A key IT infrastructure trends for 2018: IT departments no longer just keep the lights on but are strategic deliverers of services.
As the pace of business increases, data center managers feel the crunch.
They need to deliver new, secure and cost-effective IT services that meet business requirements—yesterday. As a result, many turn to cloud services, the Internet of Things (IoT) and enterprise mobility technologies. But they also know they have to implement and then manage these technologies, not adopt and walk away.
As a result, the role for IT is shifting dramatically. While previously data center managers focused on keeping the lights on, today they need to be able to enable the business.
“IT . . . used to focus just on infrastructure,” said David Cappuccio, a Gartner VP and research analyst during the session “Top 10 trends with an impact on infrastructure and operations” at the Gartner CIO Symposium and ITxpo in Orlando, Fla.
“IT has realized that the real role we have is creating an infrastructure that will enable faster and faster customer interactions, that will enable better customer services, will enable better corporate reputation, [and that] will enable ecosystems,” Cappuccio said.
In outlining the key IT infrastructure trends and challenges for data center managers at the Gartner conference in October, Cappuccio noted that how IT makes decisions today will have a major impact on the future.
“Keeping track of the trends that might help or hurt us later on—that’s the key,” Cappuccio said. If IT departments can get ahead of the curve, “they can help enable the business down the road.”
Geoplanning. Location has become a key factor in planning workload performance, data security and infrastructure management. As a result, many organizations are taking a fresh look at geospecific workload planning, Cappuccio said. “They are basing planning not on the services they have, but rather on the services they will need to deliver worldwide,” Cappuccio said. No matter where customers are, they need access to services without latency. Also critical is data sovereignty, which places specific privacy and other regulatory controls on digital data based on the country in which that data resides. Cappuccio said location is also a factor in creating customer satisfaction, where low latency directly correlates with reducing help desk calls and customer attrition.
The intelligent edge. As the number of devices on enterprise networks multiplies, it makes sense to shift computing power to the network edge and closer to where these devices reside. Cappuccio noted that retail locations, for example, need to run security, audit and point-of-sale systems. Customers in the store expect to make purchases—even if systems at headquarters go down. The ability to collect analytics from certain IoT-connected sensors may also make sense for edge computing, where the volume of data and the need for real-time information are key. “All these things are driving more intelligence at the edge,” Cappuccio said.
Intent-based networking. As companies add devices and absorb greater volumes of data, they need more flexible infrastructure. But, as Cappuccio noted, networks have historically been too complex and hardware-driven to support rapid change. “Intent-based networking is a software tool . . . that is all based on intelligence, automation, and control from a software layer,” Cappuccio said. “The key is awareness of network state, and continually reevaluating, continually fixing based on your intent, business needs.”
The API-based economy. As IT managers move workloads to the cloud, or within their own data centers, application integration is critical. But as IT managers know, migrations falter when systems don’t talk to one another. Application programing interfaces (APIs) perform some of these translations—whether internal to a data center or between company systems and even partner systems—and enable workloads to move around more easily.
Reputation and digital experience. While IT doesn’t consider itself responsible for customer satisfaction and customer experience, “It turns out IT is the enabler” of these things, Cappuccio emphasized. Surveys show that after a website delay of more than two seconds, customers often jump to another site. And once customers go, the cost of getting them back is four to five times that of retaining them in the first place. Vocal customers can turn their dissatisfaction into corporate reputation problems if they post a scathing review on Yelp or share complaints via Twitter. When company boards ask, “What is IT doing to fix this problem?” IT has to be ready to address latency and performance in the network.
Beyond traditional IT. As companies try to become more responsive and competitive, they enter new markets and iterate at a lightning pace. IT can’t be a laggard. “How can IT enable the business to get into these markets very fast without waiting . . . to make seismic shifts in the background?” Cappuccio noted. “If you create a five-year plan, you’ll be three years behind the market by the time you get there,” Cappuccio said.
Data Center as a Service (DCaaS). IT no longer maintains infrastructure but rather delivers services based on business needs, risk and value. As Cappuccio put it, DCaaS is a conceptual model, not a cloud model. As a result, IT needs to continually assess which workloads make sense for the cloud and which don’t, which providers to enlist, how best to ensure security, and how to align different technologies in one environment.
Cautious cloud adoption. Cloud providers have begun to create incremental technologies to address companies’ trepidation about migrating to cloud services. For example, companies can get a few racks of servers in a cage, and when they are ready to use cloud services, a provider creates a cross-connect to the environment. Cappuccio said this gradual approach allays companies’ fears about “getting hurt” as they migrate.
Capacity optimization everywhere. In on-premises environments, system administrators aiming to improve server utilization need to identify the 28% of virtual workloads that are sitting around doing nothing. In off-premises environments, data center managers need to evaluate what they have migrated to the cloud to prevent overprovisioning and overspending. “When it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. We have to go back and look at what we did to right-size,” Cappuccio said.
Extended infrastructure management. You need to have a staff and the tools to identify workloads and identify performance, configurations and business cycles.
Cappuccio summarized the main shifts in the role of IT and the new priorities for data center managers as they navigate this new world of multicloud, multiprovider, intelligent and mobility-driven environments. These were his recommendations for staying ahead of the top IT infrastructure trends for 2018 and bringing value to the business:
Lauren Horwitz is the managing editor of Cisco.com, where she covers the IT infrastructure market and develops content strategy. Previously, Horwitz was a senior executive editor in the Business Applications and Architecture group at TechTarget;, a senior editor at Cutter Consortium, an IT research firm; and an editor at the American Prospect, a political journal. She has received awards from American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), a min Best of the Web award and the Kimmerling Prize for best graduate paper for her editing work on the journal article "The Fluid Jurisprudence of Israel's Emergency Powers.”