With economists predicting a recession, the war in Ukraine and ongoing supply chain issues impacting business spending—disruptive technology trends like the Digital Immune System (DIS) are making a lot of noise. From metaverse-led virtual spaces and developments in quantum computing to sustainable technologies and robots–DIS is expected to help create a roadmap to drive impact on a range of strategic ambitions.
By 2025, Gartner expects organizations investing in building digital immunity will improve customer satisfaction by decreasing downtime by 80%. Lester Lam, Executive Vice President, Digital Consulting, HCLTech defines the Digital Immune System as “A wrapper that encompasses several technology practices and technologies that ensure robustness in systems by protecting applications and services, making them more resilient and better able to recover from unexpected failures.”
Lam adds: “The pressure placed on technology organizations is becoming deeper and wider. The old mantra of technology transformation was “on time and on budget”, and we added “on value” to it—meaning that you not only had to commit on time but also had to achieve the business case. That has evolved further into “revenue creation” responsibilities for digital teams, along with delivering a superior user experience.
Why the digital immune system matters
A DIS protects applications and services to make them more resilient so that they recover quickly from failures. As a result, DIS produces a superior CX and UX by blending practices and technologies to increase the resilience of products, services and systems.
“The business expects to have the ability to react to market changes quickly and innovate at a fast rate. End users expect more than sound functionality—they want high performance and their transactions and data to be secure with satisfactory interactions,” says Joachim Herschmann, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner.
“The first tenet of creating a digital immune system is to include a 360-degree view across the ecosystem and digital product lifecycle from design and development to operations, security and maintenance. Second, digital immune systems are all about the customer. Both third-party research and first-person accounts from clients show that one of the primary goals for technology investments is to enhance customer experience. That means, building a CX relieved from the burden that comes with bugs, failures and security compromises is a must.”
The struggle to implement Digital Immune Systems
Being a new concept, discussions on digital immune systems are still at a nascent stage. Though the underlying practices and technologies are familiar to IT leaders, the idea of pursuing them as an integrated program to build “immunity” is still new to most. Even for those familiar with digital immune systems, there are obstacles to pursuing it as a formal transformative initiative. It can also lack business sponsorship.
Even though the business case of DIS for a large undertaking is still underway, that doesn’t prevent leaders in this space from making progress toward this vision of digital immune systems. According to Gartner, leaders can successfully deconstruct the six components and pursue them on the merits and business benefits through six practices:
- AI-augmented testing
- Chaos engineering
- Auto remediation
- Site reliability engineering (SRE)
- Software supply chain security
Lam explains: “HCLTech has been partnering with clients to create robustness and fast recovery capabilities for a long time. To achieve the vision of digital immunity, clients need to embrace and build on the six practices. For example, while monitoring is well established among our clients, it is evolving into building observability so we can meet the needs of modern distributed applications that require high quality and higher fidelity in telemetry.”
He adds: “As with the other pillars of digital immunity, it’s an evolution of what exists and has matured into the next level of information and automation to drive robustness. We find many clients have implemented tools to provide them with mature siloed monitoring in either infrastructure or apps, but not both. Some clients may have achieved greater levels of maturity with in-depth and centralized monitoring. These clients are positioned to implement full stack observability to help them identify and remediate potential issues beyond traditional dashboards.”
The business implications of DIS implementation failure
IT systems and applications continue to grow in complexity. With new technologies, practices, platforms, and expectations, the risk of system failure grows. Realistically, competition and expectations will continue to drive companies to develop more sophisticated solutions and that is why companies need to evolve the ability to create robust systems with the ability to recover quickly.
“At HCLTech, we’re working with many clients on building immune system practices like observability, chaos engineering and site reliability engineering. In all these cases, we begin by using our assessment methodology to understand the current state of capabilities and maturity. That helps us understand the gap between where the client is today and the end state they want to achieve, depending on their needs, budget or complexity.
“The idea is to quantify data for their unique situation and put it into business benefit terms which can span revenue growth, cost remediation and revenue protection (revenue lost due to failure)”, adds Lam.
Implementing the DIS roadmap effectively
There’s no single path to successfully implement the DIS roadmap. What’s important is to have forward momentum and tackle individual components of digital immunity. Many clients begin with evolving monitoring to full stack observability. It makes sense to integrate site reliability engineering practices into the systems since SRE leverages insights coming from observability, and vice versa.
“We help clients assess their unique situations and develop a plan to achieve digital immunity by prioritizing their business objectives. Our clients have benefited from leveraging HCLTech’s iONA platform to implement observability and AI-enabled automation through personalized experiences, thus achieving multiple objectives on the path to attaining digital immunity,” he adds.
A great example of digital immunity and chaos engineering is Netflix. Lam explains that the company developed a tool called Chaos Monkey and used it to intentionally bring down a random server from their production deployment.
He says: “That may be extreme for many organizations, but the use case and scenarios for a company like Netflix where always on is expected justifies their radical approach. In fact, they engineered a test to bring down an entire AWS region to plan for extreme situations.
“The goal of digital immune systems is to work so well that it will appear to be invisible. Our goal as technology professionals is to ensure that our customers never experience a disruption to their experiences. In that way, I think it’s ok for our successes to not be well known.”