Ten trends for digital infrastructure and operations from 2020

Features

Gartner warns that many infrastructure and operations (I&O) issues are not obvious now, but will “cascade” as the use of AI and edge computing proliferates.

“This past year, infrastructure trends focused on how technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) or edge computing might support rapidly growing infrastructure and support business needs at the same time,” said Ross Winser, Senior Research Director at Gartner.

He was speaking at the Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations and Cloud Strategies Conference in Las Vegas this week.

“While those demands are still present, our 2020 list of trends reflect their ‘cascade effects,’ many of which are not immediately visible today,” he explained.

Rethink automation strategy

Winser noted that automation investments are often made without an overall automation strategy in mind. He predicted that by 2025, leading companies will create a role dedicated to “steward” automation and invest in a strategy that overcomes ad hoc automation, which risks duplicating tools and processes, resulting in hidden costs and an inability to scale infrastructure to match the business’ needs.

Hybrid IT vs disaster recovery

The argument here is that hybrid IT – that is colocation, on-premises data centres, edge locations and cloud services – will seriously disrupt disaster recovery planning. Winser predicts that by 2021, the root cause of 90% of cloud-based availability issues will be the failure to fully use cloud service provider native redundancy capabilities.

He added, “Resilience requirements must be evaluated at design stages rather than treated as an afterthought two years after deployment”.

Scaling DevOps

Although individual product teams typically master DevOps practices, constraints become clear as organisations try to scale the number of DevOps teams. The answer is to adopt a shared self-service platform approach, with common tools, the ability to scale and proper governance.

Infrastructure is everywhere — so is data

As technologies like AI and machine learning (ML) are harnessed as competitive differentiators, companies need to plan how they will manage the explosive growth in data.

Winser reckons that by 2022, 60% of enterprise IT infrastructures will focus on centres of data, rather than what we think of as data centres now, to move some workloads closer to users to improve performance and compliance.

He warned, “Yet we are rapidly heading toward scenarios where these same workloads run across many locations and cause data to be harder to protect. Cascade effects of data movement combined with data growth will hit [infrastructure and operations] folks hard if they are not preparing now.”

The overwhelming impact of IoT

Successful IoT projects have many considerations, and no single vendor is likely to provide a complete end-to-end solution. Hence infrastructure and operations need to start planning early to understand the proposed service and support model at scale.

“This will avoid the cascade effect of unforeseen service gaps, which could cause serious headaches in future,” said Winser.

Distributed cloud

Distributed cloud is defined as the distribution of public cloud services to different physical locations, while operation, governance, updates and the evolution of those services are the responsibility of the originating public cloud provider.

“Emerging options for distributed cloud will enable I&O teams to put public cloud services in the location of their choosing, which could be really attractive for leaders looking to modernize using public cloud,” said Winser. However, as many of these solutions are immature, he said.

“Enthusiasm for new services like AWS Outposts, Microsoft Azure Stack or Google Anthos must be matched early on with diligence in ensuring the delivery model for these solutions is fully understood by I&O teams who will be involved in supporting them.”

Immersive Experience

As digital business systems reach deeper into I&O infrastructures, the potential impact of even the smallest of I&O issues expands. “If the customer experience is good, you might grow in mind and market share over time; but if the experience is bad, the impacts are immediate and could potentially impact corporate reputation rather than just customer satisfaction.”

Democratisation of IT

Low-code is a visual development approach to developing applications that is increasingly appealing to business units. It enables developers with varied experience to create applications for web and mobile with little or no coding experience, driving a “self-service” model for business units instead of turning to central IT for a formal project plan.

As low-code becomes more common, I&O teams will eventually be asked to provide service, so, “Starting now, it is in I&O leaders’ best interest to embed their support and exert influence over things that will inevitably affect their teams, as well as the broader organisation.”

Networking – what’s next?

Network teams typically excel at delivering highly available networks, often through cautious change management, but the pace of change is hard for I&O to keep up with, and it is not slowing.

Winser said pressure to keep the lights shining brightly has created unexpected issues for the network: “Cultural challenges of risk avoidance, technical debt and vendor lock-in all mean that some network teams face a tough road ahead. 2020 needs to be the time for cultural shifts, as investment in new network technologies is only part of the answer.”

Hybrid digital infrastructure management (HDIM)

As the realities of hybrid digital infrastructures kick in, the scale and complexity of managing them is becoming a more pressing issue for IT leaders. Organisations should investigate the concept of HDIM to address primary management a hybrid infrastructure, Winser advised.

He added, “This is an emerging area, so organisations should be wary of vendors who say they have tools that offer a single solution to all their hybrid management issues today.

Over the next few years, though, we expect vendors focused on HDIM to deliver improvements that enable IT leaders to get the answers they need far faster than they can today.”