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Top Enterprise IT Trends for 2021

Between the global pandemic and the resulting economic upheaval, it’s fair to say many businesses spent 2020 in survival mode. Now, as we turn the page to 2021, we wonder what life will look like in this new normalcy. Whether it is employees working from home, the shift from brick and mortar to online sales and delivery, or the need to accelerate digital transformation efforts to remain competitive, 2021 will be a year of re-invention for most companies.

How might the new normal impact your company? Here are five of the top technology trends we predict will drive change in 2021:

  1. The pace of cloud migration will accelerate: Most companies, by now, have started the journey to the public cloud or to a hybrid cloud environment. The events of 2020 have added fuel to the fire, creating an urgency to maximize cloud usage within companies that now understand that the speed, resilience, security and universal access provided by cloud services is vital to the success of the organization.

“By the end of 2021, based on lessons learned in the pandemic, most enterprises will put a mechanism in place to accelerate their shift to cloud-centric digital infrastructure and application services twice as fast as before the pandemic,” says Rick Villars, group vice president, worldwide research at IDC. “Spending on cloud services, the hardware and software underpinning cloud services, and professional and managed services opportunities around cloud services will surpass $1 trillion in 2024,”

The progression for most companies will be to ensure customer-facing applications take priority. In the next phase of cloud migration, back-end functionality embodied in ERP-type applications will move to the cloud. The easiest and fastest way to move applications to the cloud is the simple lift-and-shift, where applications remain essentially unchanged. Companies looking to improve and optimize business processes, though, will most likely refactor, containerize, or completely re-write applications. They will turn to “cloud native” approaches to their applications.

  1. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will deliver business insight: Faced with the need to boost revenue, cut waste, and squeeze out more profits during a period of economic and competitive upheaval, companies will continue turning to AI and machine learning to extract business insight from the vast trove of data most collect routinely, but don’t always take advantage of.

According to a recent PwC survey of more than 1,000 executives, 25% of companies reported widespread adoption of AI in 2020, up from 18% in 2019. Another 54% are moving quickly toward AI. Either they have started implementing limited use cases or they are in the proof-of-concept phase and are looking to scale up. Companies report the deployment of AI is proving to be an effective response to the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Ramping up AI and ML capabilities in-house can be a daunting task, but the major hyperscale cloud providers have platforms that enable companies to perform AI and ML in the cloud. Examples include Amazon’s SageMaker, Microsoft’s Azure AI and Google’s Cloud AI.

  1. Edge computing will take on greater importance: For companies that can’t move to the cloud because of regulatory or data security concerns, edge computing is emerging as an attractive option. With edge computing, data processing is performed where the data is generated, which reduces latency and provides actionable intelligence in real time. Common use cases include manufacturing facilities, utilities, transportation, oil and gas, healthcare, retail and hospitality.

The global edge computing market is expected to reach $43.4 billion by 2027, fueled by an annual growth rate of nearly 40%, according to a report from Grand View Research.

The underpinning of edge computing is IoT, the instrumentation of devices (everything from autonomous vehicles to machines on the factory floor to a coffee machine in a fast-food restaurant) and the connectivity between the IoT sensor and the analytics platform. IoT platforms generate a vast amount of real-time data, which must be processed at the edge because it would too expensive and impractical to transmit that data to the cloud.

Cloud services providers recognize this reality and are now bringing forth specific managed service offerings for edge computing scenarios, such as Amazon’s new IoT Greengrass service that extends cloud capabilities to local devices, or Microsoft’s Azure IoT Edge.

  1. Platform-as-a-Service will take on added urgency: To increase the speed of business, companies are shifting to cloud platforms for application development, rather than developing apps in-house. PaaS offers a variety of benefits, including the ability to take advantage of serverless computing delivering scalability, flexibility and quicker time to develop and release new apps. Popular serverless platforms include Amazon Lambda and Microsoft’s Azure Functions.
  2. IT Automation will increase: Automating processes across the entire organization is a key trend for 2021, with companies prioritizing and allocating money for this effort. Automation can cut costs and increase efficiency in a variety of areas – everything from Robotics Process Automation (RPA) to automate low-level business processes, to the automation of security procedures such as anomaly detection or incident response, to automating software development functions with new DevOps tools.

