One thing IT leaders always seem interested in is what their peers are doing. So, I wanted to share the main infrastructure challenges and priorities we’re seeing right now.
While we’re witnessing growing interest in artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), many IT leaders are still preoccupied with stabilising their foundations and executing their cloud strategy. So, reducing complexity, optimising performance, increasing security and simplifying management, and through this lowering cost, remain very important – with the continued move to ‘as-a-Service’ delivery a key part of this.
1 Segmenting the cloud
Moving workloads to the cloud can be highly beneficial, but which cloud should you move them to? Increasingly, we’re seeing organisations using more than one provider in order to make best use of the cloud. AWS is often favoured for web and mobile applications, especially where these are a core part of customer interaction, because AWS is a more open platform for development than Microsoft Azure. Whereas, Azure is usually favoured for business applications and internal workloads as well as being the platform favoured by Citrix.
2 Re-architecting bespoke systems for the cloud
Whereas the first phase of cloud adoption focused on moving workloads to Infrastructure-as-a-Service, I’m now seeing a lot of large organisations rearchitecting bespoke systems for the cloud in order to also get them off-premise. Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) provides a complete development and deployment environment in the cloud – crucially it allows you to side-step the cost and complexity of buying and managing software licences, the application infrastructure, middleware, development tools, database management systems and business intelligence services. So, all you worry about is managing the applications and services you develop. And, as you’re now delivering these from the cloud, it becomes easier to give users any place access to them.
3 Getting cloud management right
One of the benefits of the cloud should be a reduced management overhead – after all someone else is looking after the underlying infrastructure for you – but I see a lot of organisations struggling here.
Management can be cumbersome, especially when you’ve got multiple providers, and there’s a strong argument for getting a specialist to do some of this for you. If online is core to your business manage that yourself. But, do you really want or need to be managing user accounts, backup and other day-to-day activities?
Cost comparison tools now enable us to see which providers are cheaper and to move non-critical workloads to optimise value for our customers – but only where we’re responsible for the tenant. One of the challenges with segmenting your use of the cloud is that the tools aren’t yet available to manage from a single pain of glass. But this will change. We’ll soon be providing our customers with a single pain view of consumption, and management will follow. So, I’d think carefully before committing much resource to developing your own solution.
4 Migration from Windows 7
If you have Windows 7 PCs, you should already be aware that extended support ends on 14 January 2020. I know there’s still a lot of organisations using Windows 7, but I don’t see Microsoft extending that 14 January deadline. After then, if you want security updates you will need to subscribe to the Extended Security Update programme on a per device, per year basis. Pricing hasn’t yet been released but it is expected to be high to encourage Windows 10 adoption. Incidentally, if you think that application incompatibility is preventing migration, be aware that you can run a virtual Windows 7 PC within Windows 10, provided you’ve still got your installation disk.
There are many good things about Windows 10 which will lighten the IT workload, such as increased security, improved identity management and the ongoing feature updates – which mean that you won’t be facing another Windows migration for a long time, if at all. Windows 10 is synonymous with Windows-as-a-Service and this brings with a change of mindset too. As you move to cloud delivery, you’ll want to replace some traditional management methods (see 5, below) and as you move from step-change migrations to twice yearly feature updates and you will need a new process to support this.
I’ve consistently heard IT Directors say they’d underestimated how long it would take, so if you’re already planning to move to Windows 10, don’t delay. If you’ve not yet started, consider using a readiness assessment or the like to accelerate your migration.
5 Modern management
With Windows 10, especially when combined with Office 365, you’re already starting to move desktop delivery into the cloud. Microsoft’s ‘modern management’ approach provides simplified, cloud management for Windows 10 devices and deserves serious consideration as part of your Windows 10 project. If you’re unfamiliar with this, ‘What is modern management?’ provides a very readable introduction.
In parallel with this, HP’s Device-as-a-Service offers the potential to move your end-user computing another step closer to ‘desktop-as-a-service’. The service incorporates device monitoring and out-of-tolerance performance alerts which can trigger pre-emptive incident resolution, as well as the option of having HP’s service desk undertake a lot of day-to-day tasks for you. With it, some organisations will be able to replace several existing tools with one that is effectively free.
Which brings me nicely to my next point.
6 Optimising value
Most IT leaders are under ongoing pressure to reduce costs and deliver value, yet we consistently find untapped opportunities to do so in organisations we talk to. Most are using Office 365 for mail online, but missing out on some great functionality that they’re already licenced for: Microsoft Teams (see 7 below), SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business.
Modern management is another good example. If you’re using Microsoft 365 you’re already licenced for Microsoft Intune, as part of the Enterprise Mobility + Security suite. This now very effective mobile device management solution enables you to dispense with existing AirWatch, Lightspeed or MobileIron licences. Combine it with Windows Autopilot and, as well as making the management of Windows 10 devices easier and more efficient, you could be dispensing with Group Policy and System Center Configuration Manager.
Finally, we’re also seeing a lot of large organisations ripping out big ticket collaboration solutions and replacing them with Microsoft Teams, Microsoft’s unified communications platform. While this is likely to require some expensive integration work the savings on licences and devices may be several times more. For some, the use of soft phones and IP telephony will provide telecoms savings also, and if you need to attract millennials the option of Bluetooth headsets, rather than desk phones, is proving popular.
As with any generic list, not everything here is necessarily for everyone. But most should find several worthy additions to their IT agenda. The best recommendations always follow on from a sound understanding of an organisation’s strategy and needs, so if you’d like to explore your strategy or to explore any of the points above please do get in touch – either through your account manager or our contact us page.