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The top IT infrastructure trends in 2019

Top IT infrastructure trends for 2019 signal further movement of data center management beyond an enterprise’s four walls and the emphasis on IT service delivery.

Data center managers know the winds of change are blowing in their direction.

While traditional data center management—presiding over a company’s own servers, storage, networks and other infrastructure—isn’t dead, it’s becoming far less integral to the day-to-day job of IT, experts say.

By 2021, 94% of workloads and compute instances will be processed by cloud data centers; 6% will be processed by traditional data centers, according to the Cisco Cloud Global Index. And according to some estimates, more than 80% of company cloud strategies are now multicloud.

Close observers of the IT infrastructure market say that the top IT infrastructure trends in 2019 will continue to move data center operations outside the four walls of the enterprise. And that will have cascading effects on data center management in 2019.

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Source: 451 Research's Voice of the Enterprise: Cloud Transformation, Workloads and Key Projects 2017

Signs of IT management change

A host of technology trends has swept in to change the management of IT assets. Artificial intelligence (AI) and IT automation have eliminated repetitive tasks, enabling computers to perform many of these functions without human intervention.

Further, cloud-based infrastructure and colocation have shifted many IT management tasks from private data centers to providers. According to 451 Research, more than 60% of enterprise workloads will reside in the cloud by 2019 (see Figure 1).

As a result, IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) managers now need to focus on anywhere, anytime IT service delivery, not delivering hardware.

Proactive data center managers have sensed this shift for some time. At the VMworld 2018 conference in Las Vegas in August, for example, a panel of data center managers discussed the increasing role of IT automation in IT infrastructure management.

“We came to the conclusion a year and a half ago that running data centers is nice, but not a scalable practice,” said one company’s director of information services, who spoke on the panel.

Eventually, he noted, workers would be sitting idle rather than be optimally employed.

“Eventually we’re going to be paying [IT workers] to sit and do nothing but wait for something to happen.”

The top IT infrastructure trends in 2019

According to a press release, the top 10 trends in IT infrastructure and operations are the following [see Gartner Press Release “Gartner Identifies the Top 10 Trends Impacting Infrastructure and Operations for 2019, December 4, 2018]:

  1. Serverless computing
  2. AI Impacts
  3. Network agility (or lack of?)
  4. Death of the data center
  5. Edge computing
  6. Digital diversity management
  7. New roles within I&O
  8. Software as a service (SaaS) denial
  9. Talent management becomes critical
  10. Global infrastructure enablement

Serverless computing. With serverless computing, developers can focus on building web applications rather than provisioning and managing IT resources. With a serverless approach, a piece of code can alert a cloud provider to provision these resources instead.

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.

Network agility (or lack thereof). It’s irrefutable: The network is the hub that undergirds virtually all IT services. At the same time, the network has historically been one of the most difficult to change.
Today, networking has started to catch up with the software-defined revolution, enabling data center managers to apply policy to software rather than hardware. By 2022, 50% of enterprises will use strategies such as intent-based networking to automate network management.

Death of data centers. Gartner predicts that by 2025, 80%of enterprises will migrate from on-premises data centers and shift workloads to colocated, hosted and cloud-based models and shut down their traditional data centers.

As a result in this shift from on-premises to off-premises infrastructure models, many enterprises are legitimately asking, “Do we need to manage all IT infrastructure ourselves?” Additionally, cloud strategies have become less black and white. So enterprises no longer ask whether to move workloads to cloud or colocation but instead build IT strategy based on workload placement. Compliance, data sovereignty, data latency and other business requirements dictate whether applications should reside on-premises, in the cloud, at the edge and so forth.

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 architecture is a way to push workloads out of centralized data centers or cloud architectures and closer to customers to prevent delays in data processing.
Consider a chain of stores that has used edge computing so that each location has its own standalone data center. Even if a main system goes down, the location still has customers it needs to service. Edge computing has become an important complement to cloud computing architecture to bring compute resources, data and processing closer to the edge.

Digital diversity management. As they proliferate, devices need IT management to address security, application performance and other concerns. With Internet of Things devices playing a role in many line-of-business projects, IT is expected to manage and secure these diverse assets, even if IT doesn’t introduce them into the environment.

New roles within infrastructure and operations. As IT moves toward delivering services, data center personnel become brokers of technology rather than owners. They should understand the key players in the market, the key performance indicators (KPIs) a data center should use to determine appropriate service levels, and the processes for monitoring these service levels via KPIs.

SaaS denialSoftware as a service (SaaS) is selling faster than any other aspect of cloud computing (e.g., infrastructure or platform as a service), according to data surveys, but IT hasn’t yet mastered how to managed these proliferating services. Gartner found that companies now use, on average, between 12 and 15 cloud service providers to manage IT environments. Still, IT departments are responsible for managing the cascading impact of SaaS on infrastructure, including security and compliance, performance and licensing issues.

Talent management becomes critical. Enterprises want to elevate IT skills and shift IT departments away from specializations in storage, servers or virtualization. Departments increasingly need to have a more integrated understanding of each technology stack and its impact on the others.

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.

From IT ownership to brokering

Ultimately, IT needs to wrestle with how to preside over these services without owning them directly. Understanding interconnections and the entire IT stack will become only more essential as will brokering of strong relationships and agreements with partners.

This shift requires new skills and a new mindset, experts say. The goal is to think about a data center more holistically: IT should view technology stacks as integrated and understand how the dynamics of a data center extend well beyond its four walls.

We’ll continue to watch these IT infrastructure trends as 2019 progresses.

Lauren Horwitz

Lauren Horwitz is the managing editor of Cisco.com, where she covers the IT infrastructure market and develops content strategy. Previously, Horwitz was a senior executive editor in the Business Applications and Architecture group at TechTarget;, a senior editor at Cutter Consortium, an IT research firm; and an editor at the American Prospect, a political journal. She has received awards from American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), a min Best of the Web award and the Kimmerling Prize for best graduate paper for her editing work on the journal article "The Fluid Jurisprudence of Israel's Emergency Powers.”