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Digital Transformation Will Require Intelligent Cloud Platforms

By: Kamesh Pemmaraju

Digital transformation will be the mantra for IT initiatives in 2018, and the underlying technology will be agile software development. IT organizations are at a crossroads: they can either work to become more agile and innovative, or business unit managers will decide to expand their use of public cloud providers, and hence reduce the role and value of internal IT organizations.

In this article, we’ll look at the changing role of IT in an era of digital transformation, how DevOps is now driving the implementation of intelligent cloud platforms to enable Continuous Development and Continuous Delivery of applications, and what’s required in a cloud platform to support digital transformation.

How digital transformation impacts IT’s role

In most organizations today, the process of developing, deploying and managing applications on an ongoing basis is a complex and largely manual task.  Application development teams request and wait for resources they need from the IT organization, first for development, then for testing, and then for deployment. Application teams and IT teams work together to estimate the resources their new applications will require, then purchase and provision those resources and hope for the best. Once deployed, a fragmented and complex set of tools is used to monitor applications and infrastructure, but usually not together. The cascade of alerts and reports from these tools flows to the IT teams to analyze and make recommendations.  Remedial action, resource reallocation, and application enhancement are applied manually, and the cycle repeats.

For traditional packaged applications and waterfall-developed in-house applications, this model can work. Such environments have been designed to maximize stability, in large part by minimizing change. As long as application teams, operations teams, and infrastructure all move at the same pace, everything is fine. However, problems arise and the life-cycle breaks down when DevOps needs to accelerate. At this point, IT teams and development teams find themselves in conflict, often working at cross purposes even as they pursue common goals for the success of their organization.

In the era of digital transformation, every organization is becoming a software company.  Applications are defining and continuously redefining products, services, customer experience, business processes, and competitive advantage. About the only thing not being redefined by applications is the IT infrastructure. As applications and organizations become more dynamic, IT largely operates at the pace it always has. High-velocity DevOps life-cycles collide with an IT infrastructure that is optimized for stability and too complex to keep up. The pace of the organization is slowed down by its applications, while the pace of applications is slowed down by their infrastructure.

The changing role of DevOps organizations in determining infrastructure

No longer content to wait for the IT department to provision resources, DevOps organizations are taking control away from the IT department and are provisioning resources themselves with public cloud services such as AWS, Azure, or Google. These platforms have enabled agile software development, and the spread of agile software development is integrating development and deployment into a unified continuous integration/continuous development/continuous deployment (CI/CD/CD) process.

Unfortunately, what began as a fast, ad hoc way of acquiring compute resources from the public cloud has become a significant drain on enterprise resources. Monthly cloud costs are spiraling, and the IT department has little control over these expenditures. In many ways, DevOps has usurped IT’s role in resource provisioning. Also, it's easy to create a sprawling, undisciplined IT environment where the company is not sure which workloads its developers have on AWS or other public clouds. Finally, the company may be developing applications that use intellectual property or confidential client information, or require high security or government compliance, so using public clouds for DevOps may not be an option.



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