As the digital revolution continues to gather pace, enterprise IT infrastructure is undergoing unprecedented change, which is driving a seismic shift in the on-premise, off-premise, and hybrid infrastructure worlds.

Long gone are the days of a relatively simple IT infrastructure that includes a server, a consistent stack of system software, and applications accessing either direct-attached or shared storage with shared network infrastructure deployed and maintained in a relatively static configuration throughout its entire life cycle.

Today, that is quickly changing to a virtualised, containerised, optimised, and increasingly software-defined paradigm that makes IT environments anything but static, while the development and deployment of applications is becoming more closely related to base infrastructure software layers.

We find ourselves in an era of commoditisation and transition from hardware to software differentiation in the form of software-defined infrastructure (SDI). The use of SDI promises to reduce barriers to entry, increase customer choice, and minimise vendor lock-in, while it also ties seamlessly into services creation and reduces infrastructure costs.

The industry is rapidly evolving toward hybrid IT architectures that rely on a wide range of off-premise and on-premise IT resources. And this evolution is sending shock waves through the entire enterprise, disrupting roles and responsibilities that have long been taken for granted.

Indeed, the growing use of off-premise resources affects all elements of the IT department, from procurement to design to development to operations to long-term data and asset management. It also impacts the compliance, legal, security, and risk functions, elevating data management discussions to boardroom level.

In light of this, IT teams must shift their focus from maintaining components to delivering policy-based services across dynamic hybrid architectures. And in line with this shift, business-centric SLAs will replace uptime and availability as KPIs and workloads become more portable and software controlled.

The quest for agile development and business engagement is becoming a key driver for transformation as organisations pivot from the client/server era of the second platform to a more modern third platform environment that has cloud, mobile, big data, and social technologies at its core.

The impact of this change cannot be understated since it affects all areas of a company’s IT, particularly for data centre investments and the design and deployment of next-generation cloud-enabled applications, end-to-end IT infrastructure, and application life-cycle management.

It will also have a profound on the design and deployment of DevOps processes as organisations increasingly look to enable a more agile relationship between application development and IT operations by promoting better communication and collaboration between these two crucial functions.

DevOps — literally a composite of development and operations — signifies the merger of application development and IT operations at many levels, including culture, process workflows, and infrastructure management, as well as application creation, life-cycle management, deployment, and delivery.

Although most often associated with stateless, cloud-native applications optimised for public cloud infrastructure, DevOps methodologies, tools, and platforms can also be applied to traditional application development.

The litmus test for DevOps is fundamentally based on whether an organisation has embraced a collaborative, business-centric approach to development that values tight links between business decision makers, application coders, and IT operations and infrastructure in order to accelerate digital business transformation.

The benefits of employing a DevOps approach are clear to see, as enterprises that embrace DevOps processes and enabling technologies stand to increase their number of annual application code releases by as much as 50 per cent — often moving from quarterly or semi-annual releases to monthly or even weekly or daily deployments.

Applications that rely on many microservices to enable a single logical application will be particularly important to the increase in code releases as developer teams can operate more independently and push forward code updates when ready for each individual microservice.

Improved DevOps represents just one of the many benefits offered by the new software-driven infrastructure model that many organisations are now pursuing. This model enables much greater flexibility, leading to better utilisation of compute, storage, and network resources, and it is undoubtedly a positive development for enterprise IT.

However, IT teams must embrace substantial organisational and process change and invest in new technologies and operational approaches that can be quite daunting. The returns can only possibly come after the investment, and it is important to realise that the size of this investment will not be trivial for many organisations.

Jyoti Lalchandani is group vice-president and regional managing director for the Middle East, Africa and Turkey at global ICT market intelligence and advisory firm International Data Corporation (IDC). He can be contacted via Twitter @JyotiIDC. Content for this week’s feature leverages global, regional, and local research studies undertaken by IDC.