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Red Hat Insider: Frictionless IT as a competitive business advantage

Thu 17 Dec 2015

Red Hat Frictionless IT

alessandro-perilliAlessandro Perilli, general manager of Cloud Management Strategy at Red Hat, tells of businesses’ desire to simplify their IT as a competitive differentiator…

Last week I attended a major IT event in Las Vegas arranged by my former colleagues at Gartner. Like many other conferences arranged by analysis firms, I attend them mainly to have a better understanding of how business and technical decision makers in large enterprises think.

The event didn’t disappoint at all, mainly thanks to a live poll feature that Gartner analysts can invoke on stage to ask questions to the audience. I learned a lot from those live polls, and the main take away for me was that IT organizations increasingly see frictionless IT as a competitive business advantage.

The main ingredients of frictionless IT are ease of use, speed, and seamless integration between the many moving parts of a complex enterprise IT environment.

Ease of use is about reducing (or eliminating) the adoption complexity and the learning curve for new technologies. In IT, one of the ways to achieve that is to build a consistent and coherent management UI to govern otherwise siloed products. The “single pane of glass” is considered a mythical piece of software because vendors rarely get it right, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no market demand for it. The Gartner event provided a great example for that.

When the audience was asked what kind of applications they are running in their private cloud today, more than 25% of the answers were about “mode 1 application” (which means traditional, scale-up workloads) and around 15% “mode 2 applications” (which means cloud-native, scale-out workloads). Similar answers were provided for public cloud adoption. Traditional and cloud-native workloads have different characteristics and are usually approached through different UIs with different orchestration rules.

For how much longer will IT organizations deal with management silos where they are forced to learn and manage everything twice (or more than twice)? Possibly not much longer, given that in one of the polls 16% of the audience said that it has implemented a cloud management platform. It’s not a huge percentage but until a couple of weeks ago no cloud management platform had been capable of managing mode 1 and mode 2 apps, IaaS and PaaS cloud engines, and multiple service providers all at the same time.

Achieving speed in IT

Speed is about accomplishing a goal as fast as you can, and in IT speed is achieved by adopting fast technologies and by automating as many tasks as you can, industrializing the life-cycle of the applications anywhere possible. At the event, I saw real evidence of how top CIOs, IT directors, and chief architects are trying to increase speed in both dimension.

First, I saw the push for fast(er) technologies. When the audience was asked what kind of logical unit their private and hybrid cloud will deliver, 30% answered “both virtual machines and containers in a IaaS cloud”, with an additional 4% exclusively serving containers. In another poll, 9% of the audience said that they are already deploying containers in production. Remarkable, given how recent modern implementations of the OS virtualization technology are.

It makes sense: application containers have a much faster provisioning time than VMs, reducing friction from the initial moment an application is developed and tested to the moment it gets deployed at scale, to address market demand.

9% of the audience said that they are already deploying containers in production

Then, I saw the push for automation. Over 500 people voted on their automation priorities for the next 12-18 months: 30% of them answered that automating provisioning and configuration is their top priority, while 19% of them answered “process orchestration” to the same question. Again, it makes sense: delivering the application as fast as possible, and reducing the human mistakes during its whole life-cycle is a critical competitive business advantage provided by a frictionless IT.

Seamless integration is about gluing together different technologies, applications, providers so that their inherited differences don’t get in the way, increasing complexity and slowing down the consumption. In IT you achieve that through the use of standard APIs, when available, point partnerships between technology providers, or the brokerage of otherwise incompatible technologies. The Gartner event showed the evident desire for seamless integration as well.

Embracing cloud services brokerage

IT organizations are realizing that a frictionless IT is all about embracing the choices made by their lines of business

When asked what is the top benefit desired in a cloud management solution, 18% of the audience answered “broker and orchestrate IT across service providers”. This, too, makes a lot of sense: IT organizations are realizing that a frictionless IT is all about embracing the choices made by their lines of business, integrating and supporting them in the best possible way, rather than trying to block their adoption and forcing the users into less capable in-house alternatives. The need to embrace a service brokerage mindset was also heavily advocated by many analysts at the event, and that is an even stronger indicator of what customers express as business needs in their daily interaction with Gartner.

So, overall, the conference was a confirmation that more and more organizations desire to simplify their IT by acting on a number of dimensions. And the reason is that from the CIO down, a frictionless IT is increasingly perceived a true competitive differentiator. Of course this is the beginning of the journey, and many are not yet even fully aware of the steps necessary to go truly frictionless. A lot more to come.

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