In my recent blog and video covering my predictions for infrastructure in 2018, I promised to return to the key themes, saying that I thought their simplicity could obfuscate their importance. So, here goes on adding a little more color to the first one.
The onward march from IT as infrastructure technology [back] to IT as information technology makes for memorable semantic fun…but it covers way more than that. Yes, it’s important to have IT focused on the overall delivery model, SLAs and – most important of all – the achievement of relevant business outcomes. However, the move of individual infrastructure elements somewhat out of the immediate spotlight and more into the (literal and figurative) IT shadows should never be interpreted as any lessening of the value associated with, or attributed to, these elements. Quite the reverse. As we increasingly rely on more integrated IT systems – convergence, cloud services, and software-defined being three common contemporary manifestations – so we inevitably also increasingly rely on those systems being “better.” In this context “better” does not necessarily mean things like price-performance – which remain nice-to-haves of course – but absolutely means things like reliability, ease of use, automation, and interoperability.
Along with this, as individual infrastructure elements are increasingly subsumed into the IT whole, so the knowledge of what’s possible, and how to analyze and fix these systems, becomes simultaneously both more refined and rarer. Think of this analogy – many of us grew up knowing, to varying degrees, how car engines worked and how to keep them optimized; these days you typically open the hood to a “converged/integrated” blob of mechanics and electrics that seems impenetrable. Luckily, for the most part, car engines have also become “better” (again, think reliable, automated, etc.) so that the need to attend to them is much less than a few decades back…the engineering and capabilities have progressed tremendously, but so has the specialization of diagnosis and repair if it is ever needed. In this regard, as with the auto industry, so with IT.
We are making things superficially easier – and that’s crucial to generate value, whether from a car or from IT infrastructure; but under the hood of both it means demanding ever-improved engineering together with a smaller number of smarter people and systems should maintenance ever be required.