It stands to reason that you must do more than simply adopt new digital technologies, to 'digitally transform.' However, I have found that there are still quite a few companies that think they’re done if they simply purchase innovative new digital hardware or software. But, unless you’re strategic about your overall approach, you can easily miss the boat on actual transformation.
What strategy is best for putting digital transformation into practice? Whatever approach you choose, an important step is to design products and processes so that they can easily change and adapt as a company’s—or customers’—needs change. As I look around our industry, I make a point of thinking this way about digital transformation.
In considering what helps companies truly transform, some key metrics can be helpful:
- The Linux operating system—as well as Linux-based open-source databases—has grown significantly in the enterprise over the last several years.
- There has also been significant development in container technology and its role in the enterprise.
- Business leaders feel a lot of uncertainty about what the future holds for the enterprise.
Recent research from Dell captured the essence of this uncertainty that’s in the minds of many executives. In Dell’s survey of 4,000 business leaders worldwide, they found that 45 percent fear their company may become obsolete in the next three to five years. Nearly half (48 percent) said they weren’t even sure what their industry will look like three years down the road. And close to 80 percent expressed feeling threatened by digital startups, clearly worrying that tomorrow someone else might completely annihilate what they’re working so hard on today.
Leaning Into Change
Leaders aren’t crazy to feel this way. Pressure continues to increase in all directions—from competitors and customers, as well as the C-suite. As just one example of how quickly and dramatically digitization can change businesses and whole industries, think about how we buy groceries. If you talked to the executives at Safeway last year, they likely would have given a very different answer about who their competitors are than if you talked to them today, now that Amazon has bought Whole Foods.
Another important consideration in strategic transformation is identification of current pain points that many enterprises share. For example, many of today’s businesses are faced with managing a significant amount of legacy infrastructure. Hundreds of millions of operating systems have been installed for Windows and Linux, and an operating system doesn’t exist in a vacuum—every OS is on some kind of server, whether physical, virtual or cloud. Also, every server has a whole host of other components that go with it, from power and cooling, to storage and networking. So one area that companies should target is solving the dichotomous issue of having a ton of disparate infrastructure that needs to undergo transformation, but needing to do so in a way that minimizes business impact.
Some technologies do help companies to harness infrastructure more dynamically, so that organizations can stay open to the changing environment rather than stuck in one place. These technologies allow companies to take their workloads and move them independently of each other—to the best execution venue that makes sense for them. Companies that do this see a quick reduction in the number of operating systems needed—and because of that reduction, they also experience faster transformation of their infrastructure.
With the growth of Linux and container-based applications in the enterprise, companies today are rarely just Windows or just Linux. If you walk into any major company today and ask 'How many versions of this do you have, and how many editions of that do you have?' nobody’s going to say, 'We’re just vanilla—we have only one edition of this and one version of that.' That’s just no longer realistic.
Since companies inevitably possess a mix of infrastructure, versioning and editions, the best thing they can do now is find a way to unify their disparate environment before continuing down the road of further technology adoption. In other words, they need to ensure unified Smart Availability across their environment to continue down the road to true digital transformation.
The ideal solution gives companies the flexibility to manage the multi-platform environments their legacy database applications—SQL Server, Oracle and more—necessitate. Ideally, it would provide the capability to sustain future needs around Docker containers as well. The key is for enterprises to have a way to do this without having to standardize their entire infrastructure on a single database or single operating system edition or version.
To me, the digital transformation is about having a tool that helps companies simplify that chaotic environment, allowing them to encapsulate their workloads on the fly. It’s about the ability to move workloads from any host, to any host, anywhere in their environment, at any point in time by supporting a mixed operating system environment. This approach optimizes enterprise operations by unlocking the freedom to dynamically move workloads to always run on their best execution venues.
Here’s the bigger reason why this approach is a game-changer: when companies have the ability to encapsulate workloads and move them around, they can start to think differently about how they manage their applications. Instead of thinking, 'I’ve got it here, running on this old box, and I’ve got to migrate it to this new box,' migration is no longer the conversation piece. Instead, it becomes about moving each workload where it makes the most sense. Because it may be that the old box does some things pretty well, but for a certain time during the month, it would be nice to be able to take advantage of another capability on more suitable infrastructure.
With the ability to dynamically move stateful instances and containers around, a company could take something that’s running on a bare-metal box, move it to a virtual machine, take it to the cloud and then decide to move it back on premises. Each of these processes can take place in a matter of seconds. In short, this offers a way for companies to start reimagining high availability. Instead of workload-specific targets, now workloads are free to move wherever they need to go to ensure best execution environment at any point in time. It’s the ultimate enabler for enterprise adaptability—the legs needed for any successful digital transformation.