Key factors in the decline of on-premises data centers

9 in 10 organizations will move workloads off premises by 2022, and only 1 in 4 IT pros would give their current company infrastructure strategies an "A," says a new report from INAP.

Why compliance concerns are pushing more big companies to the cloud Cloud migration is accelerating as companies face compliance, security, and control concerns.

When only 25.2% of IT professionals would grant their current company infrastructure strategies an "A," you have an idea of what the other nearly 75% think of the setup in which they work, according to a recent report from INAP. 

It boils down to network performance, the No. 1 reason for shifting workloads to colocation facilities or the cloud. (A colocation center is also called a "carrier hotel," and is a data center where equipment, space, and bandwidth are available for rental to retail customers.) 

The popular reason, "cost saving," also plays a role, albeit a smaller one, and when making the decision to close down on-premise facilities, it ranked fifth.

INAP surveyed 500 IT professionals in North America with data center, server, and cloud infrastructure responsibilities and at least 100 employees. The survey accessed the four main reasons driving the off-premises migration, and the results may signal the death of the on-premise data center. 

"Companies are even more committed to a hybrid and multi-cloud infrastructure strategy and predict a significant reduction in on-premise data center footprints ," said Jennifer Curry, INAP's senior vice president of Global Cloud Services. 

SEE: Special report: The cloud v. data center decision (free PDF) (TechRepublic Premium)

Nearly half of those surveyed lament that infrastructure monitoring is included in their job responsibilities, and they aren't happy with how much of their job it consumes, saying it is the No. 1 time-drain for the second consecutive year. 

When asked what they would do if the routine assignments like server monitoring and maintenance were taken off their workload, last year, they told INAP it was "reclaiming work-life balance," but this year, that top response moved down to third.

As is often the case, a company's culture and an employee's experience often directly correlates how well that company, or department, is managed. There was a disparate difference of opinion between senior IT leaders and non-senior infrastructure managers. Speaking of those non-senior infrastructure managers, they were two times more likely to grade their infrastructure strategy a "C."

Highest marks were awarded based on four factors

Off-Premises Mitigators: Those who graded "A" have a significantly smaller workload portion on-premise (on average, 30% of workloads), compared with "Cs" and below (45%).  In other words, those with colocation centers rated their infrastructure strategy higher.

Colocation Customers: 31% of IT pros who have colocation as part of their infrastructure mix give themselves an "A," six points higher than the total population. 

Cloud Diversifiers: Among companies already in the cloud , those that only host with public cloud platforms (AWS, Azure, Google) are less likely to give themselves "As" than those that adopt multicloud platform strategies (18% vs. 29%). 

Managed Services Super Users: The more companies rely on third parties or cloud providers to fully manage their hosted environments (up to the application layer), the more likely they are to assign their infrastructure strategy an "A." The average share of workloads fully managed: "As," 71%; "Bs" 62%; and "Cs" 54%.

Reasons for low infrastructure scores

  • The infrastructure we use is not fully optimized for our applications, 42%
  • We spend too much time managing and maintaining the infrastructure, 42%
  • Overall, we lack the people or skills required to get the most out of our infrastructure strategy, 31%
  • Overall, our budget does not support an optimal infrastructure strategy, 31% 
  • Our network performance is slow or more unreliable than it could be, 28%
  • The infrastructure we use is not reliable or redundant, increasing risk of downtime. 25%
  • The infrastructure we use is not fully secure/is susceptible to breach, 22%

Moving out

Nearly nine in 10 organizations with on-premise data centers will be moving at least some of their workloads to the cloud, managed hosting or colocation in the next three years. 

Where survey respondents currently host (excluding SaaS & PaaS) 

  1. Mix of cloud/managed hosting, colocation, on-premise  (31%); Only have on-premise data centers (19%) 
  2. Combo of on-premise and hosted  (18%); Combo of colocation and on-premise  (12%) 
  3. Only cloud/managed hosting  (8%); Combo of cloud/managed hosting and colocation (8%) 
  4. Colocation only  4% 
  5. The future of IT infrastructure is hybrid, according to the report.
  6. 77% hosted private cloud
  7. 75% hyper scale public cloud
  8. 54% colocation data center
  9. 32% hosted bare metal or dedicated servers.

