IT Infrastructure and Operations Management – Key Trends

IT is adapting to new business pressures by adopting new practices and technologies. What impact is this having on infrastructure and operations management?

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IT infrastructure and operations teams must rapidly adapt to meet evolving business needs.

IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) teams are under pressure to quickly adapt to changing business models by adopting new technologies, processes, and hierarchies. We’ll give an overview of how I&O teams are managing this transformation.

What is IT Infrastructure Management?

IT infrastructure teams are responsible for managing the physical hardware that supports the systems, networks, and storage necessary for IT service delivery. This includes maintaining mainframes, system security, and network switches (network management), installing and patching hardware, monitoring assets, and configuring, deploying, or provisioning servers.

IT infrastructure is traditionally housed in an on-premises data center, where IT infrastructure teams are responsible for power and cooling. However, infrastructure is increasingly housed in third-party colocation facilities or virtual IT environments via a cloud provider. In such cases, IT infrastructure teams are primarily focused on integrating IT assets between cloud-based and on-premises environments, as well as maintaining the security and integrity of data across those environments.

What is IT Operations Management?

IT operations teams are responsible for the applications, processes, and platforms that support IT and business functions. This includes configuring, installing, and maintaining software, as well as database management, preventing downtime, disaster recovery, and deploying and integrating new technologies.

IT operations also manages help desks and devices to further support business needs.

IT Operations Management in the ITIL

You can’t mention IT Operations Management (ITOM) without mentioning ITIL.

The information technology infrastructure library (ITIL) is a framework of best practices for providing IT services to the larger organization. ITIL breaks the IT service lifecycle into 5 stages, one of which is Service Operations, which contains ITOM. Infrastructure management is a sub-function of ITIL ITOM.

While the ITIL framework is by no means universally employed, it is widely regarded as a standard bearer that reflects larger trends within IT. With the recent release of ITIL 4 (2019), a few trends stand out:

  • Integrating –not aligning– IT with the larger organization
  • Focusing on collaboration within IT and between IT and other departments
  • Implementing agile and DevOps methodologies

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How I&O Teams are Evolving

“I&O’s traditional approach to managing complexity via siloed tooling and expertise is insufficient for optimizing the digital experience and the application workloads that enable that experience.”

-Gartner, Predicts 2020: IT Operations

Technology is rapidly evolving, causing markets, consumer expectations, and businesses to evolve as well. In order to keep pace with these changes, businesses need to rapidly develop and iterate new products and services.

This of course depends on IT.

IT is becoming a key player in the organization’s value stream, necessary to developing and improving products and services, and for maintaining the systems and processes that support the business’s value proposition.

With IT being a central player in the business’s five-year plan, IT teams can no longer operate in silos –they need to collaborate to rapidly design, deploy, and improve. IT teams are no longer in the business of project management, they’re providing products directly to customers. Products don’t have end dates -they have to be continuously improved and managed.

Part of this change requires a change in how IT functions. Most IT organizations operate with a traditional hierarchy led by a CIO or CTO who oversees directors who manage smaller teams. But in a world where IT must rapidly develop and iterate products, instead of focusing on clearly defined projects, IT personnel must be able to collaborate across the various IT teams and with business partners.

Bringing Infrastructure and Operations Together

The need for rapid development is part of the reason why infrastructure and operations are increasingly lumped together, whether placing infrastructure within IT Operations Management or whether referring to infrastructure and operations (I&O).

IT infrastructure has traditionally been an IT subset that few people (even within IT) ever had to worry about. But as data becomes the lifeblood of organizations, and as servers and cloud-computing become the arteries that move that data, infrastructure is suddenly critical to day-to-day operations.

New technologies such as infrastructure-as-code and low-code process automation platforms are making it easier for IT operations teams, developers, and even business personnel to quickly and reliably provision the servers, resources, and devices they need to complete their jobs. This accelerates the delivery of data to support real-time decision making and reduces the need for capacity planning as many of these tools can provision servers to meet dynamic compute needs.

The Future of IT Infrastructure and Operations

“By 2025, 60% of I&O leaders will drive business innovation using disruptive technologies, up from less than 5% in 2019.”

-Gartner, The Future of I&O is Infrastructure-Led Disruption

New technologies are rapidly changing the way IT operates, as well as the relationship between IT teams and between IT and the business.

For example, leveraging IaaS solutions and cloud-based data centers is giving IT the ability to focus more resources on optimizing operations and developing new solutions and services.

Whatever comes down the pipeline over the 10 years, one thing is certain: IT staff are going to have to quickly adapt to and adopt new technologies. In order to quickly integrate new technologies with existing environments, IT teams will need to have extensible, low-code it automation tools at their disposal.

For example, low-code workload automation platforms enable IT to rapidly assemble end-to-end processes regardless of underlying technologies or where those technologies might be located (on-premises, private cloud, or public cloud). 

As SaaS, hybrid-cloud management, and the internet of things become more common –and in many cases indispensable– having the ability to automate, manage, and monitor processes and resources across service providers helps IT reduce manual tasks, minimize the need for custom code, and rapidly roll-out new business services.

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Brian is a staff writer for the IT Automation Without Boundaries blog, where he covers IT news, events, and thought leadership. He has written for several publications around the New York City-metro area, both in print and online, and received his B.A. in journalism from Rowan University. When he’s not writing about IT orchestration and modernization, he’s nose-deep in a good book or building Lego spaceships with his kids.