Infrastructure Optimization Critical to Digital Transformation Readiness
January 13, 2017

Ryan Goldman

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Digital transformation is a key initiative for enterprises that want to reach new customers and offer greater value via technology. Changing user expectations, new modes of engagement and the need to improve responsiveness are the main factors driving companies to update outdated processes and develop new applications as part of a digital transformation strategy. But in order to deliver on the promise of digital transformation, organizations must also modernize their IT infrastructure to support speed, scale and change.

The vast majority (79%) of organizations of every size — startups to full scale enterprises — are implementing or have already implemented a plan to optimize infrastructure to enable digital transformation, according to SignalFx's first State of Digital Transformation Readiness survey.

See infographic below

Additional key findings include:

■ Over half of respondents report their organization has either embraced modern infrastructure or is currently in the process of transitioning to transformation-ready infrastructure.

■ Second only to cloud, monitoring and alerting is believed to be the most important monetary investment for achieving digital transformation readiness.

■ IT operations and DevOps strongly believe their individual roles impact the success of their organizations’ digital transformation strategies.

These results indicate that digital transformation is a key initiative for businesses and that companies are strategically investing time, personnel and budget resources in building a strong operational foundation to successfully implement and support digital transformation.

“Digital transformation is a leading business objective for many organizations, but, in order to succeed, organizations must also have a strategy that includes the tools, platforms, processes and people to ensure an operational transformation,” said Karthik Rau, CEO, SignalFx. “We wanted to see what steps, if any, were being taken to prepare for transformation and were pleased to discover that there is significant investment being put into readiness measures related to modern infrastructure.”

Preparing for Digital Transformation

Modern business requires greater speed, agility, scale and responsiveness to deliver unique customer experiences. This shift makes operational and systems readiness necessary factors to success. One of the main objectives of the survey was to uncover whether or not companies were taking steps at the infrastructure level to ensure that they could support digital transformation objectives. Respondents were asked if their organization had implemented or was planning to implement a strategy to optimize IT infrastructure to enable digital transformation. Results indicate that a majority have taken measures to prepare their operations for change:

■ Yes, we are currently implementing or have already implemented a strategy: 79%

■ We are currently thinking about it, but do not have a plan in place: 17%

■ No: 1.5%

■ Don’t know: 2.5%

With regard to achieving digital transformation readiness, nearly all respondents (93%) believe that IT infrastructure is important — 63% of respondents within this group reported it as very important.

When asked to describe their organization’s current infrastructure, responses showed that most companies are embracing modern infrastructure to support digital transformation, describing their infrastructure as:

■ Digital/cloud/distributed: 43%

■ Transitioning from traditional to modern: 21%

■ Mix of traditional and modern: 18%

■ Traditional/on-prem/monolithic: 18%

Unsurprisingly, the majority (57%) have not yet fully transitioned to an all-cloud environment.

In an effort to uncover what steps are currently being taken to prepare IT infrastructure for digital transformation, analysis of current infrastructure ranked number one, and cloud infrastructure was included by more than half of respondents (53%), indicating that a new and modern infrastructure strategy is the most important factor when it comes to determining readiness for digital transformation.

In addition to analyzing current infrastructure to prepare for digital transformation, most organizations are also taking key steps to prepare for a shift towards elastic, scale-out infrastructure featuring VMs and containers and distributed architectures featuring open source middleware. Results showed:

■ Analysis of current infrastructure: 67%

■ Virtualization/containerization: 60%

■ Hosted infrastructure in public or private cloud: 53%

■ Deployment automation: 47%

■ Integrate open source middleware: 42%

■ Application lifecycle management: 36%

■ None: 1%

■ Don’t know: 1%

(The previous question was multiple choice and allowed choosing all that apply; hence percentages exceed 100.)

The survey also sought to uncover what technologies are most critical to supporting digital transformation. Respondents were asked to select what their organization’s next IT infrastructure investment should be to enable digital transformation. Cloud, and monitoring and alerting were the top investments among all respondents:

■ Cloud: 53%

■ Monitoring and alerting: 19%

■ Continuous integration: 17%

■ Containers and orchestration: 10%

■ Open source middleware: 1%

With nearly 20% of respondents reporting that monitoring and alerting is the most important IT investment, it’s clear that having full visibility into how applications are running in production — not just where they are running — is an important consideration when it comes to operating at the speed required for digital transformation. Performance and availability of infrastructure and applications are clearly key to promoting a good customer experience.

Somewhat surprising is that containers and orchestration was reported among the least important investments for digital transformation, a sign that, even with their current popularity, containers are still not perceived as a top priority for systems readiness underlying digital transformation. This may be an indication that, without a complete strategy for operating containers and orchestrators — including monitoring and alerting — many organizations don’t have the confidence to deploy them in production.

Driving Digital Transformation Internally

Digital transformation as a business objective started as a C-level discussion, but has quickly permeated the entire organization and has now also become a priority for DevOps and ITOps practitioners. When asked who in an organization is leading the strategy for preparing IT infrastructure to enable digital transformation, results showed:

■ IT manager: 37%

■ CEO: 24%

■ CIO: 15%

■ DevOps manager: 12%

■ CTO: 10%

■ Developer manager: 2%

The responses were almost evenly split, with 49% selecting the C-suite (CEO, CIO, CTO), and 51% selecting a technical management role. This is good news for the industry as a whole because it proves that digital transformation is a conversation that is taking place at all levels. Another key finding that proves digital transformation is an important initiative company-wide is that almost all respondents (95%) believed their individual role impacts the success of their company’s digital transformation initiatives.

Finally, when asked whether or not respondents felt confident that their organization was prepared to make the necessary changes for a successful digital transformation initiative, 92% answered yes. Organizations are taking concrete steps towards becoming more agile and insightful by embracing new tools and modern infrastructure, and they are primed and ready to fully support digital transformation initiatives.

Survey Methodology: SignalFx surveyed 216 people, 61% of whom identified as IT operations team members, followed by development (25%), DevOps (4%), security (4%), QA (4%) and infrastructure (2%). Respondents work for organizations that range in size from 1 to 100 employees (14%), 101-500 employees (24%), 501-2500 employees (32%), 2501-5000 employees (12%), 5001-10,000 employees (13%) and 10,000+ employees (5%). The full survey polled 216 respondents. Not all respondents answered every question. Results shown are based on the percentage of people who answered each individual question.

Ryan Goldman is Head of Marketing at SignalFx.

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