Dec 17, 2020

Gartner: Six new I&O trends for 2021

Data Centres
Digital infrastructure
connectivity
Networking
Joanna England
3 min
Leading research group Gartner has identified six new trends in infrastructure and operations that will impact the data centre industry in 2021
Leading research group Gartner has identified six new trends in infrastructure and operations that will impact the data centre industry in 2021...

The past 12 months have seen monumental changes in global business infrastructure and operations (I&O). The COVID-19 pandemic turned worldwide commerce upside down and created unprecedented demands on communications networks and cloud storage services. 

This shift has led to accelerated maturation of the data centre industry as numerous changes and innovations were introduced to handle the demands the pandemic crisis created. According to a new study by Gartner, the next 12 months will be critical in driving forward six trends in technology and protocols that will complete the digitisation of global industries. 

The biggest change of 2020 for businesses was the shift that saw staff work from their own homes. According to Gartner, this is not a passing event and from now on, working from home will become the mainstream protocol for almost all I&O. Data shows that by the end of 2023, more than 90% of them will have most of their staff working remotely. However, though Gartner points out that COVID-19 only accelerated this movement which was already occurring organically as a result of the shift to cloud and edge technology. 

Jeffrey Hewitt, Research VP, Gartner, explains, “Trends like anywhere operations and core modernisation have been moving to the forefront of the I&O organisation for years, but the pandemic rapidly accelerated them to the point where they’ll have a transformational impact in the near future.” 

Flexibility

Companies recognise the benefits of flexibility – or Anywhere Operations as coined by Gartner. Non-agile, traditional structured processes make enterprises vulnerable in the face of crisis-led disruptions. Operations that can function in multiple locations benefit companies by broadening the talent landscape. Recruiting becomes more opportune when teams can hire talent from unlimited geographic locations. Gartner suggests I&O leaders should determine where remote working makes sense and develop plans to work dynamically both on-site and remotely.

Optimal infrastructure

This trend refers to the new technology options for infrastructure such as cloud, edge or computational storage. Gartner suggests I&O leaders should take a business approach to optimal infrastructure, using a cost-benefit view to justify infrastructure choices and to build business cases for change. Consider risk-return ratios as part of any proposed change scenarios.

Operational continuity

Companies will need to reassess their relationship with IT services because the reliance on IT has never been greater. More than ever before, there is an expectation that the wheels of business will keep turning, even in the face of extreme external crisis. The trend for increased automation and zero or minimal touch maintenance will become evident in 2021. Contingency planning will be part of this shift. Service-based solutions for disaster recovery will also be popular.

Core modernisation

Businesses will look at updating their core infrastructures in 2021 to lessen the losses and inefficiency of legacy systems. Integrating new technologies, becoming more flexible and responding to digital needs and demands will soar. Gartner points out these processes will be expensive and will require I&O professionals to justify it. Implementing a modernisation plan with realistic timelines and recognising the skills required to make them work will be essential.

Distributed cloud

The decentralisation of cloud resources enables flexibility for the physical location of businesses. It also reduces latency and shifts the burden of support to the cloud service provider. Gartner points out, however, that distributed cloud includes complex deployment models, increased risk of lock-in and high costs. It’s also a young market. I&O executives should have distributed cloud on their watchlist as it continues to emerge as a preferred infrastructure model.

Critical skills vs. critical roles

The focus on the importance of role will shift to the importance of skill. The more skills there are available, the better business-critical tasks are managed – and this increases business resilience. It also helps I&O teams to align budgets more closely with business needs. This final trend will have an impact on recruitment choices and training methods. 

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Jun 6, 2021

Unlocking the next chapter of the digital revolution

Dell
servers
IT
Technology
Tim Loake
5 min
Tim Loake, Vice President, Infrastructure Solutions Group, UK at Dell Technologies highlights the importance of often-overlooked digital infrastructure

As the world retreated to a hybrid world in 2020, our reliance on technology took the spotlight. But it was the jazzy new social and video calling platforms that took the encore. Behind the scenes, our servers worked overtime, keeping us connected and maintaining the drumbeat of always-on newly digital services.  Let’s take a moment to pay our respect to the unsung technology heroes of the pandemic – the often-forgotten IT infrastructure keeping us connected come what may. After all, as we look ahead to more resilient futures, they will be playing a central role.

