IT as a Value Generating Platform for the Enterprise
Emerging trends within the Enterprise environment are creating new strategic imperatives for the Enterprise Data Center. Traditionally, IT processes were primarily focused on support activities, particularly around mission-critical business processes. The advent of the digital services revolution and the introduction of these emerging technology trends into the Data Center now create the potential to shift the Data Center value chain from IT as a Support Platform to IT as a Value Generating Platform.
This evolution is also a result of the deployment of White Box and Open Source Software (along with SDN and NFV functionality) within the Data Center environment. This new Data Center platform (often described as the “Industrial Cloud”) begins to shift the true value of the Data Center from infrastructure to software and services.
Let us now review these emerging trends and better understand how they facilitate the creation of a Value Generating Platform within the Data Center.
The Proliferation of Interaction Channels: As compute and mobile devices continue to proliferate, there will be an increased emphasis on serving the needs of the interaction channels in diverse contexts and environments, as opposed to focusing on support for end-user devices. As such, the ability of the applications supporting Business Processes to understand context and to shape user experience will become critical moving forward.
Internet of Things (IoT): In my opinion, most Enterprises have significantly limited their thinking around the implementation of IoT to the point that many believe that only assets and machines can leverage IoT. It is clear that IoT has four primary basic usage models — Manage, Monetize, Operate and Extend – and it is becoming apparent that Enterprises from all industry segments can leverage these models.
This new Data Center platform begins to shift the true value of the Data Center from infrastructure to software and services
3D Printing: 3D printing will reach a tipping point by 2018 as the market for relatively low-cost 3D printing devices increases. Applications focused on industrial, biomedical and consumer processes will demonstrate that 3D printing is a viable and cost-effective means to reduce costs through the design and prototyping process which will better facilitate just-in-time manufacturing.
Pervasive Analytics: The pervasive use of analytics will take priority as the volume of data generated by business process systems increases and vast pools of structured, semi-structured and unstructured data are pooled and analyzed. Analytics will become deeply embedded in every application and process. Big Data is an important enabler for this activity but the focus needs to shift to thinking about big questions such as monetization and actionable data — the true value is in the results that actionable data drive, not the data.
The Context Game: Embedded intelligence combined with pervasive analytics will drive the development of Value Generating Platforms that understand their surroundings and are capable of responding appropriately in an autonomous fashion. By understanding the context of a user request, applications can adjust several key parameters such as security and how information is delivered to the end-user.
Smart Machines: Deep analytics applied to an understanding of context provide the preconditions for a smart machine. This foundation, supported by advanced algorithms, will help systems understand their environment, become self-teaching and act autonomously. In my opinion, the deployment of Smart Machines will be extremely disruptive to the IT environment in the near future.
Software-Defined Applications and Infrastructure: The movement toward the advanced convergence of cloud and mobile computing will continue to promote the growth of centrally orchestrated applications that can be delivered to multiple end devices. Bandwidth costs may continue to favor applications that use the intelligence and storage of the end device, yet orchestration and management will be based in the cloud. In the near term, the focus for cloud/client will be on synchronizing content and application state across multiple end devices and addressing application portability across end devices. While applications will be coordinated, the agile programming of basic infrastructure is essential to make the digital business work. The Data Center has to move away from static to dynamic models. Rules, models and code that can dynamically assemble and configure all of the elements needed from the network through the application are required to effectively support digital services and to create a Value Generating Platform.
Web-Scale IT: Web-scale IT is a pattern of Data Center architectures and services (originally developed by Amazon and Facebook), which delivers the capabilities of large cloud based OTT providers within an Enterprise IT setting.
DevOps and the use of White Box and Open Source is the first step toward adopting Web-scale IT and creating a Value Generating Platform as it consolidates development and operations together to drive rapid, continuous incremental development of applications and services. If the true value of the Data Center is in fact shifting to software and services, DevOps is a formative necessity to the adoption of a Value Generating Platform approach.
Security: In a world driven by the digital revolution, security cannot become a major impediment to the creation of a Value Generating Platform. Given the billions of dollars that have been spent on perimeter security, I think that we all recognize that it is not possible to provide a 100 percent secured environment. This realization (at least to me) suggests that the adherents of The Jericho Forum had it right that the new model of security will continue to use some measure of perimeter security but will also build some level of security within the application and end device. This model, coupled with context and self-awareness, will help make each business process become self-protecting.
Data Center consolidation and the deployment of the Industrial Cloud within the Enterprise environment will facilitate the transition of the Data Center from IT as a Support Platform to IT as a Value Generating Platform. The ability of the Value Generating Platform to understand context, rely upon embedded analytics and to depend upon the dynamic allocation of resources creates a platform which is capable of producing cost effective digital services which can be monetized and which can generate new revenue-producing services. These services will be sufficient enough to create competitive differentiation as well as confer leadership within the impending digital revolution.