The comic strips of our childhood fascinate us. A once prosperous city falls under the shroud of crime. Enemies of various origins and shapes attack it from all sides. The horizons darken and all seems to be lost. Then magically, the superheroes arrive. Armed with x-ray vision, mighty punches, or ability to freeze the enemies in their tracks, they vanquish the invaders and the skies clear up again.
IT as superheroes
In the world of business, IT has been playing the role of superheroes. Every day the challenges are unique. Systems for day-to-day operations suddenly fail. Cyber attackers attempt to siphon confidential information. Business demands new technology to stay ahead of the competition. How can the superheroes facing stagnant budgets, staffing challenges, and aging infrastructure meet these needs?
Weapons for the superheroes
In the past, IT superheroes’ weapons have been traditional. They included on-premise data centers, associated networks, and monolithic software systems. IT teams themselves had to sharpen the weapons and hone the skills to use them.
With cloud, the landscape has changed. The weapons have proliferated and can be used by anyone without oversight, security, and compliance. The underground economy of shadow IT has taken roots.
Hybrid IT model promises to bring all IT domains out of the shadows into unified management. Business-critical processes and applications stay on-premise. On-demand applications get sourced from the cloud; now with the right policy, security, and measurements. Sounds great, but easier said than done. Hence, new weapons are needed.
Platforms as trusted weapons
In my opinion, platforms can be those weapons. I use the term ‘platform’ in a rather broad sense to encompass automated hardware, software, or composite systems that support applications and services for digital business.
Take a note of what the platforms have done to the world of smartphones. Just a decade ago, the phone ran on a single platform – its own operating system running on a chip-set inside the phone. Modern smartphones like the iPhone opened up the option to run apps on device and cloud-based platforms. As a result, innovative apps like voice recognition ran on the hybrid system and allowed the phone to interpret our queries, gather answers, and respond in real time.
Similarly, platforms enable IT to focus on innovation. Available platforms ranging from integrated infrastructure stacks to software stacks automate specific foundational functions for IT. The functions include application development management, data management, and service delivery. Once such functions are in place, IT can focus on building or procuring innovative applications that run on the platforms. In essence, the platforms become IT’s secret weapons.
Immortal IT superheroes
Superheroes need to be immortal. They need to reincarnate themselves as challenges evolve. IT superheroes can derive their immortality from platforms that keep pace with industry trends. For example, as IT is asked to support Internet of Things (IoT), platforms that allow distributed intelligence and low-power management of sensors would take center-stage. As real-time data analytics become as important as Big Data analytics, platforms would emphasize network-awareness.
How the platform will evolve remains to be seen. Traditionally, IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS have been the labels used to categorize cloud platforms and applications. But such demarcations may change over time. Recently, Cisco’s CTO Zorawar Biri Singh, articulated a platform-based vision encompassing data center, cloud, networking, and analytics. If we look to smartphone ecosystems as a model, in the future some IT platforms may end up being tightly integrated like Apple platforms. Others may be loosely coupled with complementary platforms, the way Google Android platform is; and be driven via partnerships, industry standards, or consortia. In addition, the platforms will need to adapt with new technology breakthroughs related to interconnected robots and virtual reality that are on the horizon. The immortal IT superheroes would be ready to harness the new powers.
IT would maintain the cape of superheroes defending business worlds from competitive disadvantage, security threats, and industry obsolescence. The new weapons of defense will be automated platforms that enable digital business. With platform-based strategies, IT can reinvent and innovate towards bright horizons.
Images – Comic vector designed by Freepik