Let’s get definitions out of the way. If you have been wondering about the difference between IT Transformation and Digital Transformation (DX) then you are not alone. Many IT professionals and business commentators have stepped in to clarify what these differences boil down to, but in many cases, they have only raised more questions. As we move into 2021, enterprises are deep into projects that are designed to better align technology with business outcomes and as they do so, the idea of transformation appears with almost regular monotony.
If you are a regular reader of social media postings and are likely to spend hours scrolling through the many commentaries that appear on these sites, then you may already have come across Jason Bloomberg, President at Intellyx (a group of Agile DX analysts). In a post back on September 17, 2018, you would have come across his explanation that stands alone when it comes to clarity:
“Digital transformation has been all the rage for half a decade now, but to this day, people are still confused about the specifics.
“IT transformation, on the other hand, is easier to understand. After all, it is clearly about technology. It includes changing various governance processes and revamping organizational silos to be sure, but all such changes center on technology. Basically, enterprise IT typically sucks in so many ways that if we can make it all suck less, we can count such a transformation in the win column.
“Digital transformation, in contrast, centers on the customer. Not that technology isn’t important to digital transformation, of course. As we say at Intellyx, digital transformation is software-empowered and customer-driven.”
I turned to social media to look at how others treated the difference between DX and IT transformation because the topic kept coming up in my dealings with my clients. Almost exclusively, they want to see NonStop participating in transformations that result in the better alignment with business outcomes. Stated another way, my clients are looking for bigger improvements being achieved by the complete NonStop product portfolio when it comes to how NonStop helps enterprises to better compete in their respective markets. Availability, scalability and security (including all aspects of data integrity) are important attributes and well regarded in terms of helping NonStop distance itself from other systems supporting an enterprises’ IT infrastructure but the question remains, can NonStop do more for the enterprise?
Of course, this is the view of NonStop vendors and when it comes to NonStop users there is a slight twist to the storyline. While they appreciate NonStop’s major attributes, they want to see a less intrusive participation by NonStop within IT. By this, they imply a reduction in the need to invest is special skills to program NonStop, to operate NonStop and in general, to manage the end-to-end workloads that typically find their way onto NonStop systems. NonStop users want to use the same tools, utilities and languages that are in-use already within the enterprise. This is where IT transformation is being seen as possible with today’s NonStop. IT transformation is about technology and here the NonStop team has gone to great lengths over the past couple of years to ensure nothing special is needed to leverage the full spectrum of capabilities NonStop affords its users today.
It’s hard to ignore the many hurdles HPE IT had to clear before it executed a plan to transform in a way that both surprised the industry and challenged the historical relationship it had with a major vendor. Optimizing the way HPE IT deployed databases, it chose to move away from the thousands of instances of Oracle to where NonStop SQL became the one database that all applications could access. In so pursuing this IT transformation, it was made easier by NonStop SQL providing a level of Oracle compatibility that surprised many – how could you come off Oracle so easily and meet your database needs with NonStop SQL? How could you discontinue thousands of support and maintenance licenses in a manner that generated real savings across all of HPE IT? The simple fact is NonStop SQL is architected to never need to come down for any reason and that of itself, generated a level of support within the IT organization to push ahead with this major IT transformation.
“Revamping organizational silos to be sure …” Hard to ignore the accomplishment of the HPE IT organization once this transformation had been done as now the HPE organization could turn to one place for all its data needs. However, there’s a lot more to IT transformation than simply swapping out one platform for another. Technology never sleeps, to paraphrase a popular expression, whether it recalls the name of a city or simply references oxidation of the worst kind. But seriously, there is nothing bigger looming on the horizon than clouds. The ease with which they provide an almost magical level of immediacy whenever provisioning of resources are required as well as accommodate a degree of elasticity unimaginable only a decade ago. Whether you view clouds as a platform or as a resource to be tapped it matters little as all IT heads have turned towards clouds and are exploring options to best capitalize on their architecture.
Whenever HPE executives talk about the future of HPE, their language always is couched in terms of being a future IT leader. As we all heard Peter Ungaro, HPE’s Senior VP and GM, HPC and MCS, describe this future of HPE as one where it becomes “the world’s leading edge to cloud platform as a service company.” Belying the simplicity of this goal is the reality that IT will be transformed. The expectation here being the way in which IT organizations deployed technology will be phased out as a complex mesh network of edge points interacting with a core that increasingly will become cloud like takes over. All for the benefit of IT in terms of simplicity but just as importantly, providing an IT technology that better supports this new age of insight. Before stringing together even more potential clichés, it’s important to realize that this will all be delivered in stages or phases even as the IT professionals among us take stock of the respective risk and reward ratios that will need to be examined in detail.
When you consider how much change has taken place within the NonStop product portfolio, it is surprising to see that the number of options as to how best to deploy NonStop has never been greater. Following the move to commodity hardware and the support of industry-standard software – languages, tools and utilities – NonStop became a software solution capable of running on traditional or virtual machines. This transformation of NonStop should not be overlooked or ignored. It’s a major achievement that sets up NonStop for a bright future. Furthermore, the ability to run NonStop SQL on the basis of DBaaS should be viewed as yet another product in the NonStop product portfolio in so far as those IT organizations already familiar with NonStop and the optimal way to manage NonStop can now consider turning to their own private cloud deployments as a resource out of which they can support an always-on SQL database unmatched by any other database product offering in terms of availability. And did I mention, NonStop SQL is Oracle compatible?
If you missed reading the March 9, 2020, post by Manager, Worldwide HPE NonStop Product Management Karen Copeland to the HPE community blog, Modernizing the development world of NonStop applications you will have missed reading of how easy is to integrate NonStop into any development environment:
“IT organizations have many options for implementing and optimizing applications on HPE NonStop servers using DevOps tools. For instance, you can use Git and GitHUB to build applications and store in a repository. Jenkins provides an automation server supporting the creation of pipelines. Nexus and Artifactory can be used for artifact repositories. And Ansible is ideal for making applications production-ready.
“What may also surprise CIOs is how DevOps tools like Git and Jenkins can be used to develop applications even as NonStop developers directly interface with products like Ansible. What may surprise IT management even more is that NonStop engineers actively use GitHUB, Jenkins, Ansible and other open source tools for DevOps to deliver many new offerings for the NonStop platform.”
This is important for all IT organizations and really needs to be repeated on a regular basis. In terms of adding NonStop into your IT infrastructure, it can be treated in the same way as any other system. This is a huge accomplishment for the NonStop team and we cannot ignore the business value that this provides in terms of leveraging human capital already in place. IT transformation will always start with the makeup of the IT team and in this regard, NonStop is a worthy participant.
DX may be attracting the bigger headlines. IT transformation may be viewed as little more than IT modernization efforts but that sells short the efforts being made to not just modernize, but there really is more to it; replacing a system or a platform with another only tells part of the story. The more important aspect of IT transformation has to do with the way we then utilize the replacements being made; “Revamping organizational silos to be sure …” adds the human element and the way we pursue business utilizing the skillsets we have invested in and that is the biggest benefit that comes with including NonStop in any planned IT transformation under consideration for 2021.