Servers could be likened to our plumbing – vital to well-functioning homes but rarely top of mind so long as it is functioning. Never seen, rarely heard – our servers do all the graft with little praise. But it is essential to reflect on the incremental advances in GPU and CPU power, which have paved the way for new workloads that previously were not possible. Chatbots and native language processing that provide essential customer touchpoints for businesses across the retail and banking sectors rely on powerful servers. They also keep businesses competitive and customers happy in an always-on world. 

Tim Loake, Vice President, Infrastructure Solutions Group, UK at Dell Technologies
Tim Loake, Vice President, Infrastructure Solutions Group, UK at Dell Technologies

Serving workplace transformation

But, as businesses grappled with pandemic disruptions, the focus was largely on adopting connected devices – and awe at the rapid increase in the datasphere.  As they reined in their budgets and attempted to do more with less, one aspect was perhaps overlooked—those hard working servers.

When it came to building resilience into a newly remote workforce, the initial concern was focused on the device endpoints – keeping employees productive.  Many companies did not initially consider whether they had the server infrastructure to enable the entire workforce to log in remotely at the same time. As a result, many experienced a plethora of teething problems: virtual office crashes, long waits to get on servers, and sluggish internet connectivity and application performance, often rendering the shiny new PC frustrating and useless.

Most businesses only had a few outward-facing servers that could authenticate remote workers – a vital gateway as the vector for cyber hacks and attacks increased exponentially. That’s not to mention the fact that many business applications simply weren’t designed to work with the latency required for people working from home. What businesses discovered at that moment was that their plumbing was out of date.  

Business and IT leaders quickly realised that to stay ahead of the curve in the hybrid working world, a renewed focus on building agile, adaptable, and flexible IT infrastructures was critical. More importantly, it accelerated the inevitable digital transformation that would keep them competitive in a data-driven economy. It is now abundantly clear to businesses that they need IT infrastructure to meet the demands of diverse workloads – derive intelligent insights from data, deploy applications effectively, and enhance data management and security.  

Ripe for a digital revolution

Unsurprisingly, IDC noted that there was an increase in purchases of server infrastructure to support changing workloads. However, it also forecasts this uptick will be sustainable and last beyond the pandemic. As the economy begins to reopen, business leaders are looking ahead. IT will continue to play a crucial role in 2021 and beyond – and we have already set the foundations for the digital revolution with next-generation servers. 

As we enter the zettabyte era, new innovative technologies are coming on stream, with 5G turbocharging IoT and putting edge computing to work.  Exciting new services improved day-to-day efficiencies, and the transformation of our digital society will be underpinned by resilient IT infrastructures.  By embracing the technological innovations of our next-generation servers, businesses keep pace with the coming data deluge.

The next generation of server architecture promises more power with less heat, thanks to improved, directed airflow, and direct liquid cooling, resulting in reduced operational costs and environmental impact. As we rebuild post-pandemic, manufacturers and customers alike strive to achieve ever more challenging sustainability goals. With this in mind, a focus on environmentally responsible design is imperative for the servers of tomorrow -  uniquely designed chassis for adaptive cooling and more efficient power consumption will be critical, improving energy efficiency generation over generation.

The most notable evolution is the configuration of these next-gen servers around more specific organisational needs. Unlike clunky and often unstable legacy infrastructure, the infrastructure of tomorrow will be sturdier and more modular. The next iteration is streamlined, and in this modular form, can be more easily tailored to business needs. This equates to essential cost savings as businesses only pay for what they use.  

Resolving the problem of the future, today

Tomorrow's IT challenges will focus on response times and latency as Edge and 5G technologies go mainstream. As businesses develop new and innovative services that utilise supercharged connectivity and real-time analytics, staying on top of these challenges will give them a competitive edge. For example, in the world of retail, automation will power new virtual security guards and even the slightest delay in the data relay could result in financial loss. 

Similarly, in the smart cities of tomorrow, the network must be responsive. With city-centre traffic lights controlled by an AI-powered camera that monitors pedestrians, delays in data transfers could cost the life of an elderly pedestrian who has fallen in the road. The stakes are far higher in a 5G-enabled world. As our reliance on technology deepens, the margins for error narrow, placing greater emphasis on the efficiency of those critical underpinning technologies.

Fully enabling the hybrid work model today is just a stepping-stone towards more fluid, tech-enabled lives. A work Zoom call from an automated vehicle on-route to an intelligent transport hub is a highly probable vision of our future. But it requires incredible amounts of compute and seamless data transfers to make it possible. These glossy snapshots need super servers to come to life, making that IT plumbing glisten with next-gen innovation essential. Without exemplary server architecture, we risk future tech advances and the human progression that it enables. 

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