Nov 21, 2013

 

Trend 1: IT will focus more on business outcomes than infrastructure

The first trend is the base driver for many of the subsequent trends that I will be posting. This will be a change in IT focus from infrastructure to business outcomes.

 

IT budgets for 2014 are projected to show modest improvements, and analysts are predicting more focus on business objectives. A recent Computerworld survey showed these to be the top 5 business priorities for IT:

Top Business Priorities

Containing costs: 65%

Optimizing and automating business processes: 55%

Optimizing existing investments: 48%

Accelerating business process and agility: 45%

Improving collaboration with business: 34%

IT managers will be driven to shift their focus from building and maintaining legacy infrastructure to delivering an outcome to the business processes of their enterprise. For IT this may mean focusing on upgrading systems like VMware and applications like Exchange to provide improved security, performance, and efficiency, or implementing new Enterprise Resource Management or Business Intelligence systems. In order to contain costs and optimize existing assets, virtualization will be required to provide the latest cost saving benefits of technologies like dynamic tiering, without having to to rip and replace their existing infrastructure. Vendor services may be required to accelerate the adoption of new infrastructure technologies, so IT can focus on the business process. Instead of taking the traditional DIY approach to building systems, IT will be looking more to preconfigured systems to accelerate time to market.

For IT vendors this means selling solutions rather than selling technology. This requires an understanding of the whole solution stack, not just the storage, server, or networking technology. It requires vendors who can approach the challenge holistically, rather than trying to sell individual tools, such as SSD drives. A solution requires the integration of monitoring, reporting, and managing across the infrastructure to provide transparency to the application.  Integration also extends to the application, APIs, plugins, and adapters that increase the working efficiency of the application together with the infrastructure. IT vendors will need to provide more services that offload the building, maintenance, and migration work and provide more flexibility in their financial offerings around pay-per-use, software licensing, and maintenance.

The focus on business outcomes will create greater demands on IT as well as on IT vendors, and will require a stronger partnership between IT and their vendors.

Trend 2: Converged solutions for select applications

Trend 2 is the move toward converged solutions for faster implementation of new applications.

Due to economic uncertainties and the flood of new technologies, many IT shops have delayed implementation of new or enhanced applications like SAP HANA, newer versions of Exchange, VDI, or Oracle RAC. However business pressures for better analytics, improved security, inclusion of mobile devices, and business continuity for critical applications is driving the need for application change.

The implementation of major new applications requires the integration of infrastructure, servers, storage, LANs and SANs. Up to now, this has been a DIY  project, which required the cooperation of many application and infrastructure administrators. Technology has become so complex and specialized that IT has assigned specialists for storage, server, networks, hypervisor, exchange and data base administration. All these administrators configure their piece of the infrastructure or application and coordinate their actions with change notices as they go through many cycles of test and validation before the application can be deployed. IDC estimated in 2012, this process chews up 23.3% of an IT organization’s operational time and resources.

Even before the infrastructure piece parts are delivered there is a lengthy procurement process where IT must decide which products work best together, based on an RFI process. Estimating what works best together is often based on guess-work, especially if the application is new like SAP HANA. Professional services may be required if the IT administrators do not have the time or the experience to upgrade or implement new applications. Many times the infrastructure is selected and delivered, but testing reveals the application and infrastructure are mismatched, resulting in missed schedules, budget waste, additional costs and possible shelf ware. Even if everything works out, IT must contend with multivendor support if the piece parts are from different vendors.

Converged solutions for select applications can address these problems. Converged solutions are pretested and validated for select applications by experienced vendor specialists. This means the infrastructure piece parts are integrated and tested for a specific application, eliminating the guesswork. You know how many exchange seats will be supported for a given exchange configuration. You know what performance to expect from an Oracle RAC configuration. When it arrives on your data center floor, you only need to plug it in, and integrate it into your network.

Depending on the converged solution provider, support may be provided by one service call. For Hitachi’s converged solution for SAP HANA, SAP will take the service call and pass it through to Hitachi if SAP decides the problem involves the infrastructure. Since Hitachi Data Systems provides the complete infrastructure, including blade servers with flash memory cards, storage with high performance flash modules, and SAN and LAN switches, there is one service call for the infrastructure. HDS also provides one management suite for the infrastructure, including servers and storage, greatly simplifying operations.  Additionally, we OEM VMware so we can provide one service call for the entire application and infrastructure stack.

The list of converged solutions HDS provides for select solutions are shown in the chart below.

trend-1.png

Gartner recently published a report by Susan Tan, which supports the identification of this trend for 2014. This Market Insight Report, which was published on November 13, leads with the statement: “IT services delivered on an integrated ready-to-deploy solution stack provide enterprises with an easier way to consume new technologies for growth and innovation.”

Converged solutions eliminate the guesswork, accelerate the time to value for select applications, facilitate the consumption of new technologies, reduce OPEX and CAPEX costs, and improve support.

See full list of my top ten trends for 2014 here.