The data centre is in a period of rapid IT transformation as businesses are increasingly seeking competitive advantages in this digital era.
Brad Pulford, director: enterprise solutions group at Dell Computer, unpacks the issues around skills
At the centre of these IT transformations lie converged infrastructure (CI), hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) and “software-defined” environments to help achieve digital business goals of faster time to market and improved customer engagement.
In fact, according to 451 Research, HCI is currently in use at 40% of organisations, and analysts expect that number to rise substantially over the next two years. As this huge shift to new IT models continues, there’s another shift at play: The fundamental IT skills most in demand are changing.
The unique opportunity
It is crucial for businesses to evolve with the digital era, but South African companies have been found lagging. According to the PwC Global Digital IQ survey, less than half of local companies believe their digital strategies are adapting fast enough. Modernisation, both in systems and in thinking, is clearly a major challenge. But new technologies pave the way to change this.
CI and HCI platforms provide a unique opportunity to re-evaluate and change IT management. These platforms can be a catalyst for IT transformation, helping the businesses that adopt them remain competitive within their industry. However, businesses need to ensure that their IT managers are equipped with the right skill sets, which go beyond traditional requirement for maintaining only the infrastructure and doing so with component-level expertise. With CI and HCI, compute, storage and networking no longer operate in isolation from one another. Modern integrated systems unify virtual and physical IT resources, which can be managed via a single platform.
Unifying virtual and physical resources reduces reliance on dedicated IT specialists in favour of IT generalists to manage the overall environment at a lower cost. However, this approach is arguably short-sighted. Savvy organizations take advantage of integrated systems to cross-pollinate expertise across IT personnel so they can deploy and manage application workloads at unprecedented levels of scale as well as allocate budget and staff toward innovations that will drive business growth.
Thanks to the rise of mobile computing applications, micro-services, and everything in between, the number of workloads being deployed by enterprises is increasing exponentially. As a result, it is arguably economically unsustainable to hire and retain the necessary IT personnel to support this unprecedented level of expansion using legacy infrastructure. The shift to integrated systems provides the framework for efficiency, so IT organizations can support a much larger ratio of workloads per IT staff member, again freeing-up resources to drive innovation.
The impact on the IT manager, the skills landscape and the IT organisation
In fact, many organisations are already starting to recognize the significance of this shift in structure and capabilities of IT staff. According to a recent study from Enterprise Strategy Group, which was designed to understand the role that IT transformation plays in the journey to become a digital business, those that are furthest along in IT transformation initiatives are more likely to have IT viewed by the business as a competitive differentiator. They also are more likely to report a highly cooperative relationship between IT and the business, and are making “excellent progress” running IT as a profit centre rather than a cost centre.
Additionally, a report published by 451 Research shows that 41% of large enterprise IT organizations with 10,000 or more employees plan to evolve how their IT teams are organized. It’s only a matter of time before smaller IT organizations look to take advantage of similar economic benefits.
And truth be told, most IT personnel are excited about that change. The expansion of their skill sets creates an opportunity to increase the value added services they provide. IT leaders that have adopted integrated systems are clearly the early beneficiaries of advances in IT infrastructure management and IT transformation that are long overdue. In most cases, deploying and managing isolated stacks of compute, storage and networking resources makes neither technological nor economic sense. Integrated systems are rewriting the formulas that organizations use to calculate the return on investment in IT.
Benefiting from new infrastructure models, the emerging operational and IT staffing models used to deliver IT services are clearly changing. They also are facilitating IT transformation in a way that allows the IT organization to be more efficient than ever in providing IT services to more effectively reach a business’ end goals. It’s this IT transformation that is fundamental to a successful digital transformation and creating a digital business. IT staff are joining the front lines — creating differentiation and competitive advantage that will set their businesses apart from others in their industries.