Gartner predicts that, through 2024, enhancements in analytics and automatic remediation capabilities will refocus 30% of IT operations efforts from support to continuous engineering. And by 2023, 40% of product and platform teams will use AIOps for automated change risk analysis in DevOps pipelines, reducing unplanned downtime by 20%.

Tying it all together

These trends are not occurring in isolation.  They’re all part of the larger digital transformation effort that is occurring as companies pursue a multi-cloud strategy encompassing public cloud, private cloud and edge environments. Regardless of where the applications live or where the processing takes place, organizations are seeking ways to use AI and machine learning to optimize processes, conduct predictive maintenance and gain critical business insight as they try to rebound from the events of 2020 and re-invent themselves for 2021 and beyond.

Where will 2021 take you? Contact us for guidance on how you can take hold of these technology trends to maximize your business results and reach new goals.

-Mir Ali, Field CTO

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7 Trends Influencing DevSecOps & DevOps Adoption

Companies worldwide have been increasing DevOps adoption and DevSecOps adoption into their regular workflows at an exponential rate. Whether following Agile methodologies or creating independent workflows stemming from DevOps, companies have been leveraging the faster manufacturing rate with superior quality that DevSecOps provides.

However, the increasing development in autonomous technologies such as AI or ML is idealizing a work cycle where the system operates independently of humans. It aims to provide faster, reliable, and better products – shifting from DevOps to NoOps.

A set of practices coupling software development (Dev) and information technology operations (Ops), DevOps is the combination of employees, methods, and products to allow for perpetual, seamless delivery of quality and value. Adding security to a set of DevOps practices, a DevSecOps approach provides multiple layers of security and reliability by integrating highly secure, robust, and dependable processes and tools into the work cycle and the final product.

This desirable outcome of integrating DevOps and DevSecOps into corporations has made it a trendy work cycle in the market. However, with a growing focus on automation and development in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, we could be heading into a NoOps scenario, where self-learning and self-healing systems govern the work processes.

NoOps is a work cycle wherein the technologies used by a company are so autonomous and intelligent that DevOps and DevSecOps do not need to be exclusively implemented to maintain a continuous outflow of quality and value.

What are the trends that truly influence DevOps and DevSecOps adoptions in countless tech businesses – small and large – all across the globe? Download our 7 Trends Influencing DevOps/DevSecOps Adoption to find out.

-Mir Ali, Field CTO

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Introducing Google Cloud VM Migration

Moving to Google Cloud from on premise or cloud virtual machines is the focus of many enterprise companies, while also optimizing your workloads for performance, scale, and security. Workloads and applications migrating to the cloud require careful consideration to determine when and how their architecture must be modernized to best leverage the value of cloud technologies. ​

We see cloud migration from 3 different lenses:

  1. Migrate > Modernize
  2. Modernize > Migrate
  3. Build Cloud-Native

Migrate > Modernize is the typical ‘lift-and-shift’ model of migration helping companies get quickly to the cloud. This approach is most helpful for time-sensitive projects like datacenter exits or quick scale for a new product launch. The Google Cloud Platform supports a quick and easy virtual machine migration to cloud while also automatically providing you right sizing and sustained use discounts to save right away.

Modernize > Migrate is a newer model that companies are taking on, especially when they are focused on upskilling staff and allowing experimentation while dealing with an existing infrastructure lock-in. In this approach, many departments upgrade their technology applications while on premise and then move those workloads to the cloud. Google Cloud offers a great way to move to containers and Kubernetes through their Anthos platform. We’ll have more insight on this in a future blog.

Building Cloud-Native is an approach that works for smaller, greenfield projects. Application development teams that have budget allocated and want to innovate fast can use this model to build their application in the cloud directly. Google Cloud was built with the developer in mind, making it the chosen platform for those looking to build their own cloud-native applications. App Engine is a great choice for those looking for a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) to abstract away the complexity of infrastructure and focus on your application development.

2nd Watch applies our proven cloud migration methodology to each of these models ensuring we reduce any downtime in your move to Google Cloud, with a predictable schedule and reliable OpEx forecast. All of our cloud migrations include a thorough Cloud Modernization Readiness Assessment, design and build of the foundational cloud architecture, and the planning, migration, and testing of workloads in the cloud.

