F5 Report: Hybrid IT Is Here To Stay

This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala, Author at eWEEK.

Although cloud is the way forward, most IT environments will keep a mix of technologies.

Most of today’s organizations are going through a digital transformation process, where they’re updating their technology, integrating IT systems, and taking advantage of edge computing. At the same time, organizations are dealing with limited resources, the challenges of old technology, and the need to keep their infrastructure stable and manageable.

A whopping 85 percent of organizations have their applications spread across multiple systems and locations, according to findings from F5’s annual report, which surveyed over 1,000 IT decision-makers globally. A typical IT system involves a mix of old and new technologies, with computing power, network, storage, and apps spread out over traditional data centers, cloud services, and edge environments.

So, the term “hybrid” doesn’t just refer to a mix of cloud services. Organizations will keep managing multiple systems and supporting old and new infrastructure and apps.

F5’s 2023 State of Application Strategy Report covers a wide variety of industries, with a notably high number of responses from the government sector and slightly fewer from tech companies than in previous years. The report aims to show what approaches are becoming popular to help guide how businesses plan their strategies. Below are some of the key findings.

Most IT Systems Are a Mix of Different Technologies

Only 15 percent of the respondents said they use just one environment for their apps, while more than a fifth said they use six different environments. There’s no single environment that suits all apps.

Some apps work better in a physical data center, and others work better in one or more clouds. However, public clouds aren’t being used as much as expected. Five years ago, most organizations planned to have half of their apps in the cloud. But three years later, only half of those surveyed had any apps in the cloud. Many are worried about data control, security, or costs.

Although public clouds are still considered a good option, especially for backups, organizations don’t always choose them first for hosting apps. Organizations prefer to host apps on-premises. After years of decrease, the percentage of apps hosted in traditional, on-site data centers has grown to 37 percent. More than half of apps are hosted on-prem in both traditional and cloud environments. Other hosting models, such as public cloud and software as a service (SaaS), have been less popular in 2023.

Today, every organization uses modern apps, subscription-based SaaS, or both. On average, 40 percent of apps used by organizations are modern or have modern components. This includes apps for mobile devices and those built using microservices.

As more apps become modern, fewer organizations must manage old and new apps. More than half (59 percent) of organizations are replacing traditional apps with modern versions, while 46 percent are replacing traditional apps with SaaS.

However, some organizations plan to keep using traditional apps that are important for business operations in industries like banking and insurance. In sectors like energy, healthcare, and telecommunications, where technology change is slow due to regulations, up to 33 percent of organizations plan to use traditional apps.

As organizations go through digital transformation, they must balance the speed of digital change with security and stability. Most organizations that use multiple clouds find it challenging to manage security, performance, and cost. The top challenge in 2023 is the complexity of tools and lack of standardization. The second biggest challenge is applying consistent security policies and optimizing performance.

Digital Transformation Is Becoming a Business Strategy

In 2023, nearly everyone is affected by digital transformation. Digital transformation has surpassed IT to become a business strategy.

Organizations are updating their old systems by automating tasks, growing digital operations, and using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to make better decisions. Automation, for example, can help IT improve systems infrastructure, network infrastructure, app infrastructure, security, and app delivery. As more parts of IT get automated, organizations can become efficient in all those areas.

Digital transformation affects everything from how companies interact with customers to designing and making products. It even touches human resources and legal departments. That’s why organizations need to update systems across their entire business to stay competitive. Nearly half of the respondents said digital transformation has made their operations more efficient, not just IT. It has also helped employee productivity and customer satisfaction.

Most companies (79 percent) deliver digital services to customers, other businesses, or both. Only a fifth provide these services to their own employees. More than half (58 percent) make most of their revenue from digital services. These companies are more likely to have updated apps, use a range of app security and delivery technologies, use public cloud services, buy SaaS, and use edge computing. The rest of the organizations might be focusing on other things like expanding to new areas or making new products.

Security Strategies are Shaped by Time Constraints

In today’s fast-paced digital world, dealing with new security threats is becoming more challenging. Security as a service (SECaaS) simplifies security management, especially for organizations that don’t have enough skilled employees in this area. Some organizations, however, are managing security on their own. They are using different types of technologies to secure their apps, which has increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zero trust is becoming more popular, where approximately 80 percent of organizations are either using or planning to use this model. Zero trust helps stop unauthorized access and can also speed up the release of new features and apps while helping to prevent breaches.

The use of AI/ML is also on the rise, as these technologies allow organizations to react quickly to threats. Additionally, AI is being used to automate tasks and speed up the process of app development, which is currently still very manual and time-consuming.

F5 observed a trend where organizations are using security platforms that provide consistent security across different infrastructures and technologies. These platforms are especially popular in businesses offering digital services to external users, including those in the tech industry. There’s also an increase in the use of the edge in security, which refers to computing that’s done near the source of the data. The fastest growing use of the edge is for monitoring, likely due to increased remote work and Internet of Things (IoT) apps.

Finally, more organizations are adopting a secure software development lifecycle, which involves incorporating security measures throughout the process of creating software. This saves time and reduces the risk of attacks. But there are still some organizations that aren’t thinking about this – or have no security strategy at all.

Key Takeaways

Organizations are figuring out the best way to manage an overwhelming number of apps and application architectures. This often involves using a mix of in-house, cloud-based, and edge computing systems and even using apps as a service. Despite trying to keep things simple, many organizations will continue to use a mix of hybrid and multi-cloud models.

With the push to get things done faster and keep customers happy, organizations will keep choosing methods that offer speed, adaptability, and the ability to improve their digital services. Therefore, organizations are adopting automation, working with partners to consolidate tools, and creating policies that deliver consistent security. Since mixed IT environments aren’t going away any time soon, these solutions will prove helpful to most organizations.

Digital transformation will be different for every organization, even within the same industry. Falling too far behind can make it hard to catch up later, so it’s important to keep updating and moving forward.

Author: Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.