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Talent management, serverless computing and the growing use of AI are amongst the key technologies and trends that infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders must start preparing for in order to support digital infrastructure in 2019, according to new research.

The research, undertaken by Gartner, confirms that data centre managers need to adopt ‘infrastructure-is-everywhere’ strategies and manage IT service delivery, not hardware. This is because they will face the challenge of supporting complex, distributed applications using new technologies that are spread across systems in multiple locations, including on-premises data centres, the public cloud and hosting providers.

Key developments

In response to this challenge, Gartner has highlighted the following key developments:

  • The importance of talent management – enterprises will increasingly look to elevate IT skills and shift IT departments away from specialisations in storage, servers or virtualisation. Expanding I&O skill sets, practices and procedures to accommodate hybrid operations will become ever-more important, meaning that talent is the critical ingredient for a modern, high-performing technology organisation. The ability to demonstrate versatility and adaptability will be particularly key in hybrid environments.
  • New roles within infrastructure and operations – as IT moves toward delivering services, data centre personnel become brokers of technology rather than owners. For instance, IT is increasingly taking on the role of supporting cloud services in terms of aggregation, customisation, integration and governance. Rather than focusing solely on engineering and operations, I&O must develop the capabilities needed to broker services which will require different roles to the I&O of old.
  • Serverless computing – I&O leaders need to adopt an application-centric approach to serverless computing, managing APIs and SLAs rather than physical infrastructures.
    Serverless does not replace containers or virtual machines, so it’s critical to learn how best and where to use the technology. Developing support and management capabilities within I&O teams will be increasingly important, with more than 20% of global enterprises predicted to be using serverless computing technologies by 2020.
  • Using AI inside operations – as IT departments shift from delivering hardware to service delivery of IT everywhere, artificial intelligence becomes an important component of scalable management. AI can help IT departments expand IT service delivery without adding headcount by automating tasks and reducing errors.
  • Addressing the lack of network agility – the network is the hub that underpins virtually all IT services. The focus for 2019 and beyond should be on how I&O leaders can help their teams increase the pace of network operations in order to meet demand. Part of the answer is building network agility that relies on automation and analytics, and addressing the real skills shift needed to succeed.
  • The death of data centres – Gartner predicts that by 2025, 80% of organisations will migrate entirely away from on-premises data centres with the current trend of moving workloads to co-location, hosting and the cloud leading them to shut down their traditional data centre. Consequently I&O leaders must prepare to place workloads based on business needs and not be constrained by physical location.
  • Edge computing – as devices and data proliferate, many computing processes suffer from latency. At the same time, many tasks require real-time processing that cloud architecture can’t accommodate. Edge computing is a way to push workloads out of centralised data centres or cloud architectures and closer to customers to prevent delays in data processing. This is another trend that does not replace the cloud, but augments it.
  • Digital diversity management – as they proliferate, devices need IT management to address security, application performance and other concerns. Traditional asset management is still important, but increasingly I&O will be tasked with managing assets that have direct effects on the finances, health and welfare of the organisation’s customers.
  • SaaS denial – Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is selling faster than any other aspect of cloud computing according to data surveys, but IT hasn’t yet mastered how to manage these proliferating services. The shift to SaaS must be accompanied with I&O support, all the way from ensuring visibility is maintained of what is in use, through to supporting compliance requirements and enterprise integration needs. The nature and scale of the challenge can be seen in the fact that Gartner found companies now use, on average, between 12 and 15 cloud service providers.
  • Global infrastructure enablement – once enterprises embrace the idea that infrastructure is everywhere, managing it without provider assistance can become costly. IT becomes key to managing these partner relationships and coordinating partner interaction with infrastructure. I&O leaders must look hard at their existing partners and raise the bar of expectation.

According to Ross Winser, senior research director at Gartner, “The focus of I&O leaders is no longer to solely deliver engineering and operations, but instead deliver products and services that support and enable an organisation’s business strategy.”

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