Download our datasheet to learn more about our Google Cloud VM Migration service.

-Chris Garvey, EVP of Product

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The Playbook for Migrating to Google Cloud

Moving to the public cloud is a complex and time-consuming endeavor. A recent survey published by 2nd Watch found that nearly half of IT Directors felt that migrating to the cloud took more time and was more costly than they expected. Deciding how and when to transition your mission-critical applications to this new architecture is essential to optimizing cost and enhancing business agility.

When working with large enterprises on their cloud transformations, 2nd Watch has experienced first-hand how important assessment and planning are to achieving the benefits of cloud, including increased speed and business agility while reducing operational costs.

Companies moving to Google Cloud expect to realize these benefits quickly, but will suffer the same fate as many IT Directors if they don’t complete a full assessment covering the following phases:

  1. Application Assessment
  2. Application Categorization
  3. Technology Assessment
  4. Cost Assessment
  5. Organizational Assessment

Application Assessment

This area includes in-depth discovery surrounding your applications and is typically done in both interview format and using automated application discovery tools like StratoZone or CloudPhysics. During this assessment, teams take note of their dependencies between applications and components as well as any licensing and compliance requirements.

Application Categorization

Once you complete the assessment of each application, it’s time to determine the best method for migration. There are 7 methods that could be employed:

  • Rehost:  Applications that will be migrated as-is without infrastructure or application refactoring are known as Rehost migrations. Changes are limited to configuration only.  This method is typically considered a lift-and-shift migration.​
  • Re-platform:This method refers to applications that undergo minor modernization to leverage core cloud-native capabilities. This may include minor code changes, upgrading platforms, or adopting managed services to better take advantage of a cloud feature.  This may also include actions such as upgrading the operating system or database or reinstalling the application on the target cloud environment.  In this case, storage migration will be needed but without any conversion. ​
  • Refactor:Also known as rearchitect, this method focuses on modernizing portions of the application to leverage cloud-native technologies such as autoscaling, immutable infrastructure, serverless functions, or containerization.  This may include rewriting the application code. ​
  • Rewrite:This method is for applications that are being re-written from scratch or are greenfield projects.  This often means the application is not moving to cloud and it is rewritten as microservices and deployed to cloud when complete.  Sometimes this method is more cost effective over time, although the upfront work effort can be substantial.​
  • Retire:Retire refers to applications that have been retired or will be retired soon, meaning they will be turned off and removed.  They may either be re-written or retired completely.  This may include servers running an unsupported operating system, servers running that are no-longer needed, and/or servers that are turned off for disaster recovery and are unused.​
  • Retain:The Retain option is for workloads that will remain in the co-location facility or on-premises datacenter. These applications may run on legacy infrastructure until the end-of-life or move to another co-location facility. ​
  • Repurchase:  Conversion to a SaaS-based offering to replace existing in-house or 3rd party applications.  Instead of migrating the application to the cloud, in this situation you’ll instead convert your existing business process and data to a new, 3rd party application operated as software as a service (SaaS) application. (For example, moving from on premise CRM to SalesForce.com).

Some applications may need different tiers to be addressed with different migration paths. For example, the Web tier may be rehosted, the application tier may be refactored, and the database tier may be re-platformed.  In this case, multiple migration methods may be applied to a given application to best support its migration to the cloud.​

Technology Assessment

Understanding your applications is only one part of the puzzle. The technology you use now will need to evolve to include Infrastructure as Code (IaC), Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD), and Configuration Management. In addition, understanding how your existing security and compliance tooling will work in the new environment is key to ensuring your success. Areas like network design, storage and database needs, and authentication should be assessed to ensure proper cloud architecture. Last but not least, ensure you are looking into your current business continuity plans and how those may have to change to support the cloud.

Cost Assessment

Many companies center their move to the cloud around cost, but if you only work on Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), you’ll miss the opportunity to save. Optimizing resources and creating a cost spending plan up front will help your finance team better understand the upfront and ongoing cloud investment. With Google Cloud, you can leverage Automated Rightsizing and Sustained Use Discounts to save, on average, 60% relative to what you’d pay on other clouds.

Organizational Assessment

Last but not least, understanding how your team will need to upskill or reskill to support cloud is essential to your success. Take the time to assess your teams’ skills and put together an education plan that will support their development. Upskilling and reskilling are both a smaller investment and quicker return on investment than hiring and training new employees.

