Virtualization Technology News and Information
Managing Unpredictability and Planning for the Future of IT

By Dave Wagner, Senior Manager, Product Marketing - Application Management, SolarWinds

Despite highs and lows in the market, the economy was booming before the pandemic and businesses were largely focused on one thing-growth.

IT teams everywhere were accelerating their digital transformation strategy and investing in specific areas with the intentions of increasing their market share. In the retail industry, IT departments were working with brick-and-mortar stores to move services online to reach more customers, and supply chains were implementing new IT services to increase efficiencies. But then came COVID-19, and the world seemed to change fundamentally. IT teams need to remember this wasn't the first time they experienced unpredictable change. The market crash in October 1987 was the first time any exchanges had ever hit 1 Billion share trade volumes; most systems failed to work, post-trade settlements fell outside government mandates, and massive financial penalties ensued. There have been many such "black swans" over the years with a serious impact on businesses globally.

In these uncertain moments, we go into crisis mode and tell ourselves once this blows over we'll focus on contingency planning to avoid harsh repercussions in the future. However, more often than not, once things get back to normal, we become complacent-it's human nature.

When the pandemic hit, IT departments had to switch gears quickly and go into survival mode. With almost no notice, they had to start adapting their infrastructures to meet unprecedented and unpredictable demand requirements. Not only was this something IT infrastructures were relatively unprepared for, but they felt enormous pressure from leadership teams. Time was of the essence as teams tried to get huge workforces running remotely and adapt to completely unpredicted changes in demand. The smallest mishap could have been the difference between a business staying alive or going under.

Now, almost six months into the COVID-19 outbreak, IT infrastructure is much more stable. We're moving into discussions about key learnings and how we can plan for the next "unknown."

Planning for Unpredictable Times

There's nothing IT teams hate more than when "the unpredictable" comes knocking on the door.

This change in demand can lead to a bottleneck effect with the potential to impede business. The main challenge is, even though there are applications and infrastructure to support significant changes, not everything is written in modern languages or stored in containers for rapid, on-demand deployment in highly flexible and scalable cloud environments. And despite a quick acceleration to the cloud, the back end of many hybrid applications is likely still on-premises, which can put a great deal of stress on the system.

As IT teams start to plan-as much as they can-for moments of unpredictably, we expect there to be more adoption of public clouds and containerized solutions because of their dynamic and elastic capacity to meet changing demand. This will allow IT departments to be more focused on implementing and strengthening these solutions for their organizations. But making the shift from on-premises solutions isn't always seamless, so IT pros will need to be careful about how they make these switches.

When teams, their applications, and their infrastructures were on-prem, they had access to dedicated capacity planners for forecasting and scenario planning in advance of demand changes. But, as current trends in demand growth continue to accelerate, it'll become more difficult to plan. As a result, an ability to adapt will be integral to the success of IT.

IT teams also need to prioritize adapting services that have seen a collapse in demand to optimize IT costs. Take travel booking services for example. These types of businesses were hit hard by the pandemic and are looking to squeeze costs out of their supply chains and IT infrastructures without hurting the business overall.

One of the best ways to know how to adapt your IT infrastructure is through capturing metrics indicating these performance needs by monitoring them. Monitoring the appropriate metrics allows organizations to meet demand needs quickly without breaking anything by giving IT pros the insight into the infrastructure they need to do this effectively-from the database to storage solutions to the network-but all in the context of the key business metrics: response time, throughput, and errors.

Businesses will continue to adopt new online applications which will only further increase the need for application performance monitoring (APM). This will impact IT teams as they're going to be asked to get their work done form home using only the tools they have-in the best way they can. APM tools will be used to help IT pros see how systems are operating and clarify exactly what the new normal looks like from the perspective of the end users, especially as remote work becomes more standard.

Think One Step Ahead

While the first and biggest challenge related to the pandemic was the massive shift to remote work and its impact on infrastructures, organizations now clearly need to be thinking one step ahead and preparing for other unplanned events in the future. Integrated monitoring strategies will be a part of this, but capacity optimization will be just as important.

Over the last few years, capacity optimization hasn't been enforced as a discipline or priority-with organizations instead focusing on business growth and market share. This said, the current situation has clearly demonstrated capacity optimization needs to make a comeback and start to once again be a focus area for IT teams. IT pros should look more carefully at the amount and type of resources needed to be consumed by applications for digital commerce to carefully optimize both the cost and ability to scale elastically. In fact, you can't cut costs while minimizing risks to service performance and availability without having proper capacity optimization processes and instrumentation in place. Whether you're using cloud or on-prem technologies, you need to worry about the noisy neighbor effect and contention for resources, or a slowdown in service.

This isn't the first time IT teams have been challenged and it won't be the last, but it's important now to prioritize contingency planning. Extensive scenario planning for both dynamic infrastructural capacity and cost-effectivity is now a must and IT pros should ensure they have the right tools in place should the unthinkable happen-again. Full-stack APM for all apps and infrastructure meets these requirement.


About the Author

David Wagner 

Dave Wagner is a senior manager of product marketing at SolarWinds with over 20 years of experience focused on IT performance and optimization. In his current role, Dave works closely with product management and corporate marketing to ensure alignment in go-to-market strategy and messaging for the SolarWinds application performance monitoring (APM) products. Prior to joining SolarWinds, Dave served as CTO of OpsDataStore, business development principal for TeamQuest, and vice president, marketing and sales at Solution Labs Inc. 
Published Monday, November 30, 2020 12:37 PM by David Marshall
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