Are Infrastructure Intelligence Platforms an Important, Missing Link for Enterprise IT Leaders?
IT leaders don’t want to think about infrastructure. But a new category of tech can provide a rich source of data that informs your digital transformation, modernization and cloud migration efforts.
👋 Hi and welcome to The DX Report — all about Digital Transformation, the Digital Experience, and the Digital Enterprise. I’m industry analyst, author, and speaker Charles Araujo, and I’m all about providing insights and analysis for enterprise IT leaders as you make the big bets about your organization’s future!
The Bet: Infrastructure Intelligence Platforms
If you’re wondering what an Infrastructure Intelligence Platform is, you haven’t missed anything. I just made it up.
While the industry already has more than enough software categories, some recent revelations have led me to believe that, in this case, a new category may help enterprise IT leaders refresh their perspective around infrastructure to align it to today’s complex demands.
The premise is that traditional infrastructure management tool providers (and even some more modern ones) developed their solutions as purely reactionary, operational tools. They exist to monitor systems (whether using traditional monitoring practices or more modern Observability or AIOps approaches) and identify in-the-moment anomalous activities that presage a systems failure or performance degradation.
While the best of these are proactive in the sense that they help identify a potential issue before it occurs, they are still reactive in posture in that they focus on maintaining the operational state.
That’s a much needed function, but today’s enterprise IT leader is also in the midst of leading various forms of modernization, digital transformation, and cloud migration efforts. Each of these are heavily dependent on understanding the current, past, and future state of the infrastructure estate — and their cost implications — to execute effectively.
Infrastructure Intelligence Platforms exist (even if no one calls them this yet) to collect infrastructure data over time and use it to create an intelligence layer that enterprise IT leaders need as they make critical decisions that balance cost and performance related to these strategic efforts.
“Charlie, I just finished building my last data center.”
The leader of Infrastructure & Operations for a $20 Billion financial services firm said these words to me almost ten years ago. He was at the leading edge of a movement for enterprise IT organizations to “get out of the data center business.” Whether migrating to the cloud, outsourcing data center operations, or building private clouds in co-lo facilities, enterprise IT leaders are now deep in the throes of transformation, modernization, and migration efforts.
And inevitably, these efforts are heavily dependent on the transformation, modernization, and migration of the infrastructure that underlies the applications that otherwise get all the focus.
All of this hit me during conversations with enterprise executives at the recent Millennium Digital Enterprise CIO Transformation event in New Orleans.
The challenge, as one CIO told me there, is that many enterprise IT leaders would prefer to “never think about infrastructure again.”
On one hand, I understand and agree with the sentiment. I have long held that enterprise IT leaders should focus their attention on those parts of the tech stack that provide competitive differentiation and deliver a differentiated customer or employee experience. Managing data centers certainly qualifies as something that isn’t value-add and should be shuffled off the enterprise IT plate.
But that’s not same thing as ignoring the critical role that infrastructure plays in your strategic initiatives. This is true, of course, because all applications run on some form of infrastructure — even if you’ve abstracted the visibility to it away. But more importantly, it’s what your infrastructure is trying to tell you — in the form of time-series infrastructure data — that you can’t afford to ignore.
Infrastructure intelligence platforms become a quasi-data warehouse of operational data that can be trended over time and used to help you understand critical information related to your infrastructure, including:
The totality of your infrastructure estate
Critical relationships between infrastructure elements
Critical relationships between infrastructure and application elements
Capacity, consumption, and performance trends over long periods of time
The impact of business changes, seasonality, periodic demand, etc. on those long-term trends
The comparative cost of running workloads, based on these performant characteristics, in various environments
This visibility is essential to help you avoid the significant issues that organizations typically encounter as they dive into the weeds of their digital transformation, modernization, and cloud migration efforts, such as:
Unanticipated cost overruns
Loss of visibility and control
The best of these platforms leverage this data to operate across two dimensions simultaneously: operationally and strategically.
Operationally, the tools allow you to interrogate your estate for incident identification, issue remediation, and short-term tactical planning. Using a combination of traditional monitoring and alerting functions, combined with trend data, operators can more rapidly survey the infrastructure estate to pinpoint issues and conduct what-if planning actions.
Strategically, the combination of trend, cost, and performance data in a single view enables organizations to take strategic actions based on objective insights, rather than instinct and historical norms. This strategic lens can help enterprise IT leaders grapple with some of today’s most perplexing challenges, such as:
Continual cost-performance optimization of cloud workloads
Multi-cloud assessments and balancing
Cloud migration planning
Oversight of outsourced services and service providers
The power of these infrastructure intelligence platforms comes from their ability to combine the four essential perspectives that enterprise IT leaders must be able to simultaneously hold to effectively manage infrastructure in the context of today’s business mandates:
Effectively, these platforms enable enterprise IT leaders to leverage infrastructure data to treat these four perspectives as dials that they can continually tune to their business- and application-specific needs at any given time.
The Brass Tacks: Invest, Pass, or Hold?
This one is clear to me. Investing in an Infrastructure Intelligence Platform is generally a low-cost, high-value proposition. In the scope of enterprise software, they are typically very affordable and will easily pay for themselves (almost instantly) via cost savings from almost any cloud-focused use case.
Most importantly, however, they will offer you a data-driven foundational capability that will deliver both tactical and strategic returns long into the future.
So, that’s the brass tacks for my point of view, but what do you think? Agree? Think I’m completely off? Let me know!
And don’t keep this conversation to yourself. Invite your friends and associates to weigh in!