Your team understands how your business works, and by providing them with the opportunity to learn how to marry their existing skills with cloud technologies will shortcut the skills and knowledge gap when moving to the cloud.

Yes, this process of assessment is not only comprehensive, but it can be complex, taking valuable time away from your migration efforts. The 2nd Watch Cloud Modernization Readiness Assessment (CMRA) covers all of these areas, helping you evaluate your company’s IT estate to determine application fitness and optimal migration methodology for your workloads and team.

If you’re interested in working with our certified cloud engineers and architects to analyze and assess your workloads, tools, and team, schedule some time with us today.

-Chris Garvey, EVP of Product

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The 4 Phases of a Business Transformation

A business transformation, when a company moves from traditional IT to modern IT, typically includes migrating to the cloud. The driving factor behind a business transformation varies from company to company, but it’s common to start a transformation in order to become more competitive in the marketplace, more digital, more reactive to customers, or more automated. Whatever your reason, there are four distinct phases you will go through during a business transformation, from the initial idea to ongoing optimization.

Phase 1: Getting started

The best place to start your transformation is with an in-depth business case. Depending on your goals, your business case will most likely include multiple elements, such as competitiveness, speed to market, and cost savings. Once you’ve determined your business case, it’s easier to understand your total cost of ownership in the cloud. It also provides structure to analyze compelling events and the moving parts around it, including contract terms and assets.

It’s important to bring all your key stakeholders together. We recommend following the Amazon Web Services Cloud Adoption Framework (AWS CAF) that incorporates six different perspectives from throughout the organization. These perspectives include business, people, governance, platform, security, and operations. This practice gives you a chance to evaluate the skills in your central IT area, understand existing governance from your chief commercial officer (CCO), evaluate security needs, and invite discussion between platform engineers, among other benefits. There’s a learning curve when it comes to operations in the cloud, so it’s important to get these perspectives together often to review the strategy, revise where necessary, and voice concerns together.

Phase 2: Six months into the transformation

The most important thing to remember at this stage of your business transformation is to keep listening. Invite feedback from the workforce and your users as things begin and continue to evolve. Establish a strong Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE), a multi-stakeholder group of subject matter experts from various areas of the business, to drive communication from the top down. This will help breed an environment of inclusiveness throughout the transformation to avoid barriers and maintain your timeline.

At this point, you’re getting more interaction with the cloud and it’s easy to get distracted by all the cloud native services available. Continue to focus on your business objectives first – there will be plenty of time and opportunity to modernize, implement new services, and monetize data along the way. Moving too quickly without sticking to the established governance can lead to cloud sprawl, high storage and backup costs, and other budget overages. Get through these initial phases first to make sure everyone has the cloud skills they need and understand that the IT organization is there to enable business first and foremost. Once these new skills have been mastered, you can encourage experimentation and move faster.

Phase 3: Nearing the finish line

During this ending phase, focus is less on the technology and tools and more on evolving. Technical teams are more effective and efficient and the workforce throughout the organization is getting smarter. Evolution within the cloud is speeding up among both legacy technicians and newer technicians who are cloud native. Observe these progressions among your technical team and be ready for change. It’s common to lose team members with experience to other organizations just beginning their own cloud transformation.

Avoid knowledge loss with strong governance around run books, automation, documentation, and a deep understanding of how systems and processes work in the cloud. This is important to avoid gaps associated with turnover and to support a comprehensive onboarding process as you train new employees. Processes that used to take two to three days are now happening in hours, with the goal of getting them down to minutes. As you move faster, don’t forget these important documentation steps to keep up with the speed of business for the long-term.

This is also an especially exciting phase because now you’re moving at a pace where you can experiment and fail fast. New opportunities are created to monetize incoming data and analysis for additional revenue streams. Automation in the architecture, solutions, and management let you pivot and react quickly. Things become repeatable and the tedious manual processes of the past are greatly reduced, if not eliminated completely.

Phase 4: Post transformation

Post transformation includes anything above and beyond the scope of the original transformation project, including continuous optimization – constantly incorporating new instance types, payment models, and other relevant technology as it becomes available for the cloud. Evaluate how your applications are working and decide which should be refactored into a cloud native environment or move toward containerization. Post transformation you should continue innovating, watching your costs, and taking advantage of new cloud products and services.

