybrid cloud.
It’s thought that 2017 will be a turning point for I&O leaders: at the Open Networking User Group (ONUG) Spring 2017 conference, 100 enterprise I&O executives gathered from a range of industries spanning financial, retail and technology, including those from companies like Bank of America, eBay, Salesforce and Tesla, to share progress made in moving to an engaged vendor ecosystem.
As well as hybridisation, IT infrastructure automation can help I&O leaders alleviate time spent on management tasks, which will become more critical as data centre technology becomes ever more complex. Automation can also reduce inevitable human error which, in-turn, improves security and reduces network downtime.
The advantages of agility
In addition to driving innovation, the IT team must establish an infrastructure that enables agility as well as stability. Bimodal IT – a term coined by Gartner – is an approach which encompasses both of these requirements. Traditionally, infrastructure has been built for Mode 1 (“slow”) of bimodal IT, and is designed for resiliency, safety and repeatability. Infrastructure agility is Mode 2-focused (“fast”) and demands rapid scalability, agility and versatility. Bimodal IT projects require new project management styles and an outcome-centred approach, in order to help the organisation, leaders manage the various requirements of Mode 1 and Mode 2 IT. Difficulties arise when new, agile Mode 2 IT doesn’t conform to traditional management structures, and management leaders fail to adapt governance processes. Donna Fitzgerald, Research Vice President at Gartner, believes that “a focus on business outcome and value will bridge the gap between Mode 1 and Mode 2 projects”.
Company culture plays a key role in determining which Mode to use on a project. Simply put, the decision can be broken down into two main factors: Mode 1 should be considered for systems of record, and Mode 2 for systems of differentiation and systems of innovation. The difference between these systems is that systems of record have clear outcomes and guidelines, whereas systems of differentiation are more exploratory, in order to constantly enhance capabilities to stay ahead of the competition. These systems of innovation require a Mode 2 approach to achieve the long-term goal.
The tools designed to automate IT solutions are excellent at managing complex, repetitive tasks, but do not do the job swiftly. Bimodal IT allows enterprises to get the best of both, and outlines the nature of the IT infrastructure innovation required for organisations to keep pace with the age of digital transformation.
Defining your strategy
Establishing agile infrastructure forces I&O organisations to rethink their infrastructure strategy, with an emphasis on integrated systems, cloud and virtualisation. This means taking web-scale approaches, using containers, and working to establish a software-defined infrastructure. Servers, storage and facilities, while still important, will become less so. Web-scale is often associated with cloud computing giants like Facebook, Google and Amazon, but smaller enterprises are now realising the benefits of such a networking approach. Web-scale refers to companies which have built private, scalable cloud environments and represents a model approach for organisations aiming for the top in digital evolution.
Gartner predicts that by 2020, 40% of global enterprises will have a web-scale networking strategy, and will enjoy the benefits of efficiency, automation and scalability. The mindset of I&O leaders must be geared towards architectural innovation and a design-forward viewpoint, rather than simply maintenance, in order for the organisation to leverage web-scale principles.
How to make it into the digital era
Traditionally, the IT ecosystem has grown in stages, over time, and is likely to have swallowed a lot of investment in terms of time and money. However, the data centre of this carefully crafted ecosystem could fail to follow your organisation into the digital era, and it could be tricky to scale up. Web-scale IT can come to the rescue by helping IT leaders re-think and renovate data centre architecture, while offering enhanced customer experience and ultimately enhance ROI and business growth. With the addition of bimodal IT, this new approach to IT infrastructure design and innovation will empower agility and cost-effectiveness for enterprises. The large scale of cloud services, mobile technology, social media and big data processing doesn’t have to pose a threat if a software-driven, flexible infrastructure is adopted.
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