Gartner: 6 Top Infrastructure and Operations Trends to Watch in 2021

Jeffrey Hewitt, research vice president, Gartner

As 2020 comes to a close, infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals are already beginning to prepare for whatever 20201 will hold. While 2020 was understandably dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, Gartner, Inc. has highlighted six trends that the research firm believes will impact the industry over the next 12 to 18 months.

These predictions were presented by Jeffrey Hewitt, research vice president, at Gartner’s IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference, which was held virtually in the Americas and EMEA December 7-10, 2020.

“The coronavirus pandemic has forced IT executives to adapt their operations to address increased work-from-home scenarios and unpredictable changes to IT requirements,” said Hewitt. “Yet, COVID-19 isn’t the only impetus for the majority of I&O staff to work from home moving forward. The nature of infrastructure is evolving to the point where remote I&O teams make sense to support new scenarios, use cases and technologies.”

Gartner Identifies 6 Top I & O Trends to Watch in 2021

Hewitt’s presentation identified six top emerging trends that are impacting I&O and provided recommendations to best respond to them to achieve optimal results in a post-pandemic environment.

Trend No. 1: Anywhere Operations

Gartner expects that 48% of employees will work from home, even after the pandemic, compared with 30% pre-pandemic. This shift will force IT executives to develop flexible and resilient organizations that enable staff to work from anywhere, allow customers everywhere to access services, and manage the deployment of business services across distributed infrastructures.

“The traditional, structured processes within I&O made organizations fragile when it comes to the flexibility of location,” said Hewitt. “Anywhere operations enables organizations to decentralize staff and activate operations where it makes business sense. It even makes way for broader talent choices as organizations do not need to necessarily recruit staff in a specific geography.”

Trend No. 2: Optimal Infrastructure

“The key for anywhere operations is developing programmable infrastructure that enables the right work in the right place at the right time – this is the crux of optimal infrastructure,” said Hewitt. “As infrastructure and operations evolves into integration and operations, various solutions such as hyperconverged infrastructure or computational storage must be matched with the optimal use case.”

Optimal infrastructure will also involve data center and edge infrastructure, Hewitt said, which can be difficult to measure and lead to complex deployments. Hewitt recommended organizations take a business viewpoint, and look at both optimizing costs and tools to build their case for a given infrastructure deployment.

Trend No. 3: Operational Continuity

Increasingly, workloads will need to support geographically dispersed customers and employees. As a result, IT services must be continuous, regardless of external factors, providing automated deployments and minimal-touch maintenance. By 2025, 60% of organizations will use automation tools to deploy new compute resources, reduce deployment time and deliver greater agility, Gartner predicts.

“When done correctly, this trend increases efficiencies and allows for faster workload deployment. The main downside is the learning curve that comes with using new, and sometimes complex, tools or processes that support continuity,” said Hewitt.

Trend No. 4: Core Modernization

In order to ensure enterprise infrastructure evolves in lockstep, maintaining core operations should be viewed as an ongoing process, not a one-time project, Gartner said. Enterprises will need to coordinate infrastructures on- and off-premises that minimize legacy drag.

“The upside of modernizing infrastructure is that it lowers technical debt and paves the way for agile infrastructure to respond to the growing list of digital business requirements,” said Hewitt. “Enterprises must implement a modernization plan with a realistic timeline, one which accounts for shifting skill requirements.”

Trend No. 5: Distributed Cloud

Another major trend is distributing cloud resources so that the cloud becomes decentralized and the burden of support shifts to cloud service providers. This approach will enable flexible location and result in latency reduction.

“Since the distributed cloud market is currently immature, costs can be high and deployment models complex. Organizations should still have it on their horizon as a part of the future of cloud computing, since most cloud service platforms will provide at least some distributed cloud services that execute at the point of need over the next four years,” said Hewitt.

Trend No. 6: Critical Skills Versus Critical Roles

“I&O skills requirements will continue to evolve as organizations adapt to new business environments,” said Hewitt. “Specifically, there is a shift in focus from infrastructure roles toward collective, critical skills. This challenges the traditional ‘territorial’ thinking of belonging to a specific infrastructure team and instead encourages collaboration.”

By 2022, I&O leaders can expect to plan for at least twelve high-priority skills in their organizations. While hiring for these skills now while the IT talent market remains a buyer’s market is recommended, Gartner said I&O leaders should consider the fundamental culture changes this trend will bring and to plan accordingly.

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