Reimagining Infra

The pandemic-triggered disruption has compelled businesses to think more carefully about their long-term IT strategies. IT decision-makers haven’t gotten enough sleep since the global health crisis. The traditional office as we know it has vanished, making way for the new ‘hybrid workplace.’

To facilitate a smooth transition to new working practices, IT leaders and CIOs must ensure that their IT infrastructure is flexible, dependable, secure, and future-ready. As stewards of IT infrastructure, they play a crucial role in ensuring that their diverse and dispersed employees and customers have excellent experiences with no significant snags in this rapidly evolving digital world.

Our recent CIO&Leader State of the Infra Management Survey reveals that enterprise IT decision-makers are considering significant investments in security solutions (33%) and services, Infra management tools (23%), public cloud (22%), virtualization/private cloud (20%), modernizing existing data centers (16%), networking solutions (14%), professional services for public cloud (14%) storage solutions (13%) and edge computing (11%), during the next twelve months.State of the Infra survey was conducted by CIO&Leader in April-May 2022. It attracted responses from more than 110 respondents. 

Our research also found that IT decision-makers are under much pressure to meet changing customer demands, ensure network reliability for hybrid workspaces, avoid unplanned downtime, provide adequate storage, improve cybersecurity, and maintain service levels while reducing operational inefficiencies.

Overall, this month?s cover story looks at the top of enterprise IT leaders’ post-disruption agendas and their minds as they work to expand their software-defined capabilities, overcome substantial challenges, and focus on critical areas for accomplishing transformation by reinventing their IT infrastructure.

Real-time infra scaling

Nobody could have predicted that a pandemic-triggered health crisis would have disastrous ramifications on the entire world. Even in their disaster management plans, organizations had not listed pandemic as one of the probable causes of a disruption that would need them to take unprecedented business continuity precautions and move their entire workforce out of the office into a work-from-anywhere setting.

Adapting to a growing hybrid workforce and developing infrastructure for rapidly increasing online collaboration has put severe pressure on the IT infrastructure of almost every organization. CIOs and IT leaders strive for reduced latency by utilizing many data centers and edge points to bring data closer to their users.

“For us, scaling infra to match the dynamic demand during peak or seasonal passengers and Cargo loads and ability to onboard newer airports within a shorter deployment period to minimize lead times and maximize revenue is a key challenge. We are looking to address this challenge by auto-scaling, and load balancing Software-defined DC or Cloud Hosted workloads,” says Vinod Bhatt, CIO, Vistara.

Vistara is enhancing application availability by configuring SLA-based routing using SD-WAN and simplifying on-premise deployments that are data-intensive, requiring high-bandwidth, low latency, such as Flight Data Analytics Applications, leveraging AGS software.

Enterprises working closely with their software partners would predominantly focus on establishing business infrastructure requirements and ensuring that the proper software-defined elements are incorporated into their ecosystem to meet necessary storage and compute capacity in real-time. As we go along, organizations will strongly emphasize combining networking, storage, and computing into a single platform to build the necessary infrastructure to meet customers? changing expectations.

The growing appeal of hybrid cloud

Moving workloads to the cloud have become the topmost priority for all enterprises as it would help them rationalize expenses and fast-track their digital transformation goals. The hybrid cloud is gaining popularity because of its flexibility, scalability, and agility. According to the CIO&Leader Infra Management Survey, just about 6% of enterprises’ infrastructure currently comprises a hybrid cloud with legacy systems, whereas 20% have a hybrid with a predominantly private cloud and 31% have a hybrid with a primarily public cloud. 26% have a mix of public and private clouds, with some legacy systems, and 17% have a balanced blend of all three.

This essentially indicates the growing trend toward an as-a-service consumption model ? for everything from software to hardware. To secure business continuity and meet unique remote-work requirements, organizations are focusing on accelerating edge computing and distributed-enterprise network capabilities.

Many big companies are drifting away from their private data centers and moving their workloads to the public cloud. According to IDC, by 2026, 50% of organizations will use software and cloud-based infrastructures to create a 35% increase in sustainable efficiencies across workloads and datacenters.

The key drivers of the hybrid cloud adoption include the need to innovate and be competitive in different geographies, compliance, cost optimization, easy access to the latest technologies, and facilitation of application portability across all environments.

?Cloud infrastructure and hyper-scale architecture helped a lot during the pandemic. And that?s where you might have seen in the last two years, there are a good number of players entered into the cloud. However, the challenge was whether go for open-source or off-the-shelf proprietary cloud software for many years. However, with companies adopting remote and hybrid work models after the pandemic and user experience a priority, proliferation adoption of open-source software is seeing a tremendous uptake,? says Mahendra K Upadhyay, CIO, BARC India.

Besides reliable connectivity, effective, scalable infrastructure monitoring solutions are becoming more critical since they provide IT teams with a quick overview of preparing for and adapting to their unique IT infrastructure requirements.

Despite the many advantages of the hybrid cloud, it also introduces new issues, such as mindset and culture, security management, application readiness, interoperability, and vendor lock-in, which must be addressed first.

?An important consideration for successfully adopting hybrid cloud is orchestrating seamlessly across cloud environments and resources. This orchestration layer also needs to provide visibility, control, and governance for the end-to-end infra and application landscape and help optimize costs while proactively monitoring security and compliance requirements. It is also important that the futuristic architecture be agile in continuously modernizing the applications, making them cloud-native and using the new-age digital transformation tools like the advanced DevSecOps,? says Ashish Bhagat, Head-Digital Transformation, Sify Technologies.

Ashish further adds an inherent need to have an AI-enabled Cloud Ops Intelligence and an All-Ops platform that can seamlessly manage a multi-cloud or hybrid-cloud environment and continuously monitor the cloud consumption, security, compliance, application performance, and overall viability of the digital transformation pursuits.

Technology leaders are also planning significant investments in employing infrastructure-management solutions. This is to ensure that they track the health of their IT infrastructure and keep a check on the historical patterns, resources demand, and supply across data centers, at the edge, and in the cloud in real-time. Many of these tools leverage AI/ML-based technologies and enable enterprises to deploy predictive software maintenance to timely address the potential issues.

 

About every 3 in 4 respondents have presence in public cloud. Legacy still exists but is now minimal. Note that this survey was done among large and medium enterprises.

Source: State of the Infra survey by CIO&Leader, April-May 2022

Building digital resilience

The recent upheaval caused by prolonged lockdowns has pushed enterprises to focus on more robust risk management strategies to remain future-proof and manage newer risks and threats. During the pandemic, it became evident that the IT Infrastructure of many organizations was not equipped to deal with expanded and complex cyber threats.

Ransomware, phishing, and social engineering attacks increased dramatically during the epidemic. Identifying future risks and understanding their potential effects has become more important for technology leaders as businesses transfer their fundamental functions to the cloud. CIOs are still prioritizing the deployment of strict multi-factor authentication tools and securely configured cloud solutions.

At the pandemic’s start, the switch to remote work was massive in both pace and scope. COVID-19 was also deployed at high risk, according to the EY Global Information Security Survey 2021, with 81 percent of CEOs admitting it caused them to skip cybersecurity standards, including fundamental cybersecurity hygiene.

CISOs and CIOs are tasked with accelerating their digital transformation efforts and developing a well-defined strategy to protect mission-critical systems, meet compliance, and secure data. Despite many organizations showing confidence in their preparation for an attack, IT leaders fear that the situation [related to security] may deteriorate as businesses prepare for recovery and seek new ways to scale and thrive.