Digital transformation initiatives have been well documented over the last few years and result in significant changes to an organization’s people (skills), process, and technology. The top goals of these initiatives, as reported in ESG’s 2020 Technology Spending Intentions survey, are to drive greater operational efficiencies and deliver differentiated customer experiences. To accomplish these goals, organizations are actively modernizing their application environments.
The modernization is taking a couple of different forms–the first and most often talked about is the rapid adoption of cloud-based computing. ESG research shows 94% of organizations surveyed used some form of public cloud computing – including either or both SaaS and IaaS. While SaaS adoption has been pervasive, IaaS has also seen a steady increase in adoption over the last 5 years, with 67% now reporting IaaS usage and almost half (45%) stating they are leveraging it to support production applications.
From the research above, it is clear organizations like the cloud model, but also want to have more control, security, and ability to support certain applications on-premises. So, in addition to taking advantage of public cloud offerings, these organizations are also actively modernizing their on-premises infrastructure. These organizations have seen the benefits of public cloud computing and now want to have the same cloud-like experience and operating model in their on-premises environments, essentially creating hybrid cloud or hybrid multi-cloud environments. But what are organizations deploying to ensure the on-premises infrastructure can provide the same cloud-like agility and operational efficiency as their public cloud-based counterparts? Below are some of the examples I have seen:
- Legacy Infrastructure. Sometimes you just have to make do with the servers, storage, and SANs that you have. While this may not be the first choice, in some cases, the cost of refactoring legacy applications far outweighs the benefits of shifting it to run on a more modern infrastructure. As a result, many organizations continue to run applications on existing infrastructure. Keep in mind, this could also include mainframe environments that have seen renewed interest by supporting Linux.
- Converged Infrastructure. Fully packaged and optimized compute, networking, and storage, this predecessor to HCI is seeing renewed interest as vendors drive higher levels of automation software into these blocks of compute power. According to ESG research, 17% of organizations stated they would be making investments in converged infrastructure in 2020 to help modernize their data centers. Examples of converged infrastructure players include Cisco, Dell, HPE, IBM, NetApp and Oracle
- Hyperconverged Infrastructure or HCI. When ESG research asked where organizations were making the most significant investments to modernize their on-premises data centers, deploying HCI was the number one selection last year and this year, with almost a quarter (24%) of respondents selecting it, it was the third most popular choice. This is important as it demonstrates that organizations view HCI as an integral part of their modernization strategy and it is now powering mission-critical production applications. These solutions are typically software-based but tightly integrated with one or more hardware solutions. In addition, most HCI solutions enable hybrid multi-cloud environments. Cisco, Dell EMC, HPE, Microsoft, NetApp Nutanix, Pivot3, and VMware are all examples of companies that offer solutions in this space
- Hyperscale Infrastructure. Public cloud providers have recognized that organizations will need to run applications in their on-premises data centers and have responded by delivering options to deploy software, services, and/or infrastructure to accommodate them. The idea being that this software and potentially hardware would be an extension of their cloud environment. The well-known solutions in this space include AWS outposts, Google Anthos, and Microsoft Azure Stack. Organizations need to understand if these solutions only connect to their own clouds or can enable a multi-cloud environment.
- Container Platforms. As organizations modernize their application development methodology to DevOps and transition to microservices architectures that are deployed in container environments, new solutions are required to effectively manage them. These new container platforms are mostly software-based, but typically leverage one of the hardware solutions listed above to run on. Example solutions include Rancher, RedHat OpenShift, VMware Tanzu, as well as recent announcements from Cisco and HPE. It is worth watching this space as more organizations adopt modern application environments and deploy them across hybrid multi-cloud environments.
The reality today is that organizations are distributing application environments across on-premises data centers, public cloud or multiple public clouds, and edge locations. Organizations need solutions for their on-premises locations that deliver cloud-like agility, scale, and operational efficiency. Fortunately, vendors are responding to this need and delivering a range of solutions to enable organizations to align on-premises solutions with business requirements and/or initiatives and enable hybrid multi-cloud environments.