A digital ready infrastructure will be critical for enterprises to succeed and realize business value over the next few years.
The key expectation from infrastructure for 2018 will not just be uptime and availability, but one that will help in developing customer-facing technologies and innovative deployment. Improving data management capabilities to enhance customer experience will continue to be one of the key targets of Infrastructure engineers. Technologies like AI and VR will be widely used and infrastructure should efficiently handle new requirements. For every organization, Innovation will be more of a hygiene factor than a strategy.
Impact of IoT on Infrastructure
IoT will add tremendous complexity (networking, integration, data analysis, etc.) to existing IT infrastructure. The infrastructure should be ready to handle the speed from seconds to milliseconds to microseconds. More the infrastructure interface goes global, the maintenance holidays will vanish over a period of time and pave way for preventive maintenance and upgrades that go online. Prevalence of Edge computing will go up as it puts those computing resources closer to the data source for speeding up the analysis process and allowing businesses to act on insights more quickly.
Responding to customers in Real-time
Real-time response is increasingly a business imperative. The inability to respond to consumers in real time could mean a loss of business, while the absence of real-time functionality in industrial contexts poses serious safety concerns. The introduction of machine learning to IoT will vastly accelerate the speed of intelligence. Organizations will use machine learning to localize data analytics within an instrumented device and run IoT devices to enable companies to act immediately on the data generated by sensors and devices.
The changing role of Infrastructure engineers
Application of robotics will precipitate faster. Typical current applications of robots include welding, painting, assembly, pick and place for printed circuit boards, packaging and labeling, palletizing, product inspection, and testing; all accomplished with high endurance, speed, and precision. They can help in material handling and provide interfaces. But in 2018-20 application of robots will enhance office and customer interface as well. Though robots will replace humans in many areas, IT infrastructure engineers will be required to reprogram robots and maintain them effectively.
Managing cybersecurity in the digital age
The more organizations go digital more will be their exposure to cybersecurity threats. The solution lies in appropriate Information security governance, operational system and security automation. Although software bots can’t fully prevent cyber attacks from happening, they do enable a much faster response. Apart from technology processes and people are also key for sound security systems and an infrastructure engineer’s role here can never be underrated. Dynamic learning of new security systems if not mastering them will be a key differentiator.
The key metrics of performance will also change for the infrastructure team. Percentage of infrastructure availability will move to parts per million and the basic approach towards infrastructure will change from serving business to changing business. Over the next 24 to 36 months, IT infrastructure engineers will see a new phase, where they are measured on a very different set of metrics than ever before. The IT mandate will stretch beyond the familiar realm of satisfying customers and employees, collaborating with the business and reducing costs, to sealing new customer relationships, discovering the new business value and enabling business agility and innovation. Infra engineers will be more seen on the shop floor or marketplaces than in the datacenter, thanks to the increased deployment of software-defined networks. Also, internal customers will expect an enhanced public cloud experience in enterprise applications.
Infrastructure as the differentiator
In summary, the core differentiator for a successful business today rests on the readiness of its IT infrastructure. A flexible, agile, efficient infrastructure results in a bigger competitive advantage for an established enterprise. Though the threats may come from an ingenious start-up or a disruptive market force, large organizations that have a digitally enabled workforce with a successful security framework and scalable technology foundation can still bring innovative customer engagements and succeed.
The author is Advisor - IT for Sundaram Clayton Limited. He is also consultant for start-ups.
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