The Backend Has Moved To The Forefront: Changing Landscape Of IT Infrastructure

Muraleekrishnan Nair, Global Head - Cloud Infrastructure Services, UST GlobalG one are the days where IT infra leaders needed to limit their prowess inside remote datacenters and corner network rooms. Rather than being the backend, they are now front runners and the torch bearers of business transformation. They are now being invited to the Business Strategy meetings! I was once asked at an event, ‘What is the future of IT Infrastructure?’ My immediate answer was, ‘Future of IT Infrastructure is No Infrastructure’. This response was met with an eerie moment of silence in the room. I call this the moment of self realization for about 200 IT infrastructure professionals gathered to listen to me. It was a cold January morning in New York and this response possibly dampened their spirits even further. Some of them gazed out through the window, some others simply looked down to their feet with shoulders heavy.

However, we all agree that IT cannot run without Infrastructure, I continued. This statement brought the attention back. They all started looking at me again with all ears. IT Infrastructure is changing, and that too at a pace which never occurred in the past several years! It is the most exciting time for any IT Infra professional. For the first time in history, IT Infrastructure is leading business transformation from the forefront.

So, what is causing this change?
1.Digital Transformation: Digital business is already here. It is challenging the way business is traditionally done. It is not merely limited to Facebook or Uber, the impact is pertinent across all core verticals of business, be it Retail, Banking, Healthcare Insurance or Technology. Every large enterprise is in the process of digital transformation. IT decisions are driven by business needs, more than ever. 70 percent of IT budget today is driven by business and not by the IT department. CIOs now need to align to overall business and take decisions to drive business transformation or will be left behind and muscled out of the race. Transformational projects need to be backed by Agile infrastructure.Traditional standalone infrastructure will not be scalable, flexible, and cost effective to meet today’s transformation needs.

2.User Experience: It is key in digital business. Systems need to be always on, high performing, and completely secured. Depleting performance can move the users away and can cause considerable revenue loss and bad reputation to the business. IT Infra needs to be designed to meet such complex requirements. Hybrid systems of On-Premise Datacenters, Private Cloud, Public Cloud, and Micro DCs need to address the complex business needs and elevate the user experience simultaneously.

3.Geo Regulations & Security: Large enterprises are not limited to one country or geography alone. They need to operate across the globe. With the advent of regulations like General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR)and increasing threat around cyber attacks, IT Infra needs to be designed to address countrywise regulations and security. This brings an increased focus to where & how IT systems are hosted and managed. IT Infra leads need to be at the forefront in making these strategic decisions.

4.Speed to Market: Digital transformations shouldn’t run for
years. They must bring immediate short term changes and gains to the organization. They should also bring the DevOps culture to the organization to continuously integrate and deploy new features and modules. Scalable & flexible IT Infra is the backbone for this CI/CD (Continuous Integration/ Continuous Delivery). Speed to market is the key to sustain and grow the business, and enterprises need to design & build Agile IT Infra to meet this goal.

IT & Business need to be in sync more than ever. They need to build strategy together. Today there is no business strategy without a complementing IT strategy. Infra strategy is the harbinger to a lucrative IT Strategy

While the above talks about the drivers for change, we also need to look at what is changing in IT Infra and how IT Infra professionals need to equip themselves and become change agents to their organization.

What is changing in IT Infra?
1.Digital Infrastructure: Standalone datacenters with high dependency on hardware will not last as is anymore. They will not go away completely, but they will all go through technology transformation. There will be a large scale shrinkage to this space, but the datacenters will still exist. The transformation will be to introduce hyper converged infrastructure and SDDCs(Software Defined Datacenters). Infrastructure will become more flexible and scalable. Software Defined Networks(SDNs) will bring more flexibility and performance to networks.

2.Cloud Public Private: Cloud is a major driver in IT Infra transformation. The scale, ease of usage, cost models, and technology offerings that public clouds like Alibaba, AWS, and Azure bring to the table are quite unparalleled. The overall spend on cloud and related services will reach $400 billion by 2020. However, not everything will move to public cloud. Large enterprises are still considering a hybrid approach. Most of them have a minimum of two public cloud partners. They are also working towards building private cloud inhouse or through partners to keep their core applications and data inhouse.

3.Micro DCs: Edge Computing is going to be the key when we deal with IoT and data processing close to source. There will be a large amount of data captured by the IoT devices, if one needs to transport all this data to a central system and process to make decisions. It is not only going to be very expensive, but will also cause high latency. Micro DCs come to picture in such case. Data needs to be collected and processed close to the source.

4.IaaS & PaaS(Infrastructure-as-a-Service & Platform-as-a-Service): Cloud platforms offer IaaS & PaaS. Large number of enterprises see this as a great value add while moving to cloud. These are transformational offerings when compared with the legacy DC models. While these models take the pain out of the IT Infra leads in buying hardware and software, they also bring cost effective models of pay per use. These models are not limited to public cloud platforms, these are available with private cloud platforms as well. Also, there are SIs who invest upfront and offer pay per use service to customers.

5.Server less: Serverless architecture or function as a service, where developers can execute code for events without IT infrastructure. Even though the name is Serverless we will require server to execute the code. This will not require physical servers or VMs, the applications are treated at the level of Functions and Events.

6.DevSecOps: There is a very high level of integration happening between IT Infra and DevOps. IT Infra is integrated with the DevOps pipeline to enable Continuous Development and Delivery. Developers can use this integrated pipeline to push Infrastructure as a Code, provision the infrastructure they require. As the ever increasing focus on security came into picture, security needs to be embedded into the development process. DevSecOps helps developers to check Security at every stage of development in the development life cycle, incorporate changes and bring-in required security controls.

7.AI Ops: Infrastructure Operation is transforming at a similar pace. IT Operations need to address the Hybrid Cloud infrastructure and all the changes we discussed so far. AI (Artificial Intelligence)and ML(Machine Learning) have a major role to play in the new world of operations. 50 percent of all repeated IT Operations task will be done by AI by 2020. This is a major efficiency driver and transformational driver in IT Infra Ops. Right from 24x7 monitoring to ITSM and resolution of L1 & L2 issues will be done by AI.

All these factors bring new opportunity to enterprises and business leaders. These are vehicles to drive transformation. IT & Business need to be in sync more than ever. They need to build strategy together. Today there is no business strategy without a complementing IT strategy. Infra strategy is the harbinger to a lucrative IT Strategy.