Three years ago, IT decision makers in Luxembourg did hardly accept that Digital Transformation would become a topic for them. Independent of Retail, Medical, Banking or any other business sector, today no one ignores the fact that “Digital Natives” start bypassing traditional incumbents. Time to market is more than ever key to maintain leadership in business. It isn’t obvious how to achieve that goal. Most of the thoughts come finally down to one key question: How to leverage data that is today safely maintained on premise in core systems and open them up to public cloud services in a secure and consistent way?
What the industry calls today hybrid cloud started with two major phenomena that stood in a close relationship: The rise of public cloud services and the tremendous impact of software to replace every piece of hardware in a datacentre. More than 70% of all enterprise workloads are today virtualized on VMware. While the virtualisation of compute and memory had already been seen as a major achievement, it was nothing compared to the impact of the virtualization of storage and network resources. Only a consistent platform that is based on a full software stack enables IT to run any workload inside a datacentre with the same flexibility and efficiency as a pubic cloud service. A virtualization stack like NSX today runs Telco workloads for multiple countries. There is no question anymore that it can cope with any network workload in an Enterprise. vSAN eliminated the need for classical storage. It extends workload support to physical servers with the introduction of an iSCSI target service. Even NetAPP “boxes” become legacy. 150k IOPS per host combined with the ability to scale up to 64 hosts in a single cluster sets the stage for running anything with any scale on vSAN. As the industry has discovered that this trend cannot be reversed, all the major players like Cisco, VMware, Red Hat want to steer the future by contributing their technology into open communities. The community will make sure that the same software-based approach becomes available in different OpenStack flavours.
The full software defined Datacentre is today a reality. The only thing that prevents it to be already a commodity is legacy. To integrate or migrate, legacy structures will become crucial for the survival of any IT.
Where is the point to integrate public cloud services, if a private cloud environment can be today built fully software defined and more efficient than ever before? The answer to that question is obvious: Independent of how efficient a private cloud environment will ever be, it will never be able to compete with the efficiency and performance of IaaS in the public cloud platforms of AWS, Microsoft or Google. These three players did develop a technology stack and create a worldwide market that is miles ahead of the competition. The situation becomes even more clear if PaaS or SaaS services are taken into consideration. Companies like Salesforce or Workday did grow-up as cloud natives. Their applications are most likely developed on one of the big cloud platforms. Agility of the solution combined with a subscription-based pricing model and endless scale, let them dominate their market segments and hardly leaves room for any competition.
The impact of Digital Natives did certainly not stop when it came down to the IT sector. Comparable to the shift from the mainframe to the client server age, where IBM was probably the only company that could transform themselves to make it to the next age, only a few of the current vendors will be able to survive this time. While most people did question mark the decision of Microsoft’s “All In” strategy to get into the upcoming cloud business, it is today obvious that it was probably the only thing that the company could do to maintain a position in the new cloud era. The same transformation happens to IT distributors. As the IT world of “boxes” is fading away, a company like Ingram Micro takes over ODIN (a cloud brokerage platform provider) for technology reasons, to transform themselves into a cloud services broker. Most of system integrators did miss that train. While their mission in the past was to provide and maintain solutions based on integrating “boxes”, in the new world their role will be services integrator. While classical System administrators become more and more obsolete in a DevOps driven world, which is no longer based on “boxes” and operating systems, architect profiles on API level will become the most precious IT profiles in the near future.
Technology is like never before changing how we do business. IT has to become customer centric. This means that anybody in IT no longer needs to focus prior on their line of businesses, but also on their end customers. Any application that is exposed to the end customer has totally different security and usability requirements as internal applications. The real revolution happens on the software layer. Monolithic applications are in contradiction with digital transformation. To survive the next wave, Enterprise Application Vendors have to transform their packages into an API first approach. Whatever is provided via a GUI or a CLI interface is first available as an API. SaaS packages have been designed like that from the beginning. Application interaction is crucial for Digital Transformation. A modern IT has a mandatory SaaS first policy. Whatever exists as a reliable and affordable service in the open cloud should be considered, tested and integrated into the platform. Each service provider does enhance this platform. This allows IT to provide new required functionalities within a very short period of time. Missing functionalities are developed in form of Microservices. These are published via Docker container. The runtime environment for the code is entirely maintained by the development teams via CI / CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery). The Kubernetes management platform is available as a service to everyone via the open cloud from Google, AWS and Microsoft.
There is no single vendor strategy in this new cloud world. IT is based on multiple SaaS, PaaS and IaaS services linked to legacy services in the private cloud and numerous endpoints (SaaS, Mobile, IOT). There is a huge demand towards integrators in the brave new world that is mainly driven by “time to market”. The main questions are around service interconnectivity and security. How can I integrate the existing information in my enterprise with external platforms in a defined and secure way? How do I manage and secure Identity and Access between People, Devices, Things and APIs? How do I build an API gateway that allows my Enterprise to define the communication between internal and external services? How do I secure the network access to my extended Enterprise environment that might be running in Google, Amazon or Azure?
With regards to the “Connectivity Benchmark Report - The State of Digital Transformation and APIs May 2016” that was produced for Mulesoft, organizations have fully bought into the importance of an API strategy. 90% say they either have an API strategy or will have one in place by the end of the year. 94% even say they are realizing major benefits from that API strategy. To improve business agility and TTM, IT must evolve into a self-service platform with reusable data assets. A new IT operating model empowers line-of-business users (LOBs) to self-serve IT. Product Managers are able to steer offshore development companies and decide on product features. Having the data in enterprise backend systems, the key is to use APIs to open up data and deliver reusable assets that accelerate digital transformation. These APIs allow organizations to build application networks with reusable assets. Important is that the platform ensures rapid iteration of API’s while ensuring stability and control. That platform has to unlock valuable data while maintaining security and governance while delivering reusable assets and templates for application management, logging, security and error handling that comply with IT security and governance. The API gateway is therefore a strategic decision for every company.
Dimension Data did as part of its own digital transformation make that transition from a System Integrator towards an Integrator on Services level. While maintaining the leadership in Next Generation Datacenter, Cybersecurity and Network/Collaboration services, we heavily invested to support our clients in their digital transformation by signing new partnership agreements and building up competencies in the following areas:
- VMware Cloud
- Microsoft Office 365 and Azure
- AWS ServiceNow