A friend of mine recently sent me a link to an article from last summer in the MIT Sloan Management Review. Published summer of 2015, the article “Thriving in an Increasingly Digital Ecosystem”, includes some great stats that help illustrate how enterprises succeed (or fail) in a rapidly changing business environment. Conducted by MIT Center for Information Systems Research, board members of large companies estimated that 32% of their company’s revenue would be under threat from digital disruption in the next five years.
The Silver Lining
You may have heard somewhere the saying that the Chinese word for “crisis” is composed of two Chinese characters respectively signifying “danger” and “opportunity”. Like so many of these kinds of sayings the derivation is probably not entirely correct but I love it anyway. Like that saying, while digitalization no doubt poses significant risks to the future strategies of many companies it also presents great opportunity as well. For example, the same research cited at the start of this blog also found that companies that got 50% or more of their revenues from digital ecosystems AND understood their end customers better than their average competitor, had 32% higher revenue growth and 27% higher profit margins than their industry averages.
Embracing the Future
Embracing the forces of digitalization has profound implications for IT. Being successful at executing a digitalization strategy will require that most enterprises dramatically overhaul their application portfolios. That is because being able to capitalize on customer insights garnered from connected experience will force companies to create a raft of new applications capable of taking advantage of the new opportunities created by digitalization.
New applications that allow enterprises to interact in new ways with existing customers and new prospects. New applications that allow marketing teams to generate deeper insights from these customer interactions. New applications that take these deeper insights and combine them with product offerings and in turn create even more interactions with these same individuals.
Some may argue that this is simply what has always happened in business. At least since software has been part of business. To some extent they would be right. What is new is the pace at which this all happens today. What took years in the past now happen in months. What took months now takes weeks; what took weeks now takes days; and what took days now takes hours. Everything is moving much, much faster.
It falls to IT to adapt in order to support this new world of all things digital. From a “what does it take for IT to help their companies be successful with their digitalization strategy?” standpoint; certainly revamping how IT delivers resources to application development teams must be in the top 2 or 3 priorities. IT’s inability to move quickly enough to support developers responding to the need to accelerate application delivery was to a large degree the reason the public cloud took off in the first place. Public clouds allow developers to go to a portal, swipe a credit card and in minutes receive access to infrastructure. Within a very short time these same developers can be productive writing the next batch of code that further accelerates their company’s digital transformation.
Today, more and more IT teams are seeking to emulate the public cloud experience on premise in the form of a private cloud. One preeminent goal of these private cloud initiatives is being able to rapidly deliver infrastructure to developers. In a subset of cases, application delivery is in scope as well. To ensure adoption by their app dev teams, IT is also seeking to emulate as closely as possible the experience that developers receive on the public cloud when it comes to how developers interact with infrastructure. What I mean here is that many developers have become accustomed to accessing infrastructure via an API on public clouds and want a comparable experience even if they are getting their infrastructure from a private, on premise cloud.
But emulating the public cloud on premise just isn’t that easy. The process that underlies provisioning at most companies must be refactored to be successful emulating the public cloud. Most IT teams still use a ticket driven process, with lots of individuals involved that are executing small bits of automation in the form of scripts combined with lots of manual processes. This ultimately produces useable infrastructure that includes compute, storage and network with all the necessary connectivity between these elements but it takes what seems like forever. VMware’s own experience working with customers is that most IT teams that have not moved to a fully automated solution take between 3 and 4 weeks on average to deliver production ready infrastructure. There is just is no way that companies that take that long to deliver resources to developers are going to be successful businesses in this new age of digitalization.
IT teams looking to speed up the delivery of resources must take an approach to automation that is much more holistic and encompassing then what they have in place today. Also given how much developers love API access to resources, IT teams must also provide a way for developers to interface with on premise infrastructure in a way this comparable to how they interact with infrastructure in a public cloud environment.
While emulating the experience of the public cloud on premise is challenging it can be done. VMware has worked with many companies looking to stand up a private cloud focused on meeting the needs of developers. VMware’s Cloud Management Platform (CMP) is the key underlying technology that supports fully automating the delivery of infrastructure and applications to development teams leveraging an on premise private cloud. VMware’s CMP gives IT teams the ability to rapidly provision compute, network, storage, security and applications across a multi-cloud, multi-hypervisor environment. It also delivers the capabilities that help IT teams make the most of the resources once provisioned.
In addition to emulating the public cloud experience on premise in the form of a private cloud, as I wrote in my last blog , “Private Cloud is Dead, Long Live…”, most companies will ultimately be managing both private and public clouds. That is just the way the world is headed and there are plenty of statistics to back this up. That ability to manage both has to be on the radar of most IT teams. The good news is that the same technology that allows customers to effectively emulate the public cloud experience on premise can also support the needs of companies looking to embrace a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud operating model.