Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in January 2021. We’ve updated our predictions here for 2022.
2022’s top trends in infrastructure and operations (I&O) revolve around IT teams meeting new and changing expectations in growth, scalability, and security — all familiar territory for I&O leaders. The move to the cloud, for instance, has been elevating I&O’s responsibilities and profile for quite some time. Yet the cloud has taken on outsized importance as enterprises make digital products and services the centerpiece of their success strategies.
In 2022 and beyond, the most-effective I&O teams will be known for the innovation they create — instead of the infrastructure they manage. Read on to learn how.
1. Anywhere operations on two tracks
At one time, a distributed enterprise only referred to companies with far-flung branch offices or retail locations. Today, nearly every company is a distributed enterprise with outposts in corporate offices and employee homes, near and far.
In its Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2022, Gartner predicts that “by 2023, 75% of organizations that exploit distributed enterprise benefits will realize revenue growth 25% faster than competitors.” It’s up to I&O professionals to build, maintain, and strengthen a secure infrastructure that enables this new kind of distributed enterprise and the unique challenges virtual and hybrid workforces face.
Cloud-Based Distributed Enterprise Networks
In 2022, organizations will likely continue their on-again, off-again relationship with the office, whether due to new variants or employee preferences.
I&O organizations began shifting their traditional IT infrastructures to the cloud well before COVID hit. This shift made remote work feasible, and many groups were tentatively exploring the possibility… until it became a requirement. I&O teams will need to continue ramping up their edge computing and distributed-enterprise network capacity to:
- Keep the business running, wherever it may be.
- Support each business unit’s unique remote-work requirements.
Self-Service IT Automation
Though most employees prefer it, studies show that virtual work can lead to employee fatigue and burnout. I&O teams can use self-service IT automation to help boost employee wellbeing by supporting collaboration and reducing workload for end-users… and themselves.
End-users gain productivity by running sophisticated automated tasks and workflows based on their skill sets and most-used tools, like Teams and Slack. This, in turn, reduces manual workloads for I&O teams and boosts visibility and oversight into enterprise-wide automation.
2. Focus on experiences and solutions for customers and business users
In Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2022, Gartner identifies Total Experience (TX) as the cumulation of customer (CX), employee (EX), user (UX), and multi (MX) experiences. The new focus on TX is all about enriching confidence, satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.
These days, technology is at the heart of every experience for every audience, so I&O teams have the unique opportunity to find common themes, needs, and solutions. The right mix of technologies can help eliminate friction, encourage engagement, and enhance delight.
Specific to I&O, this trend finds its fullest expression in the infrastructure-led innovation (ILI) model, a key element of which is using infrastructure technology to improve customer experiences and solutions.
Customer centricity isn’t the only factor at play: I&O teams will still need to prioritize infrastructure reliability, security, cost, talent management, and anywhere operations. However, meeting the ever-growing expectations that customers and internal business users have for digital products and services will only grow in importance long term.
As with the first trend, empowering citizen automators with powerful, effective, and easy self-service automation is a key element of the growing I&O focus on business-user experiences and solutions.
3. Cross-function partnership and collaboration
The first two trends illustrate the growing interdependency between business users and I&O teams. In 2022 and beyond, the most-effective I&O teams will deliver business outcomes by expanding their partnerships and collaboration across the IT universe, including DevOps, DataOps, and Platform Ops, to name a few.
Traditionally, I&O teams have focused on building and operating the environments for which they’re responsible. What we’re seeing now is a more expansive I&O vision that embraces the organization’s shared mission, vision, value, and goals.
I&O teams will continue to evolve to facilitate and enable other groups while delivering value-added solutions. I&O can do that by deploying secure platforms that centralize management while also providing a service that helps other teams do their jobs better and more efficiently. Automation tools are particularly well suited to assisting I&O in meeting their counterparts’ important needs and, thus, encouraging further partnership and collaboration.
4. Zero- or minimal-touch maintenance, including automation
Ensuring continuous IT services was certainly a priority for I&O teams pre-pandemic. But other recent events have also underscored just how many ways IT services can be interrupted, such as extreme weather and life events leading to unexpected staff absences.
I&O teams are turning to automation and zero- or minimal-touch maintenance to guarantee operational continuity regardless of external factors. In addition to lower costs and enhanced consistency across processes, automation improves efficiency and speeds up workload deployment.
