The way businesses operate and manage their employees, processes and technology is adjusting to adapt to the software-defined world. Not surprisingly, organizations are hiring more technologically-savvy staff, both in and outside the IT department. People who understand and can drive what software technology can do to differentiate the business will cast the difference between market winners and losers.
Business foundations are completely different than they were 30 years ago – or even 15 years ago. At the start of 2015, we operate in an application economy, finding ourselves dependent on software to run our businesses, show us how we engage with consumers and how they engage back with us. We track our lives, purchase products, summon services, book travel and so much more merely with the swipe of our thumbs.
All of this is made available to us – the consumers – through a seismic shift in how businesses make their services accessible online. In 2011, Marc Andreessen stated that software was eating the world, and the capabilities of cloud-enabled platforms are growing more robust every day. Few (if any) businesses can transact without online software – and that stack has grown exponentially as consumption of software has moved to the pay-per-use, immediate gratification that the cloud offers. While this is convenient and exciting for consumers, businesses must make significant operational changes to ensure this method of transaction is continuously available. Customers will always demand a high overall quality of experience.
In many software-driven businesses, new processes based on the DevOps movement help accelerate the continuous delivery of new software features and value. At the same time, however, they make the task of maintaining continuous availability of software especially challenging. The aim of DevOps processes is to release and deploy code more quickly. Yet this increases the burden on test and production support teams to assure software operational quality.
To be effective, additional processes and tools must be implemented to benchmark, predict, and measure the impact of software changes – the leading cause of operational disruptions – so any service-affecting situations can be detected early on, before customers complain.
For IT teams, selecting the right portfolio of tools is essential to ensure that the quality of online business functions around the clock. Now that businesses require software, that software must be upgraded, deployed and monitored to guarantee that customers receive the same high quality of service whenever they visit a website, place an order or seek support. In today’s environments, one outage at a critical time – Cyber Monday for an online retailer, for instance – can result in lost revenues, slighted customers and tarnished brands.
Given the complexities of today’s dynamic IT infrastructures to enable software-defined business, legacy IT tools and support approaches can no longer keep pace to assure application and service availability that businesses depend on. An entirely new generation of operational tools is emerging to support the software-defined business, characterized in five significant ways:
- Data driven – Utilizes the massive volume of data created across the full IT stack and associated domain-specific tools, enabling a “super-layer of intelligence” on top of already existing intelligence.
- Collaborative – Facilitates greater cooperation and sharing across silos of expertise, making it easier for cross-domain teams to solve complex problems faster.
- Self-learning – Incorporates algorithms that adapt and “get smarter,” being able to adapt to constant change without constant, manual re-tooling, yet remaining agile to early detect the completely unexpected.
- Automated – Eliminates error-prone, operational processes that previously were manually performed, e.g., discerning relationships between alerts, notifying the right personnel to assemble, and relaying tribal knowledge to remediate actual problem cause faster.
- Anti-monolithic – Applies a fully open, modular approach that simplifies the integration across best-of-breed tools broadly across the stack, building what you need and adding later.
Tools with these five attributes are often referred to as IT Operational Analytics (ITOA). The features that differentiate these tools from legacy tools are essential to enabling a software-defined business, and in building operational competitive advantage. ITOA tools ultimately help organizations move faster with less cost, increasing innovation with fewer outages and less, negative impact on customer experiences.
Software-defined everything in businesses is not a trend. It’s here to stay. The elevated role of IT means a change to a profit center, an integrated function across the business and a move away from a cost center relegated in a separate department located in the back office. When customer-facing software glitches, it can cost the company revenue, customers and brand equity. That makes software performance the primary concern of the entire company.
The era of software-defined everything is also an era of real change within IT Ops management. These changes focus on new approaches in people, processes and technology. These changes are in addition to a new generation of tools with key attributes over legacy tools and will be a strategic difference between those organizations seeking to embrace and take advantage of this change versus those that get hindered and fall behind.
Phil Tee is CEO and founder of Moogsoft. He co-founded Omnibus Transport Technologies Limited (OTT) in 1993. OTT was folded into Micromuse (Nasdaq: MUSE) in 1994. In 1997, Phil founded Riversoft (LSE: RSFT); the technology acquired by Micromuse and the software subsequently became part of the IBM Tivoli Netcool suite. Phil went on to lead Njini, whose technology was acquired by Riverbed (Nasdaq:RVBD). In 2008, Phil founded Promethyan to gestate multiple startups concurrently.