2nd Watch invites to embrace your business transformation with cloud technologies and our strategic and tactical approach. Guaranteeing quality, consistency, and completeness, our experts work with you to determine your objectives and create tailored services to help you meet them. Contact Us to see how best to meet your transformation goals.

-Chris Garvey, EVP of Product

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Are you ready for a business transformation to the cloud?

Taking on a business transformation to the cloud can seem like a huge endeavor, but it’s a necessary strategy for any modern business organization that wants to create a competitive advantage. Understanding some basics and common challenges before diving into your transformation can alleviate your concerns.

What is a business transformation?

A business transformation is any move from traditional, legacy IT to modern IT. The business is trying to become more competitive in the market, more digital, more reactive to customers, and more automated. Today, that typically includes a migration to the cloud.

Why do you want to transform?

When considering a business transformation, you need to know why you’re making the move. What is causing the need for your business to transform? Often times it’s your board putting on the pressure or a race to cloud because “everyone else is.” Those reasons can be motivators, but you need to take a step back and ask yourself, “What is the outcome I’m trying to achieve?”

If you’re only taking on a transformation to satisfy your board or keep up with peers, you haven’t clearly defined end objectives and won’t be successful in effectively and efficiently galvanizing outcomes. You need to understand your business needs and drivers and assess your ability to compete from a technology or digital standpoint. For example, if your business isn’t agile enough to meet customer demands, sales might be shrinking. In that case, new ways to interact with customers is the desired outcome. Moving to the cloud enables businesses to deliver services faster, and the transition facilitates that outcome.

Always keep your eye on delivering value. A business transformation to the cloud can help your business be more competitive, save costs, innovate, accelerate your time to market, and modernize, but the entire organization will need to mold and adapt as well. Consider how those outcomes will be achieved and where the business will be affected before beginning your transformation.

Understanding transformational challenges

The real challenges to a successful business transformation are usually organizational. It’s essential that leadership buys in from the top down. The board needs to understand how you’re going to accomplish their goal of getting into the cloud and what the outcomes will be as a result. These transformations can last years and require resources that need to be accounted for. Managers need to know how to train staff, and departments will need to alter their processes and procedures. Often times, businesses focus on avoiding technology challenges, but people-oriented problems can create bigger barriers to reaching your goals.

That is why a business transformation must be inclusive of everyone in the organization, because everyone will be affected. These changes are ongoing and there will be multiple phases of transition before the final implementation. Make sure you’re communicating regularly and clearly, from your initial migration assessment through migrating, running in the cloud, and adjusting to the new normal.

Gaining stakeholder support before and during the transformation can prevent the common problem of taking on too much too soon. Focus on a progression to transformation rather than implementing as many cloud services as possible right away. It can be overwhelming trying to get everyone in the organization to DevOps, containerize everything, use every micro service and modernize to cloud native. Instead, identify where you can get the biggest impact. It’s about providing the best services to your business units and speeding them along.

COVID-19: Unpredictable business transformation

While best practices tell you to spend a significant amount of time planning and implementing a business transformation, the COVID-19 pandemic thrusted businesses worldwide into a rapid transformation we never expected or planned for. The requirement for businesses to send their employees home to work remotely put a spotlight on everything from IT security and file sync and share to disaster recovery and business continuity.

As in any business transformation, an unpredictable transformation forces you to define where the business value lies. Some projects can be put on hold without a huge impact to the business, while others, specifically those supporting profits, must be accelerated. Remote work enablement, for example, is paramount to most businesses operating successfully during the pandemic. Organizations that previously used virtual workspaces already had the infrastructure in place to quickly establish at-home workers. More traditional businesses, those who hadn’t yet modernized, needed to first deploy those setups in order to not just continue business immediately, but also be ready for whatever comes next.

Whether it’s a well-planned, multi-year business transformation, implementation of a new service, or an unexpected demand to transform, your business must be ready for change. Our Business Transformation experts can help you create and execute strategic IT initiatives that support business transformation and deliver the right insights and services to ensure your success. Contact Us to discuss beginning your business transformation.

-Chris Garvey, EVP, Product

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