Digital Transformation Starts with Infrastructure

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    Business models around the world are rapidly shifting from selling products to monetizing services. It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, if you are not generating revenue by digitally connecting to consumers, the future of your enterprise is in doubt.

    While this digital transformation requires new approaches to organizational structures, workforce skillsets, business processes and customer relationships, it all starts with infrastructure. Static, silo-laden data systems are out; agile, software-defined architectures are in.

    But how, exactly, are traditional enterprises supposed to implement such a radical upgrade in time to ward off competition from digitally driven upstarts who are unburdened by legacy infrastructure? To be sure, it will take a concerted effort, and a clearly defined strategy as to how digital transformation can be optimized for the enterprise’s unique market strengths.

    According to The Hackett Group, a Miami-based consultancy, companies that have embraced digital transformation spend 21 percent less per end user than traditional firms, producing an average annual savings of $41 million on revenues of $10 billion or more. They are also more adept at using IT to drive strategic imperatives and develop new market opportunities rather than simply supporting legacy business activities. But this requires technology to be reallocated from transactional support to value-added activities through formalized services delivery models and a more efficient ITIL framework. As well, systems should be re-engineered toward more user-centric service and delivery, enabling greater self-service for customers, employees, partners and other stakeholders.

    Two key elements that are badly in need of transformation are storage and networking, says Julian Starr, head of systems engineering at Brocade UK. In a recent interview with IT Pro Portal, Starr notes that the combination of Flash storage and Gen 6 Fibre Channel will imbue most legacy infrastructure with continuous availability, resource agility and flexible configuration capabilities that drive performance. A key goal in digital transformation is to connect users with critical applications and data at lightning speeds, but this must be done without locking platforms into static, predictable growth patterns that ultimately stifle development and innovation.

    Many of the world’s leading platform providers, in fact, are retooling their flagship product lines around these agile concepts. Hitachi Data Systems recently introduced new automation, cloud and unified computing (UC) initiatives aimed at helping the enterprise meet the challenges of digital transformation. By matching the Hitachi Enterprise Cloud (HEC) platform with a new management automation strategy atop converged infrastructure, the company says it can deliver a pre-configured, application-centric data ecosystem that lowers costs and supports broad scalability across hybrid architectures. The platform makes heavy use of VMware’s vRealize suite for broad on-premises and cloud resource integration, while at the same time maintaining OpenStack compliance for extensive third-party development and support.

    Fresh from its recent merger, Dell-EMC is hitting the digital ground running with the new Elastic Cloud Storage (ECS) 3.0 platform that enables an object-oriented management system to support application deployment and consumption across distributed architectures, and it provides a 60 percent reduction in operational costs over current public cloud solutions. At the same time, the company has released an all-Flash version of the Isilon NAS system that provides an agile footing for the large volumes of unstructured data that are increasingly becoming the focus of advanced analytics in Big Data and IoT workflows.

    Unfortunately, there is no template for change of this magnitude. Even with a world-class technology partner, the enterprise must implement digital transformation on its own terms, not its vendors’, with a clear understanding of what needs to be changed and how success is to be defined.

    An established enterprise already has the customers, the market savvy and the know-how to compete in today’s economy. All it needs is the infrastructure to compete in tomorrow’s.

    Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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