2012 IT Trends in Review; What to Expect in 2013

Which three trends had the biggest impact on IT in 2012, and which will affect IT the most in 2013?

By Randy Clark

It has been quite the year for enterprise IT, from notorious outages suffered by some of the nation's largest companies to BYOD taking center stage to all things big data. It's not easy to narrow down the year's biggest trends to only three when so many prominent themes emerged and made their mark on the enterprise IT landscape. The three with lasting impact are showcased here, and they're also closely tied to some of the key trends I expect we'll see in the industry during 2013.

2012 Trend #1: DevOps hit the enterprise wall

DevOps represents the intersection of software development and IT operations, and is a software development method that puts emphasis on the need for connectedness, collaboration, and integration among these two groups.

Sounds easy enough, right? After all, 2012 wasn't the first time we heard about DevOps, but this year seemed to give it its time to shine in the enterprise. This is because of the high-impact challenges Dev and Ops (as disconnected entities) pose for IT organizations and, ultimately, the brands they serve.

DevOps started as a grass roots effort in Dev but got stalled at IT operations, which is ironic because that is the very bottleneck that Dev (and the overall organization) is seeking to streamline to promote faster innovation. However, the reality is that proper roll-out and roll-back capabilities are required to protect the organization and its customers.

As one of the outcroppings of the DevOps movement, the open source tools used by Dev came into contact with traditional systems management tools used by Ops, and it became clear that application release architectures have not been well defined. Therein lies the issue. The way to solve it is to turn it on its head and use OpsDev, not DevOps, as the framework for thinking about the problem. Why? In large part, the release management challenge is that no structure is in place to control a unified release process that moves seamlessly between Dev and Ops and reverse. Development organizations are designed to drive innovation and build according to customer requirements at an ever-increasing pace.

IT Operations is painfully aware of the impact of human error to both the business and its own workload. As a result, Ops offers the checks and balances to support business integrity. Enabling Ops to raise the quality bar of application releases through automated release processes allows Dev to focus on driving the innovation. Application Release Automation provides the glue between the two.

2012 Trend #2: IT process automation (ITPA) became an enterprise architecture focal point

As brands throughout 2012 (and well before) became more dependent on the digital experience, Web site updates and transaction processing reliability and orchestration became more crucial than ever. With this, businesses have to ensure their websites are up and running without fail 24/7, but that wasn't always the case this year. We saw some costly outages from companies such as United Airlines, GoDaddy and Amazon's EC2 Web services (such as Pinterest and Netflix). Aside from the financial hit a business takes when its Web site is down and transactions can't be processed, consumers are now louder than ever, thanks to the virility of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

The problem is often that business processes, applications, and computing infrastructures are too intertwined and dependent on each other, and that the complex inter-dependencies between applications, infrastructure, and business workflows often cause small glitches that aren't caught quickly enough, which in turn spiral into outages.

These inter-dependencies, which represent potential breakage points, are beyond human ability alone to manage, and IT organizations are now forced to deal with these new realities while cloud, big data, DevOps, and ITaaS pressures are added to the mix. Disaster recovery and application resiliency have come into focus this year in a major way because of this. Organizations sought ways to reliably facilitate transactions online as they continued to innovate their online applications (quickly, nonetheless) to remain competitive and ahead of the curve. IT process automation was the answer for many companies with its automatic rollback capabilities, which enable processes to be routed to non-failing servers in the instance of a system shut down. ITPA also provides insight as to where the glitch occurred and how to be sure the issue is proactively avoided in the future.

To maintain business continuity, enterprises must take responsibility for planning their outage contingencies, and 2012 saw many enterprises making IT process automation central to that strategy.

2012 Trend #3: The orchestrator of orchestrators battle intensified

This year, VMware's acquisition of Nicira, the Big Four's (BMC, HP, IBM, CA) woes, and the funding of ITPA pure-plays together show the choices and camps that IT Operations will face in 2013. We know dynamic IT and automation go hand-in-hand, and 2012 saw enterprises calling for more automation across the infrastructure and more end-to-end automation across all systems and platforms. Organizations continued to demand exceedingly robust solutions that offered an all-in-one approach to automation.

The industry needs to move away from proprietary systems and toward a more open platform that can truly become connected (read: a single pane of glass). Systems management tools this year became more pre-integrated and unified than we've seen in past years, but we need to see more of that from the Big 4, especially, in the future. More support for different applications and platforms will be the necessary approach in order to shift away from proprietary systems and toward a more open platform that can truly become the orchestrator of orchestrators.

Trends for 2013

Prediction #1: Dev tools will partner with ops tools

With 2012 having provided a clearer sense about what would really make DevOps work, it only makes sense that 2013 will bring about new technologies that respond to those needs to facilitate a working environment in which native Dev teams and native Ops teams are comfortable existing together. Think streamlined tools that consolidate down to one platform that are highly scalable.

We'll start to see more offerings that provide the automation, scalability, and governance needed by enterprises as they look to bring Dev and Ops teams closer together to deliver software faster and reduce IT costs. As the need to constantly roll out new applications quickly continues to serve as a competitive advantage to businesses, tools of this nature will become increasingly more vital to the enterprise. They'll enable IT to automate the entire development through release process, allowing teams to achieve reliable continuous application releases at scale.

As DevOps and continuous delivery gain traction and adoption increases, this will be the answer for IT organizations needing strong governance, cross-team coordination and traceability to succeed and scale these initiatives across the enterprise.

Prediction #2: Financial services and Web 2.0 companies will lead the way with ITPA

Financial services companies saw some prevalent outages during 2012 (Citibank, HSBC, and Barclays all went down at various times this year, to name only a few). With businesses in this industry, as well as with Web 2.0 companies such as Amazon, eBay, and Netflix, there's a lot at stake if their systems fail. Consider what happens when your bank's Web site or ATMs go down and you can't access your money or pay your bills. There's room for human error within these systems, and banks are trying to remove that factor from the equation, moving closer to heavily automated systems that are highly resilient and have the ability to automatically rollback to non-failing systems in the event of an error. ITPA affords that assurance.

The same goes with the highly trafficked Web 2.0 businesses I mentioned. Due to the mission-critical nature of some of these companies in regards to dealing with people's money and sensitive personal data, once consumers' security is compromised, it has a massive negative impact on the brand. Naturally, Web sites such as Amazon (that has a high number of purchase transactions each day), Netflix (with its high bandwidth requirements), and Google (hosting a massive number of searches every second) need resiliency and automation. They're well positioned to benefit from ITPA due to their excessively high daily usage and need for backup and redundancy.

Prediction #3. BPM meets BPA meets ITPA

Business process management (BPM) is a category and IT process automation (ITPA) is a category. Where they intersect is business process automation (BPA), which becomes the positioning and selling battleground. Consider this example: at Vodaphone, they would consider whether they should look to SoftwareAG or UC4 to solve their BPA initiative for automating customer on-boarding. From a marketing/positioning perspective, if Vodaphone put BPA on its Web site or discussed it with analysts and the media, is ITPA or BPM the right starting point to tackle BPM?

BPM models the business process and ITPA executes IT processes. The middle ground is again BPA, where the business process model gets "scripted" into routines for the ITPA platform to execute.

The problem with ITPA is that it needs to be tied more directly to business value, and BPA is an opportunity to do that. The problem with BPM is that it's complex, and without the ability to execute the deeper IT processes, becomes difficult to show before and after results.

Randy Clark is CMO of UC4 Software. He can be reached at randy.clark@uc4.com.
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