Gartner’s top 10 infrastructure and operations trends for 2020

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

During his presentation at the Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations and Cloud Strategies Conference, Winser encouraged infrastructure and operations leaders to take a step back from “the pressure of keeping the lights on” and prepare for ten key technologies and trends likely to significantly impact their support of digital infrastructure in 2020 and beyond. They are:

1. Automation strategy rethink

Over the last few years, Gartner has detected a significant range of automation maturity across clients. It now says that most organisations are automating to some level, in many cases attempting to refocus staff on higher-value tasks. However, automation investments are often made without an overall automation strategy in mind.

“As vendors continue to pop up and offer new automation options, companies risk ending up with a duplication of tools, processes and hidden costs that culminate to form a situation where they simply cannot scale infrastructure in the way the business expects,” said Winser. “We think that by 2025, top performing leaders will have employed a dedicated role to steward automation forward and invest to build a proper automation strategy to get away from these ad hoc automation issues.”

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2. Hybrid IT vs disaster recovery (DR) confidence

“Today’s infrastructure is in many places — colocation, on-premises data centres, edge locations, and in cloud services. The reality of this situation is that hybrid IT will seriously disrupt your incumbent disaster recover (DR) planning if it hasn’t already,” said continued Winser.

Currently, organisations rely on “as a service (aaS)” offerings, where it is easy to overlook the optional features necessary to establish the correct levels of resilience. For instance, 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.

“Organisations are left potentially exposed when their heritage DR plans designed for traditional systems have not been reviewed with new hybrid infrastructures in mind. Resilience requirements must be evaluated at design stages rather than treated as an afterthought two years after deployment,” he added.

3. Scaling DevOps agility

For organisations trying to scale DevOps, action is needed to find an efficient approach for success. Although individual product teams typically master DevOps practices, constraints begin to emerge as organisations attempt to scale the number of DevOps teams.

“The vast majority of organisations that do not adopt a shared self-service platform approach will find that their DevOps initiatives simply do not scale,” said Winser. “Adopting a shared platform approach enables product teams to draw from an I&O digital toolbox of possibilities, while benefiting from high standards of governance and efficiency needed for scale.”

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4. Infrastructure is everywhere — so is your data

“Last year, we introduced the theme of ‘infrastructure is everywhere‘ that the business needs it. As technologies like AI and machine learning (ML) are harnessed as competitive differentiators, planning for how explosive data growth will be managed is vital,” said Winser. In fact, Gartner estimates that by 2022, 60% of enterprise IT infrastructures will focus on centres of data, rather than traditional data centres.

“The attraction of moving selected workloads closer to users for performance and compliance reasons is understandable. 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 I&O folks hard if they are not preparing now.”

5. Impact of IoT

Successful IoT projects have many considerations and no single vendor is likely to provide a complete end-to-end solution. “Infrastructure and operations must get involved in the early planning discussions of the IoT puzzle 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,” explained Winser.

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6. 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 infrastructure and operations teams to put public cloud services in the location of their choosing, which could be really attractive for leaders looking to modernise using public cloud,” said Winser.

However, he also points out that the nascent nature of many of these solutions means a wide range of considerations must not be overlooked. “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.”

7. Immersive experience

“Customer standards for the experience delivered by I&O capabilities are higher than ever,” continued Winser. “Previous ‘value adds’ like seamless integration, rapid responses and zero downtime are now simply baseline customer expectations.”

He warned leaders that as digital business systems reach deeper into I&O, the potential impact of even the smallest of infrastructure and operations 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.”

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8. Democratisation of IT

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

“As low-code becomes more commonplace, the complexity of the IT portfolio increases. And when low-code approaches are successful, I&O teams will eventually be asked to provide service,” said Winser.

“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.”

9. Networking

In many cases, network teams succeeded in delivering highly available networks, which is often achieved through cautious change management. At the same time, the pace of change is tough for infrastructure and operations to keep up with, and there are no signs of things slowing down.

Winser explained that the continued 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.”

10. Hybrid digital infrastructure management (HDIM)

The scale and complexity of managing hybrid digital infrastructures is becoming a more pressing issue for IT leaders.

Wiser advised that organisations should investigate the concept of HDIM, which looks to address the primary management issues of a hybrid infrastructure. “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.”

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...