"IT pros increasingly believe their value to the organization is higher when they're spending less time on activities related to infrastructure upkeep," Curry added. "When asked what they'd focus on with hypothetical time back in their workweeks, a higher concentration selected activities revolved around improving the product and the application layer of their infrastructure stack. Additionally, we saw a significantly higher share of organizations considering colocation as part of their infrastructure mix alongside private cloud and the major public cloud IaaS platforms."

The following are the reasons given for the move to cloud and colo, from most responses to least:

  1. Improve network performance
  2. Improve infrastructure and application scalability 
  3. Improve infrastructure or data center resiliency/availability (e.g. deploying new disaster recovery environments, achieve higher uptime)
  4. Improve infrastructure or data center security 
  5. Reduce costs/on-premise data centers too expensive 
  6. Shifting IT strategy away from Capital Expenditures (owning infrastructure) to Operational Expenditures 
  7. Eliminate compliance concerns over on-premise data center/infrastructure 
  8. Newly deployed applications will perform better in hosted or cloud environment 
  9. Refactoring existing applications for performance and efficiency 
  10. Staffing/management skill shortages 
  11. Staffing/management resourcing limitations 

A phone call away

It's always on, so IT infrastructure management is a 24/7/365-day job and the IT professionals report that they are interrupted 6.24 times a month, during personal time or non-work hours.

The four big reasons driving off-premises migration

  1. Improve network performance
  2. Application scalability 
  3. Resiliency
  4. Infrastructure and data center security

Hybrid

Two in three cloud users deploy on more than one platform, further supporting that hybrid IT and multicloud strategies make life easier for IT pros.

"What we found was that, overall, IT leaders are satisfied with their strategies, but most agree there is room for improvement," Curry said. "Only a small number strongly feel hybrid and multicloud strategies have made their lives easier."  

Frustrations and the shifting role of IT

Some, 39% (the largest group) somewhat agree that they are frustrated by the amount of their time is taken up by routine tasks and busywork. 

The majority, 46%,  also somewhat agree they could bring more value to their organization if they spent less time on routine tasks like server monitoring and maintenance.

The majority of the pros surveyed, 72%, say their headcount is adequate, and large enough to execute the company IT infrastructure (but only 10% of non-seniors agree with them).  This was surprising to INAP, "IT teams don't think throwing more headcount at the issue fixes anything. To me, this reiterates that frustrations are about role—not capability," Curry said.        

The top infrastructure activity (also No. 1 last year) that IT pros (48%) agree they spend too much time on is monitoring. Operating system and hardware maintenance come in second (42%) and third (40%).

"Infrastructure monitoring continues to be IT's most loathed time magnet," Curry said. "In general, we see that teams spend too much energy on routine activities and upkeep and are looking for new solutions and partners to offload those responsibilities. Doing so allows internal experts to focus on value-added activities."

Those extra hours

Respondents were asked to divide their time across a range of activities if 16 hours of their times was hypothetically given back, or the unrealized benefits of an IT department. The top response was developing /innovating new applications and/or products, followed by reclaiming a work-life balance,  and enhancing existing applications.

"For infrastructure strategies to truly earn top marks in the hybrid and multicloud era, enterprises need to do two things, according to the results of our survey," Curry said. 

"First, they must ensure each platform is optimized for the unique needs of their workloads. In other words, don't go all-in on one solution or cloud if it's detrimental to the performance of certain applications," she said.

"Second, all of that infrastructure spread out across multiple data centers and clouds needs to be centrally managed, monitored and secured with efficiency. This is no easy feat, so my recommendation would be to seek out partners who understand how to design performance-driven architectures and partners who can provide you the flexibility and support required to give your teams the peace of mind and the ability to focus on what matters most."'

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