Tipping the scale

In 2014, Gartner coined the term ‘Web-scale IT’ and predicted that by 2017 it will be an architectural approach found functioning in 50 percent of enterprises globally. With the unprecedented rise of an inevitable data-driven world, this IT approach is expected to help businesses achieve the agility, scalability and business growth that meet rising industry demands.Web scale

The rise of digital business has, to some extent, redefined success for many organisations, attributing it to a company’s ability to respond to their customers more quickly and efficiently at a massive scale.

The pervasiveness of cloud, increasing amounts of data and complex application requirements have given birth to a new architectural approach which research firm Gartner calls Web-scale IT. The firm’s Chief of Research, Infrastructure and Operations Cameron Haight explains that Web-scale IT pertains to a systematised pattern that enables the capabilities of large cloud service providers within an enterprise IT setting.

Cloud service companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook have been using this approach in delivering their respective services. Gartner believes that if enterprises want to keep pace, they have to emulate the architectures, methods and practices of these companies.

Web-scale IT enables businesses to seamlessly connect and utilise cloud environments. It also introduces increased scalability and agility to the data centre, and application development to further drive value creation for enterprises.

Although traditional architectural approaches are still well-suited and effective for some IT infrastructures, industry experts highlight that these may not be able to deliver the speed, agility and scalability businesses need going forward.

“Even though traditional IT infrastructures have also changed especially with the recent industry developments it is still very silo-base,” says Chris Burnet, Cloud Services and Software Solutions Manager, Middle East, Eastern Europe, Africa and Russia, NetApp. “IT teams within companies will need to procure a particular infrastructure, buy hardware, configure it with the data centre, get it provisioned and so on.

“Whereas with Web-scale IT or, as we call it at NetApp, hyper-scale IT, companies are able to deliver IT services on-demand without having to go through all the manual activities before actually getting everything online and moving the necessary workloads. Companies can deploy their offerings at a massive scale and their customers are able to quickly and securely access them at any time,” explains Burnet.

While both DevOps and Web-scale IT are focused on employing a quick and agile approach within the organisation, Burnet says that the two should not be confused with one another. “DevOps focuses more on the culture or practice that fosters collaboration and communication amongst an organisation’s software developers, IT operations team, quality and risk management teams and so on. It is emphasised in the way the people within these teams are utilising the third platform while harmoniously working together to achieve various goals in that space,” he says.

“The Web-scale approach,” he explains, “is more about maintaining a resilient infrastructure. It involves the management of infrastructures, which marries agile applications and systematic processes at any scale. The two are fundamentally different as one focused more on the software and the other is more about the infrastructure.”

Organisations in the Middle East region are always on the look out for technological disruptions and new strategies to adopt, especially in countries like the UAE and Qatar. Web-scale IT can present numerous benefits for businesses in this region and will help them better position their organisations in the impending digital era.

Shams Hasan, Enterprise Product Manager, Middle East, Dell, points out that today more than ever, technology is critical to driving business results, finding and capturing scarce resources, optimising operations, and innovating for future growth.  “At the same time, business and technology leaders must also look at making responsible technology investments whilst ensuring their businesses are future-ready.  There is a widespread increase in the adoption of IT trends that optimise costs, maximise efficiency, and simplify management of rapidly growing IT infrastructure and ecosystems.

“In our region, we see more and more customers trying to take advantage of these particular advancements and also increasingly outsourcing to the cloud,” he says.

Burnet agrees with this notion sharing that since the market is not yet big enough to support data centres for big web-based companies, there is a huge opportunity for network providers to assist companies with Web-scale approaches. “There are several companies with whom we’ve had dialogues with previously, who have mentioned that they are eyeing to provide services similar to Amazon’s in this market. We see the demand for Web-scale ramping up significantly,” he says. “Even though the region has been lagging behind when it comes to this strategy, we can see that network providers are often quick to catch up on these kinds of technology disruptors. And, in the next three to five years I think there will be a massive explosion of cloud services both from the incumbent network providers and the hyper-scalers.”

Furthermore, Hasan identifies that as this trend gains traction he also sees that there willl be a huge unmet demand that managed service providers (MSPs) must try to cater to.  “In our region MSPs such as MEEZA and eHDF will  be early adopters of Web-scale like solutions,” he says. “Web-scale technology strategies, projects, and implementations have very long-term horizons and will evolve over time in our region.  However, the adoption will also depend on vendor technology offerings embracing cloud-optimised and software-defined solutions.”

Although adopting Web-scale IT methodologies does not particularly mean the business will grow to the same extent as Facebook, Google or Amazon, the approach is not restricted to just companies of that scale. Haight notes in the Gartner report that, “a smaller business could achieve a higher IT velocity than its bigger rivals through Web-scale IT, enabling first mover advantage with new opportunities.”

The industry regards the Web-scale approach as the future, as it can be instrumental for organisations of many sizes to scale faster and cheaper, and adapt more quickly in the digital era.

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