3 Technologies Shaping The Digital Transformation

Terms that crop up ubiquitously often turn out to be hot air. But digital transformation is different: without it, many companies would lose touch with their competition. Implementation will require new IT models, processes and platforms – from DevOps and bimodal IT, to container technologies.

An article by Lars Herrmann* – General Manager Integrated Solutions and Container Strategy at Red Hat

Lars Herrmann, General Manager Integrated Solutions and Container Strategy at Red Hat

Lars Herrmann

IT priorities have shifted in many companies. Where the dominant issues were once stability, consolidation, standardization and cost reduction, aspects like agility, flexibility and speed now top the list of must-haves. Managers around the world are recognizing this fact and often feel compelled to act quickly, however much uncertainty may still remain as to precisely how.

The reason is clear: a spiraling number of products and services are being created, provided and used in the digital world, so the task entrusted to IT is changing as well: it is no longer sufficient merely to support business as a service provider. IT needs to become a core competency and a driver of the value chain for business and the digital world. It follows, therefore, that it must leave its comfort zone as “just” a cost center, venturing forth as an engine of profits and innovation. Many opinion leaders say that every company needs to become a software enterprise in order to survive. This is where digital transformation comes into play. A simple definition of digital transformation is the move toward digital business models, products, services and processes.

A new IT approach is needed for this to happen: the rapid provisioning of innovation and improvements in the customer experience calls for the ability to implement release changes much faster than before. What’s more, the performance and scalability requirements of digital services necessitate a greater degree of flexibility and automation, without neglecting key IT requirements like security, availability and efficiency as pivotal contributors to success.

Rollout of application containers in companies
Fig. 1: Red Hat provides a number of opportunities to simplify the rollout of application containers in companies. (Source: Red Hat)

Digitization requires a cultural shift

Most of today’s IT organizations are optimized for incremental innovation, obtained from technology providers and communities. These are then integrated within internal solutions to provide reliable support to business needs. This model eliminates technical risks by monitoring change and introducing standardization – across as many platforms, components and services as possible. Sourcing strategies are used to control costs, uniting internal expertise with market products and automating many IT processes.

Inflexible processes and silo mentalities produced by the fragmented IT landscapes get in the way of the agility and the rapid delivery of business innovation. Many companies are already dismantling rigid structures. The increasingly widespread DevOps model is a perfect example of this transformation.

The neologism DevOps is composed of “Dev” for software development and “Ops” for IT operations. The purpose of DevOps is to achieve close cooperation between development and operation through the establishment of interdisciplinary teams, shattering the glass wall between these two areas. The organizational changes brought about by deploying interdisciplinary teams is most commonly associated with a cultural shift in the companies as a whole. Members of the two departments meet regularly, share their knowledge and maintain an open culture of feedback. But above all, they work together on a particular issue.

Transfer of containers without modification
Fig. 2: Containers can be transferred to development, production and cloud environments without requiring modification. (Source: Red Hat)

The close integration of business areas like IT development and operations enables an accelerated delivery of applications. This achieves the central goals of digital transformation: the rapid development of high-quality applications and the fast provisioning of new functions or updates.

IT goes bimodal

Besides the necessary cultural shift and the associated organizational changes, digital transformation implementation will of course need to consider new IT models, technologies and solutions as well.

The market researcher Gartner, for instance, predicts that most companies will soon use a hybrid IT architecture based on a blend of traditional and agile models; in this regard, Gartner has coined the term “bimodal IT ”. It focuses on two different methods, i.e. “two-speed IT”, comprising a traditional and secure, operative IT foundation next to a non-linear and agile IT. The operative IT foundation is used to run traditional applications with strategically important data. In contrast, agile IT uses application models that can be deployed to respond quickly to new business requirements or circumstances. An IT model of this kind enables the selection of the most suitable IT environment and platform to accommodate different workloads and operational necessities.

Containers support digital transformation perfectly

Selecting the platform on which applications will be developed, integrated, delivered and managed is among the key decisions for successfully implementing digital transformation. Container technology above all will become increasingly significant, as it provides a convenient and efficient opportunity to develop and deliver new applications. In a nutshell, containers encapsulate and isolate applications with all necessary components and configuration data in one or several packages. This means that applications can be made available quickly, simply and with complete configurations, significantly speeding up the IT processes. This explains why containers have rapidly become a central application packaging and delivering method within the Linux world.

Containers have stacks of advantages for cloud-native and traditional applications: efficiency and speed through standardization and automation, coupled with agility through autonomy and continuous delivery workflows, as well as flexibility through portability. A comprehensive container platform will define modern IT processes and can structure the operative model, as well as the organizational changes and cultural shift. Unlike classic virtualization solutions, in which changes take place incrementally in longer cycles lasting several months, and in which security and stability are the key factors, container processes are application-centered and developer-friendly. Containers and virtualization are hence ideal partners that build an important technical foundation for Gartner’s dual-speed IT.

Companies will be largely unable to ignore this kind of bimodal methodology, at least in the short term. They will only retain their competitive edge if they are able to market innovative products quickly, flexibly and reliably. The modification and expansion of the IT strategy and infrastructure in response to digital transformation is a basic requirement for this to happen. Only then will IT truly fulfil its new role as a creator of value.

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Leipzig, 29.11.2017

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