The siren’s call of digital transformation boils down to “if you build an app, they will come”, writes Lori MacVittie, principal technical evangelist at F5 Networks.
There’s a lot more to digital transformation than the pretty picture of success painted in colourful pixels across the Internet. While executives nestle snug in their beds with visions of prospects and leads filling their heads, the reality is that the integration and processes required to execute successfully on an external digital transformation require a digital foundation upon which to operate.
That means the ability to scale operations to handle the influx of data and traffic expected. Customer service must be ready to handle higher volumes than ever before — even if you don’t have the go-ahead to hire more headcount to prepare.
That means digital enablement. It means automation, orchestration and digitisation of the business processes must be in place before you open the digital doors to your new apps.
Unsurprisingly, those operating under digital transformation efforts know this. By a significant margin, respondents to our 2018 State of Application Delivery (SOAD) survey told us that IT optimisation was the number one benefit expected from digital transformation efforts (69% in EMEA). Competitive advantage came second, with 59%, and business process optimisation was a close third, at 49%.
How do they expect to realise those benefits? A combination of cloud, new app architectures and automation of IT seem to be the way ahead. Over half (57%) of respondents in EMEA indicated they are employing automation and orchestration of IT because of digital transformation. Almost half (48%) are moving to deliver apps from a public cloud, and 48% are changing how they develop those applications. Some 43% said digital transformation has prompted the exploration of new app architectures involving containers and micro-services.
What’s interesting about the move to deliver apps from public cloud is not the decision itself, but how that decision is made. The majority (54%) choose a cloud environment on an app-by-app basis. Only 20% told us the decision is made by the often-cited line-of-business owner.
However, the news that the most important factor determining where an application should be deployed is, in fact, the application itself, should not be a controversial one. Applications are not islands of functionality. They have dependencies — on data sources and other applications. They are secured and scaled with application services like web application firewalls and load balancing. Access to their digital payload is protected by firewalls, identity management and a host of security application services. An average of 16 different application services are used by organisations every day to deliver applications.
One does not so much migrate an application as one migrates an architecture.
That’s why digital transformation inevitably leads to multi-cloud. At the heart of IT’s revolution lies applications that must be delivered faster and with greater scale and efficacy. Where one environment might be ideal to meet those requirements for one application, it might be detrimental to another. As organisations ramp up their use of public cloud in the coming year, we’ll see more operating under multi-cloud conditions — and facing the challenges that come with it.