June 24, 2016

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The future of IT Infrastructure looks like an electrical socket!

For those of us who have invested most of our working lives in the IT, there is a profound voice of change ringing across the community signaling something has changed. Indeed, even if you have joined the industry only recently you will surely see that a seismic fracture has appeared within the industry that indicates a distinct break from the ‘old way’ of doing IT.

Many of us have become conditioned to ride through cyclical changes in the industry; whether be it the current favorite piece of technology or a preferred approach, it evolves over time and eventually every one of the fads gets replaced by the next big thing. But I think, right now, at this particular point in time we are seeing a truly permanent and irreversible shift in the way we approach IT.

We have all watched the evolution of cloud technologies along with the adoption of the remaining elements of the SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics & Cloud) revolution. But I think what caught many of us by surprise was the reality of the business and societal forces driving the adoption of these enablers.

I firmly believe we now live in an age of limitless opportunity, an age that also offers pretty much unlimited technology at zero or negligible cost. Coupled with the leveling effects of the internet and widespread low cost mobile connectivity, we find ourselves living in a time of relentless technology-enabled business innovation.

Clearly, in a world rapidly being redefined by 21st Century Enterprises, technology has become the key enabler of differentiation and disruption for businesses both old and new.

Every business leader is today confronted with a rapidly changing landscape, competitors who come and go with alarming speed and alacrity and everyone is using technology to drive business advantage. Whether to enrich the customer experience or make visible previously-hidden insights, all businesses demand appropriate technology to be made available to them to enable rapid launch of products and services which helps them stay several steps in front of the competition.

This new intensity of business has made life in IT somewhat interesting, to say the least. Indeed, the relationship between IT and the business has become tense in recent years as the business’ focus on agility and innovation has collided with the slow, reliable and often cautious approach of enterprise IT departments.

Business leaders increasingly exhibit a level of impatience and urgency that cannot tolerate a less than agile IT estate. New services have to be provisioned in real time, they must offer unlimited scalability and, of course, they will need to be charged on a consumption basis.

The days of long procurement cycles, long term contractual obligations, exhaustive pre-defined specifications and lengthy project schedules are gone. Forever. As Dorothy declared in the ‘Wizard of Oz,’ we are definitely not in Kansas anymore.

The business today simply expects IT to ‘just work’. Always available, with elasticity that enables new services to be deployed at-will and to scale up or down with complete freedom.

And the impatience inherent within business today also empowers the organization to by-pass the traditional IT shop. If the business cannot get what it needs – right now – then it often can and will procure directly.

Enlightened IT leaders have also seen the opportunity within this new landscape. In a world where technology-enabled business innovation is the greatest enabler of all, the opportunity allows savvy IT leaders to forge a new future actually leading the business.

This journey to greater business relevance brings with it a shift of focus towards revenue generating services and building solutions that directly create value for the business and certainly driving a richer user experience for both customers and employees alike.

Along the way, as focus move deeper in to the business, there has been a shift away from the lower-level infrastructure that dominates IT today. Having spoken to many CIOs I think it is clear that they desperately want infrastructure to behave like a true Utility. Constantly available, flexible and totally elastic to the demands placed upon it; totally reliable and fundamentally no different to the classic power and water utilities we all use daily.

Once infrastructure can be relied upon to simply deliver, the IT organization can devote itself to creating those rich new services that the business so desperately demands. Many of us have watched the early stages of cloud evolution wondering whether the real motivation for adoption would become clear. And of course, it is now obvious that the motivating power behind the cloud is far more about Agility and far less about cost of ownership.

Just like any other utility, infrastructure has to be easily consumable. Standardized connectivity plus easy contracts with little commitment defines the future of infrastructure. We are already seeing early signs of this commoditization of the new IT utility. Service Exchanges now broker a vast array of internal and third-party services, yet support easy discovery through consumer-grade shopping experiences, allowing the non-technical user to easy orchestrate completely new solutions from a nearly unlimited variety of low-cost services.

And we should expect IT infrastructure to quickly evolve to be as simple as electricity. Click-to-consume, constant availability and you only pay for what you need! Whilst we all know that IT is accompanied by ferocious complexity, the business leaders of tomorrow will be those that can both enable and leverage the new IT utility.

Just like putting a plug in to a power socket, we no longer know or care (much) about the source of power – it is just there and works. So next time you are contemplating where our journey will take us, I suggest a quick glance at the power socket on the wall or floor should shape your thinking. What will you do to ensure your technology appears as simple as the socket in front of you?