What's Missing From Your Infrastructure Tooling?

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Many Infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders are struggling to keep up with the wide range of tech required for digital business success, such as the cloud, edge computing, IoT, and containers. It was hard enough to manage technology when it was all located in our facilities! It is fiendishly difficult to do this well in a world where infrastructure is everywhere. This would be tough enough in ordinary times, but "normal" is in short supply these days. The pandemic response has increased the penalties for poor technology management and the opportunities for nimble and flexible organizations. I&O leaders can't do everything, so choosing what to do - and what NOT to do - is the key to navigating a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world.  Clients are asking us, "What tools can help us manage our platforms for digital business and maximize the value we get from our technology investments?" Frankly, while many vendors are doing some useful work in many areas of Hybrid Digital Infrastructure Management (HDIM), we have identified a critical gap that is ripe for filling. We looked of over 100 vendors' offerings that support HDIM. None can credibly provide a single view of technology value and optimize application workload placement across all environments and lifecycle phases. (We welcome hearing from vendors that can prove us wrong on this!) This puts the burden on I&O leaders and their teams to put together the different pieces of the puzzle so they can manage the technology lifecycle, identify improvement opportunities, act on them, and show the benefits. This could be easily misunderstood as a call for a "new monolith", but that is not the case. Here is a useful analogy. Computers rely on a program called the kernel to schedule software access to different hardware. Without it, computing would be much harder: Every piece of software would have to include a lot of extra code to tell all the different hardware elements what to do and when The range of hardware we could use would be small Changes would require a lot of time and expertise The kernel instead coordinates this work so each component can focus on what it does best. That's why every general purpose computer used today includes a kernel. Our digital businesses are like computers without a kernel. There is an operating system of sort formed by the HDIM tools in use. However, product and development teams must spend a lot of time on meeting non-functional requirements rather than functional business needs. Changes in either hardware or software can lead to failure. While techniques like DevOps can help, challenges with scaling and dependencies overwhelm many organizations. Clearly, digital business needs a kernel to mediate between digital products and the underlying digital platforms that serve them. We propose that a new market of tools that we are provisionally referring to as “digital platform kernel” or “DPK” tools will become the answer to addressing these challenges. (see figure below)         Clients need a “DPK” tool that can enable them to see their full estate, review their options for increasing value (supported by analytics and AI/ML), and translate decisions into action. It must also integrate with the existing tools (and those yet to come) that manage various technologies and environments. For example, this tool could identify where a lower tier of service from a cloud provider could be used that would still deliver promised performance levels for an application. It would then coordinate with a cloud management tool to execute that change.  If you are a Gartner client wrestling with this challenge, we would love to hear from you and learn what capabilities you’re prioritizing in your “DPK” tool to help you lead your organizations into the digital business era.

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