As I begin the New Year feeling refreshed and revived from a well-deserved break, I’ve been reflecting on what happened in 2015 and where I think things may go in 2016. Just to warn you – this is not some sort of technology predictions type blog, but instead some musings on how the type of work we delivered in 2015 seemed to take a turning point, and where I think this may lead to in 2016.
The reason I thought you may find this interesting is that last year seemed to feel like a real "inflection point" with regards to cloud and IT delivery models. There’s been a lot of talk about cloud for the past 4 to 5 years, but only last year did I feel that New Zealand businesses are starting to take this seriously.
As with many new technology shifts it makes sense for the majority to sit back and wait a bit, while the early adopters figure out all the bumps and hurdles along the way. The feeling I got last year is that New Zealand enterprises are now ready to jump in, but want to do so with open eyes and with a very clear idea on exactly what they’re signing up for.
To that extent we found that 2015 was a big year for enterprise planning with a huge increase in cloud strategy and IT service delivery consulting engagements. We’re finally seeing a surge in confidence around the viability of cloud delivery models; whether they be on-premises SDDC, outsourced IaaS or true public cloud IaaS/PaaS.
From ‘hype’ to ‘action’
This increased confidence has led some of our largest customers to conduct a balanced consideration of how each of those approaches align to their specific needs and in their unique contexts. They did this with a view to figuring out what the big programmes of changes should look like for the coming 3 to 5 year horizon. While there’s been all this talk and hype about “transformation” we’re now actually seeing organisations put it into action.
We conducted a number of consulting engagements that truly analysed and compared delivery options and the results were very interesting. But what was most interesting is the number of organisations that went into the process initially looking for the most cost effective option, and coming out with not necessarily the cheapest option, but the one that offered the most benefits and value for money against those benefits.
In particular we found that IT departments are now serious about looking for approaches that remove operational load from their team, so that they can be freed up to focus on more value initiatives, such as much needed customer experience improvements. Finally, innovation is being given the chance that it deserves.
As for 2016, I think we will continue to see growing confidence in the suitability and viability of public cloud models for the enterprise. Awareness of how some of the most valuable aspects of public cloud (the platform services) can be leveraged is increasing too. Already we are seeing this leading to an increase in the number of requests for pilot implementations of platform managed databases, transcoding services, map reduce analytics, file systems and identity management.
Virtualisation is no longer enough
A software-defined approach, with centralised control and automation at the core will be the target reference architecture for enhancing IT operational efficiency and simplifying the environment. For organisations that will have a long-tail investment in equipment they own (on their sites typically), there are the same drivers of freeing up staff to work with the business rather than work on the infrastructure.
Through the orchestration of common workflows, IT not only frees itself from repetitive tasks, but it also ensures an extremely consistent level of configurations, which further eradicates errors due to misconfiguration and improves service quality.
And a software defined data centre that uses orchestration elements to then automate the provisioning and lifecycle management of IT assets, is also perfectly placed to pivot some of those services into the cloud – i.e. establish a Hybrid Cloud.
The VMware SDDC is a market leading approach based on a long proven delivery capability in virtualising all aspects of the data centre. However, the new announcements from Microsoft on Azure Stack will also be very interesting to follow as they have the potential effect of dropping accelerant onto the hybrid cloud fire and kick starting any brownfields/greenfields enterprise deployments.
Adopting DevOps to stay competitive
One of the particularly hyped trends that I have the greatest confidence in, in terms of gaining traction in 2016, is the rise of enterprise DevOps. The challenge for any buzzword related movement is that for many people, they quickly assume they know what it is and that if it is hyped there simply can’t be any substance to it. To my mind, organisations in industries that are under threat from external competitors need to use digital strategies to stay engaged with their customers, before they lose them for good.
Agility in IT can only be achieved by removing barriers, but without removing the essential governance controls. DevOps allows the agents of change within an organisation (the developers) to create and deliver quickly, whilst still working within the guidelines provided by the people who know how to avoid IT catastrophes (the operations staff).
In recognition of this movement, we’re developing a DevOps simulation service which brings together the different representatives of IT in an organisation. The benefits of removing organisational boundaries, extending collaboration, orchestrating deployments and automating tests are embedded through a series of simulation rounds. Already we are getting requests to see how quickly we can have this service available for prime time.
2016 – more, more more!
There is no doubt that 2016 will be another great year for IT, with more innovation, more change and disruption, and certainly more unexpected twists and turns (pundits predictions can never all be right!). But again, I think IT departments will be measured by their ability to pay attention to the impact of the changes on how they are delivering value to their organisations - and their ability to react quickly and adjust their course appropriately.