Not all automation solutions, however, are created equal. Service orchestration and automation platforms (SOAPs), the successor to traditional workload automation solutions, are especially well suited to hardening IT services against threats from external events.
SOAPs excel at choreographing and securely managing applications and infrastructures across an enterprise-wide hybrid IT environment. Zero-touch comes into play with the right SOAP’s ability to run workflows in real-time via event-driven triggers that support IT processes like:
- Provision computing
- Storage and network resources on demand
- Orchestration of data pipelines
5. Workload automation yields to service orchestration and automation
We’re well into the service orchestration and automation era — Gartner coined the term in April 2020. Service orchestration and automation platforms are steadily supplanting traditional workload automation solutions when organizations look for new or upgraded solutions.
Workload automation is still a vital part of IT automation. However, enterprises can now automate across hybrid IT environments by adding comprehensive cloud orchestration capabilities to the picture. The goal for any I&O team in today’s environment is to securely orchestrate automation across any of their disparate on-premises and cloud systems.
6. The rise of automation architecture
Infrastructure architecture and cloud architecture are already well-established IT functions. The addition of automation architecture is a growing trend that will accelerate in 2022 and beyond.
I&O leaders understand that effective automation goes beyond achieving cost, efficiency, and speed goals. As I&O teams zero in on improving customer experiences and solutions (like in the second trend above), automation will only grow in importance.
The rise of automation architecture reflects the growing understanding that automation is an ongoing, multi-year journey.
At one level, automation architects will have their hands full rooting out pockets of opportunistic automation, which will help reduce costs and complexity. At a higher level, automation architecture seeks to eliminate these random acts of automation and replace them with a broader, more secure orchestration approach that supports enterprise strategy and objectives. Gartner defines this as hyperautomation — automating as many business and IT processes as possible by orchestrating across multiple technologies, tools, and platforms.
7. More support for cloud computing initiatives
As IT spending shifts dramatically to public and private clouds, I&O teams feel the effects of change everywhere, from system infrastructure to software (both infrastructure and application). IT teams are actively engaged in getting support from their technology vendors and other partners to make cloud projects successful and secure.
A strong example of the support that helps I&O teams make the most of their public cloud initiatives is orchestrating managed file transfers in hybrid IT environments with Kubernetes. Another example is using automation to synchronize workloads and data pipelines across cloud platforms and applications.
Cloud initiatives support a growing range of digital workplace solutions and emerging technologies that automate processes and decisions. The goal is to enable a faster pace and scalable digital transformation. Support for this kind of I&O modernization is growing in number and value.
According to Gartner, Cloud-Native Platforms (CNPs) “maximize the potential of cloud computing by matching compute requirements with demand and by improving organizational agility to deliver business value faster.” Traditional WLA tools can’t deliver on this, nor can more modern iterations of these tools that are “basic lift-and-shift migrations that don’t take full advantage of cloud attributes.”
Gartner deep-dives into this line of thinking in Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2022: Cloud-Native Platforms. They predict that “by 2025, cloud-native platforms will serve as the foundation for more than 95% of new digital initiatives — up from less than 40% in 2021.”
The common thread: security
Security is the common thread that runs through every trend for 2022.
Cybersecurity is an essential component of automating hybrid IT environments, so it’s critical to verify the security of any technology you implement in your organization. The Stonebranch Universal Automation Center (UAC) is a service orchestration and automation platform that’s been reliably vetted through:
- Three rounds of penetration tests by Secuvera, a BSI-certified IT security service provider
- SOC 2® Type 2 audits that confirm SaaS security and availability
- ISO 27001 certification, the international standard for information security management systems (ISMS)
It uses API- and agent-based integrations to safely orchestrate enterprise-wide data flows, app connections, and cloud instances. One example is The Stonebranch Hybrid File Transfer for Kubernetes, an integration that enables secure, real-time data transfers between on-prem systems and the cloud in a hybrid IT environment, including external file transfers.
Meeting the moment
The most challenging times in history often bring about the most significant advances in innovation.
Fueled by necessity and motivated by opportunity, enterprises have focused on building resilience, flexibility, and adaptability to future shocks. Top trends in Infrastructure and Operations show that IT organizations have moved to the front lines of meeting these new challenges. By evaluating and responding to the trends identified here, I&O teams will ensure their continuing important role in helping their organizations meet top-level objectives.