By Paul Cragg, CTO, Easynet
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. With the widespread acclaim and commercial advantage that comes from being first to market, it has been sniffed at by innovative, trailblazing businesses -until now. It’s time to bury our collective pride and learn from other businesses, as global analysts Gartner introduce us to the term ‘Web-scale IT’. This basically involves us looking to the likes of Google, Facebook, Netflix and Amazon and other large cloud-based businesses, and applying their approaches to IT to our own organisations.
“But how can we?” I hear you shout. “We make and sell actual things, not digital stuff! There are only 200 of us – and our revenue isn’t $15 billion yet”. No matter. This isn’t about having vast resource and copying their business models line by line: it’s about learning from their successes in IT, rethinking how we do things, and working that into our organisations, whether we’re IT vendors or purchasers.
Larger providers such as Google, Facebook and Amazon are taking the old model of delivering IT services, and turning it on its head. By 2017, says Gartner, Web-scale IT will be an architectural approach found operating in 50 percent of global enterprises, up from less than 10 percent in 2013.
By 2020, 25% of global enterprise CIOs will have had previous involvement in corporate Web-scale IT initiatives, they predict. So if we want to be part of that 50%, to help our business adapt to change and lead our markets, what can we learn from those vast, highly-respected businesses?
1. Nurture home-grown talent
Large scale cloud providers do things differently. They make the most of the talent they have, and think of different ways to deliver IT, from redesigning data centres to looking afresh at server, storage and networking hardware.
Have a good look at the talent inside your business. What else could you bring in-house? Chances are, you’ll be amazed at the skills they have – and I’m not just talking about the closet Scrabble Champion, or the expert tennis coach here. Staff should embrace the opportunity to do things differently, to make suggestions, to progress their careers, and act as changemakers.
2. Share and share alike
The likes of Amazon, Facebook and Google happily share their strategic technology plans, as fine examples of best practice. Use them. If data centres are your thing, take a virtual tour of theirs, and look at their data centre blueprints to see how they conserve energy, maintain monitoring and management, increase efficiencies and drive down costs.
Then make the most of the fact that you don’t have to jump through hoops to source project approval if you want to do the same– see point 3.
Despite these businesses being some of the largest in the world, they remain nimble, mainly because they – and their systems –can react quickly to change.
This is where smaller companies should have the advantage, not held back by the confines of huge business cases and board approvals. Systems and processes should be set-up with agility and flexibility at the core, so that changes can take place without the need for upgrading all systems at once.
These businesses know what’s going on across their networks. There’s no Network Bermuda Triangle in which applications mysteriously disappear. They understand applications: which applications the business needs, how they’re designed and how those applications perform. All businesses should arm themselves with this knowledge.
5. Set up shop
Look at how applications are delivered. Companies with their own Enterprise App Stores are not uncommon, and nor are those companies necessarily the tech giants – you can easily and cost-effectively introduce your own, which will enable staff to select from a number of sanctioned but effective applications to help them improve their productivity, and help you keep your organisation secure.
6. Transparency and open-source
Having spent the best part of a decade attempting to ‘do more with less’, consumers and enterprise buyers alike are now demanding openness and transparency when they part with their money. Where is their budget going? What are they getting for it? What are the alternatives?
Because the likes of Facebook, Amazon and Google are built on interactivity and dialogue, creating communities, they are by nature open and transparent. Their IT systems are based on the same characteristics: open-source is common to larger cloud providers. With collaborative software and tools at the heart, open-source creates an IT level playing-field and meritocracy, as those with the key skills, at whatever level in the organisation, can influence business performance.
Open-source reduces costs and increases choice. And for those businesses still scared by open-source: tell your teams that if they use Firefox or Apache, they’re using open-source every day without realising it.
“The influence of DevOps on IT culture, tools, processes and organisational structure is resulting in the acceleration of application delivery and an environment of continuous experimentation” says the aforementioned Haight.
‘Experimentation’ isn’t a word which goes down well with many businesses, but replace it with ‘innovation’ and it becomes less about risk and more about opportunity. By working together, DevOps – developers and operations – are producing impressive results: increased automation and ultimately a better customer experience.
By introducing a few collaboration tools, there’s no reason why developers and operations shouldn’t work more closely in all businesses, not just the Googles of this world.
8. Next generation cloud
You would hope that these large cloud providers have got it sussed when it comes to cloud – used across the business and sold in to clients – and there’s nothing they don’t know. For those of us who are not tech giants, it’s about making sure our cloud platform can cope with our changing business. For many of us, this is about adopting a hybrid approach, integrating different cloud platforms and different architectures.
And for those 48% of us who are still concerned about a loss of control in the cloud – it’s time to look to the Google, Facebook and Amazon and take their lead – if companies their size aren’t worried about a loss of control in the cloud, nor should we!
9. Commercial opportunities
For those businesses that have successfully adopted Web-scale IT, there is nothing stopping them packaging their approach and looking at the commercial opportunities which derive from rolling it out to other organisations. This in turn stimulates the tech economy and creates competition as others do the same. It also paves the way for companies like Nutanix, based on selling in web-scale infrastructure to mainstream enterprises.
10. Creating a customer-led culture which embraces change and rewards innovation
Clearly a change in culture isn’t going to happen overnight. We can only integrate Web-scale IT across our businesses if everyone is willing to rethink their approach to IT, and to do things differently. We need to empower staff, reward innovation, and encourage employees to embrace change and see it as an opportunity.
Customers are at the heart of this business shift, and the ultimate goal of Web-scale IT must be to improve the customer’s experience. Whether we choose to view Web-scale IT as a buzzword, or take steps now to integrate it into our organisations, we can always learn from other businesses.
And if that doesn’t convince you, allow me to hand over to Chinese philosopher Confucius for the last word: “He who learns but does not think, is lost. He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger”.
Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.