Pursuing business agility to truly impact business transformation requires embracing IT as a core competency. Having the most up-to- date IT infrastructure to support the scale and complexity of a changing application landscape is crucial to this. Companies must champion this imperative by refreshing server infrastructure, adopting software- defined data center (SDDC) principles, and modernizing their IT management processes. Those that do will propel business innovation and deliver superior customer experiences with fast, secure, reliable business technology.
In December 2018, Dell EMC commissioned Forrester Consulting to evaluate the business value of refreshing servers and infrastructure in enterprise IT departments. Forrester conducted an online survey with 508 IT infrastructure technology decision makers at companies with 100 or more employees in seven countries to explore this topic. We found that although companies are adding data center capacity to support emerging technology workloads, they retain aging servers for longer than they should. We also found that while most organizations have an SDDC strategy, they have made minimal progress. This results in applications that underperform against business needs and infrastructure that hinders the agility of both IT and the business. On the contrary, investing in modern servers yields many business and technical benefits, especially for the organizations that have embraced modernized IT as a core competency.
Servers are not being refreshed quickly enough. On average, 40% of server hardware deployed at company data centers is more than three years old. Companies are adding capacity to support emerging workloads, but they retain aging hardware for four years on average, which is longer than ideal.
The consequence is a lack of agility and unmet business needs. Aging infrastructure and limited progress on SDDC technology adoption are hindering IT organizations from meeting business needs. The result? Time-consuming application updates, application performance that does not meet end user needs, and infrastructure that cannot effectively support emerging workloads like artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Modern servers deliver important business and technical benefits. Many companies are reaping benefits from adopting modern servers. Technical benefits include greater reliability, performance, speed, and scalability. More importantly, business benefits include improved employee productivity, business innovation, and customer experience.
Those that embrace modernized infrastructure management practices earn the most benefits. Companies with a modernized approach to their infrastructure (“Modernized” firms) are investing in emerging technologies at a faster pace than “Aging” firms. As a result, they are driving greater benefits from their server investments and delivering applications that better meet end user needs.
The realm of what is possible within a company’s data center has evolved tremendously since Forrester declared 2013 “year one” of the software-defined data center.1 Adoption of converged and hyperconverged infrastructure has reached 93%, and 94% of firms feel they have made at least some progress toward automating infrastructure provisioning, configuration, and change management tasks.2
Yet, despite these advancements, half of today’s data centers house infrastructure that dates back to before “year one” of the SDDC revolution (in other words: servers that are six years old or older). Companies that retain these aging servers risk being left behind as savvier firms embrace more modern infrastructure. In surveying 508 IT infrastructure decision makers at global companies, we found that:
Up-to-date infrastructure is critical on its own, but it is only one piece of the IT modernization puzzle. With workload and data volumes rising exponentially while the size of IT organizations grows modestly (at best), automation and virtualization are critical to keep pace with business needs. IT leaders now embrace different levels of abstraction by using automation tools, containers, software-defined networks, and composable infrastructure.6 But despite overwhelming interest in adopting SDDC — 95% of firms see value in SDDC as a long-term strategy — only 27% of the firms we surveyed have begun implementing a full SDDC strategy. Additionally, only 20% of respondents feel they have made “excellent” progress toward automating infrastructure provisioning, configuration, and change management tasks. Our survey further revealed that:
Modern servers help companies deliver greater reliability, performance, speed, and scalability. Nearly half of respondents (47%) credited their implementation of modern servers with driving higher systems reliability. Nearly 40% also cited improved application performance, faster application updates, and faster deployments as benefits. Improved management features and increased reliability helped IT organizations achieve greater operational efficiencies in managing their data centers. For example, respondents reported a 31% average reduction in time spent on troubleshooting and 28% less time spent on deployments.
Server upgrades also drive business benefits like employee productivity, security, innovation, and better customer experience. Faster, more reliable applications deliver better end user experiences, which is why increased employee productivity (42%) and improved customer experiences (36%) are among the top-cited benefits when replacing aging servers with modern servers. Productivity gains — within the IT organization and beyond — have given 36% of firms greater ability to support innovation efforts and have enabled nearly a third of companies to reduce their time-to-market by an average of 39%. Modern servers also support better data center security, a benefit that 41% of respondents cited.
Although companies are already realizing significant business and technical benefits by deploying modern servers, their investments can have greater impact when combined with modernized IT processes and supporting technologies. Our survey included a maturity framework to assess the extent to which companies embrace modernized IT as a core competency, as defined by progress toward a series of infrastructure and automation attributes (see Figure 7). While only a small portion of companies in our survey (13%) qualified as completely “Modernized,” they also represent the best of what’s possible through modern server infrastructure and automation.