Blog Post Gartner Hype Cycle: What's Next in I&O Automation?

Gartner has some ideas. Its annual Hype Cycle for I&O Automation report sheds light on innovation adoption, maturity, and ability to solve your real-life business opportunities. We’ve summarized 2021’s biggest changes here.

What's Next in I&O Auotmation - Blog

Whatever-you-want-as-a-Service. You-name-it-Ops. Cloud-native applications. Hybrid IT. These are more than passing fads. They’re the new ways of working you need to deliver faster value, improve efficiency, and optimize costs.

But which innovations are worth pursuing? Emails fill your inbox with claims of being the next big thing, but it’s difficult to know what’s real and what’s marketing. Let’s look more closely at the biggest changes to Gartner's Hype Cycle for I&O Automation in 2021.

Go-Getters in the I&O Automation Hype Cycle

Most of the categories shown on the 2020 hype curve proceeded forward in 2021 but stayed within the same phase. Some technologies moved into new phases along the path of innovation, at varying paces of speed. Among those moving forward by one phase:

  • SaaS Management Platforms are now near the peak of expectations, challenged by the growing need for a management tool that spans across hybrid IT environments. It’s rated as a moderate priority with mainstream adoption in fewer than two years.
  • Container Management, Application Release Orchestration, Network Automation, and Immutable Infrastructure categories all entered the trough of disillusionment, as I&O teams try to reconcile the results of their pilots against overly optimistic expectations. The first three are rated as high priorities with two to five years before mainstream adoption. Immutable Infrastructure is a moderate priority with mainstream maturation estimated in five to 10 years.
  • IA for Infrastructure Managed Services entered the slope of enlightenment, where the benefits of the innovation become more clearly understood. It’s rated as a high priority with two to five years to mainstream adoption.
  • Cloud Management Platforms, Cloud Application Discovery, ITIL, and Cloud Application Discovery categories have all entered the plateau of productivity. The benefits are clear and they’re well on the way to mainstream adoption. ITIL is the only high-priority category among this group; the rest are low to moderate priority.

One trailblazing category moved forward two phases. Hyperautomation moved from the innovation trigger, through the peak of expectations, and into the trough of disillusionment — in only one year. Analysts attribute this acceleration to the pandemic, which helped break down resistance to automation and boost the importance of resiliency.

Much like Workload Automation (WLA) in 2018, DevOps has become so widely accepted and proven that it moved right off the hype cycle chart. No longer considered an hyped approach, it’s now considered a mainstream driver of enterprise automation initiatives. 

Newcomers to the I&O Automation Hype Cycle

Eleven categories are new to the Hype Cycle for I&O Automation in 2021. Most of these new kids on the block are early in their proof-of-concept, though a few have skipped ahead.

Innovations on the rise include Digital Platform Conductor Tools, GitOps, Policy-as-Code, AITSM, DevOps VSMPs, Continuous Compliance Automation, DevOps VSDPs, and Platform Ops. They’ve all garnered publicity and interest, yet still must prove viability. It’s clear to see the influence of DevOps’ mainstream acceptance here – most of these innovations directly serve the DevOps community or extend DevOps methodologies into new fields.

Observability and VPT both jumped right in at the peak of expectations. It’s no surprise, given rising IT complexities, increasing security threats, and the need to truly understand what’s happening within enterprise systems and applications. Observability is rated as a transformational priority – higher than high – with mainstream adoption in two to five years. VPT is a high priority with a similar adoption timeframe.

The Service Orchestration and Automation Platform (SOAP) category comes in as the most mature of the mavericks, already climbing the slope of enlightenment. This early-mainstream position indicates where initial, potentially inflated expectations recede, and true benefits are more widely understood. It’s a high-priority technology that’s expected to reach mainstream adoption in the next two to five years.

How did SOAP end up so far along, so quickly? It actually represents a modern evolution of WLA, which, as mentioned earlier, moved off the hype cycle a few years ago.

SOAPs Build a Solid Foundation for Whatever Comes Next

Modern SOAPs extend WLA job scheduling and batch processing to support event-based scheduling in real time, as well as cross-platform orchestration with one central command center.

  • Automate in real time. Use any combination of event-, time-, or batch-based prompts to create workflows that keep up with your business.
  • Centrally automate your hybrid IT infrastructure. Manage any combination of on-premises and cloud-based compute, network, and storage resources.
  • Orchestrate processes across applications. Create and manage workflows across multiple applications and platforms, no matter where they reside.
  • Data pipeline orchestration. Put the ops in DataOps by applying DevOps-like methodologies to your data flow design and execution. Centrally manage the automation within existing data tools. 
  • Empower citizen automators. Give business users, developers, and specialists appropriate access to the low- and no-code self-service automation tools they need to succeed.
  • Enable advanced observability. Gain a clear view of system activities from a comprehensive command center that provides alerts, dashboards, SLA monitoring and much more.

SOAPs are designed to orchestrate methodologies across all XOps teams, including DevOps, DataOps, and IT Ops. It even helps drive faster value, improved efficiency, and optimized costs for many of the innovations listed in the hype cycle.

What's Next for You?

Take advantage of the research and analysis that’s already been done for you — read the Gartner Hype Cycle for I&O Automation, 2021 report (Gartner customers only) or sign up with Stonebranch for free access to the 2021 Gartner Market Guide for Service Orchestration and Automation Platforms.

Both reports paint a clear picture of how these critical tools and strategies can help you stay agile and keep up with the pace of business.


"Gartner, Hype Cycle for I&O Automation, 2021," Chris Saunderson, 16 July, 2021.The Hype Cycle for I&O Automation, 2021 graphic was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of the Gartner Hype Cycle for I&O Automation, 2021 report (Gartner customers only) and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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