Understanding IT Operations vs. IT Infrastructure to Improve Your Operational Stability

There’s a reason the term “infrastructure and operations” (a.k.a. I&O) has entered the common IT parlance. The two areas complement each other. And while they both work hand in hand to ensure service and applications delivery — which drives the revenues of today’s enterprises and service providers — they are not entirely the same.

The Difference Between IT Operations & IT Infrastructure

Let’s take a look at what we mean by IT operations vs. IT infrastructure. IT operations, or IT ops, is a term that encompasses all the activities involved in the setup, design, configuration, deployment and maintenance of the infrastructure that supports business services. It has moved to the forefront of service delivery and is a key driver of operational stability because it maintains an overall perspective on all the management aspects related to delivering on the business mission.

IT Infrastructure refers to the cornucopia of technologies that constitute the physical and virtual systems that provide the networking, processing and storage capabilities that services depend on.

Of course, to achieve positive business outcomes, the desired I&O outcome is operational stability. Today’s IT ops teams need to provide a level of predictability that makes it possible to support frequent and rapid innovation without disruption to existing services and operations.

Easier said than done. But the more harmonious the relationship between your I&O efforts, the greater the potential to excel in the delivery of services and positive business outcomes.

Factors Influencing IT Operations vs. IT Infrastructure

To drill into this topic, we must first appreciate the dramatic shift in the infrastructure landscape over the past several years.

In the past decade, cloud adoption has emerged as the predominant IT operations model. It has completely transformed the manner in which IT infrastructure is constituted, used and managed. The move from traditional infrastructure models to the cloud is growing and unavoidable. A recent Smarter With Gartner brief emphasizes this IT infrastructure trend and predicts that “by 2022, cloud shift across key enterprise IT markets will increase to 28%.”

An added complexity is the combined use of private and public clouds. Public cloud solutions provide cost optimization, agility, flexibility, scalability and elasticity. But in many IT ops settings, there is a need for a private cloud solution that has the benefit of providing superior control, compliance, security and reliability features. This typically leads to having to maintain a hybrid cloud infrastructure that leverages the best features of both options.

To truly leverage these capabilities, it has become essential to incorporate some form of edge computing into the overall picture. Edge computing offers an increase in IT operations efficiencies by moving some of the data processing closer to the sources of data, thereby reducing response times and providing overall gains in efficiency.

A quote from the aforementioned Gartner brief explains the combined benefits of cloud and edge computing: “Cloud computing and edge are complementary, rather than competitive or mutually exclusive. Organizations that use them together will benefit from the synergies of solutions that maximize the benefits of both centralized and decentralized models.”*

Ensuring Stability Using IT Operations Trends

All well and good. But what of the operational aspects? To start with, it demands a different approach than one that most IT ops teams have traditionally used.

A second Smarter With Gartner** brief discusses the top IT operations trends in 2020 impacting I&O and advises that “today’s I&O professionals must be willing to move beyond legacy practices and mindsets to embrace trends that will profoundly impact I&O teams and the capabilities they provide their business.”

As digital transformation revolutionizes modern business, the IT organization plays an important role in facilitating the delivery of business services. It is more important than ever for IT operations teams to directly align with the needs of the business.

This involves a rethinking of organizational structures, processes, metrics and skill sets to line up closely with business stakeholders.

The IT Operations & Infrastructure Best Practices Checklist

Let’s look at a checklist of IT operations monitoring best practices to help IT ops teams ensure maximum operational efficiency in 2020:

  • Teams need to embrace new IT operations tools as they get incorporated into the infrastructure. This involves ensuring the proper skill sets are in place by both hiring and personnel growth strategies.
  • They need to have the ability to rapidly respond to the needs of the business. This involves organizing activities and teams with a product-centric approach rather than around the traditional silos such as network, storage and computing.
  • They need to leverage intelligent IT ops automation to eliminate low value, repetitive and time-intensive activities.
  • Metrics need to be redefined around key performance indicators (KPIs) that focus on customer and business needs. A focus on these kinds of KPIs ensures that the IT organization’s activities are properly aligned with the goals of the business stakeholders.

Failing to adapt in the world of I&O has the potential to not only derail digital transformation, but to adversely affect the competitiveness of the entire business model.

An efficient and effective I&O organization that works in a complementary fashion has the potential to reap the benefits of new business opportunities, while at the same time retaining the revenue streams of the past by ensuring operational stability at all times.

*Smarter With Gartner, Modernize IT Infrastructure in a Hybrid World, Laurence Goasduff, March 5, 2019.

**Smarter With Gartner, Top 10 Trends Impacting Infrastructure Operations for 2020, Meghan Rimol, December 10, 2019.

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