SolarWinds, a leading provider of powerful and affordable IT management software, today released the findings of its annual state-of-the-industry study. The new study reveals the state of today’s IT landscape: IT professionals are continuing to prioritize investments in cloud computing as they grapple with how to leverage the benefits of emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. A juxtaposition of the findings with other independent research also suggests a misalignment between the IT investment priorities of the practitioners surveyed and their leaders.
The IT Trends Report 2018: The Intersection of Hype and Performance, the company’s annual report on IT trends, explores the spectrum of today’s existing and emerging technologies, and the extent to which they are disrupting IT and optimizing the performance of environments as organizations progress in their digital transformation journeys.
Overall, North American IT professionals are prioritizing investments in cloud computing and hybrid IT more than any other technology; 94 percent of respondents indicate that cloud/hybrid IT are one of the top five most important technologies to their organization’s IT strategy today. By contrast, just two years ago, over one-third of IT professionals indicated, as part of the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2016: The Hybrid IT Evolution, that cloud computing was somewhat important or not important at all. While AI and machine learning (ML) are not currently the highest priorities for IT professionals, optimizing cloud/hybrid IT environments creates a critical pathway to eventually deploy and capture the compelling benefits of these emerging technologies.
However, the rapid adoption of new technologies has created environments that are not optimized for peak performance. Nearly half (47 percent) of the survey respondents indicate their environments are not optimized and reported spending 50 percent or more of their time reactively maintaining and troubleshooting. In increasing numbers, IT professionals appear to be addressing the challenges introduced by the cloud and hybrid IT through investment in containers: 44 percent of respondents ranked containers as one of the most important technology priorities today, a significant jump in adoption when compared to the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2017: Portrait of a Hybrid IT Organization, in which just 15 percent of IT professionals planned to develop containerization skills in the year ahead.
At the same time, IT professional respondents also cite inadequate organizational strategy (43 percent) and training (42 percent) as common barriers to system optimization. Ultimately, to keep pace with changing environments and achieve successful digital transformation, today’s IT professionals require new skill sets and deeper strategic collaboration with business leaders.
“The narrative in today’s IT industry revolves around transformative technologies like AI, machine learning, blockchain, and more. These technologies are unquestionably important, but the results of this year’s study reveal that IT professionals are still prioritizing investments in technologies that help run day-to-day operations, and choosing initiatives that deliver more immediate value,” said Joe Kim, executive vice president and global chief technology officer, SolarWinds. “The SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2018 shows IT professionals are focusing in on proven technologies that deliver value today, like cloud and containers, with an eye toward AI for tomorrow.”
“This is how most IT professionals currently are optimizing their environments to help unlock additional performance for their organizations,” he added.
2018 Key Findings
The SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2018: The Intersection of Hype and Performance explores IT professionals’ view about what is happening in their technology worlds, and how their organizations are prioritizing existing and emerging technologies. Key findings show the following:
*Cloud computing and hybrid IT will remain IT professionals’ top priority for the next five years, as these elements meet today’s business needs while serving as the backbone to trends like ML and AI.
- 94 percent of IT professionals surveyed indicate that cloud and/or hybrid IT is one of the top five most important technologies in their IT organization’s technology strategy today, with 51 percent listing cloud/hybrid IT as their number one most important technology.
- When ranking the most important technologies today and for digital transformation over the next three to five years, as well as technologies with the greatest potential to provide productivity/efficiency benefits and ROI, IT professionals ranked cloud and/or hybrid IT as number one across the board (by weighted rank).
- Automation is ranked as the number two priority for technology strategy today, as well as for the greatest potential to provide productivity/efficiency benefits and ROI today.
- IT professionals ranked big data analytics as number two when it comes to technologies/management tools needed for digital transformation over the next three to five years.
*At the same time, IT professionals are prioritizing internal investments in containers as a proven solution to the challenges of cloud computing and hybrid IT and a key enabler of innovation.
- 44 percent of respondents ranked containers as the most important technology priority today, and 38 percent of respondents ranked containers as the most important technology priority three to five years from now.
- The ability for container deployments to simplify application challenges introduced by hybrid IT has caused IT professionals’ investment in container technology to skyrocket in the last 12 months: according to the 2017 SolarWinds IT Trends Report: Portrait of a Hybrid IT Organization, only 15 percent of respondents had planned to develop containerization skills in the year ahead.
- Concurrently, AI and ML investments are expected to gain importance over the next three to five years.
- 37 percent of respondents indicate that AI is the primary priority and 31 percent of respondents indicate machine learning is the primary priority three to five years from now (compared to 29 percent and 21 percent today, respectively).
- Cloud service providers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure are investing heavily in AI technologies and capabilities, which presents an opportunity for IT professionals to leverage existing investment in cloud offerings to experiment with and deploy AI-based services in their organizations.
*The results of the IT Trends Survey suggest a dissonance between the views of IT professionals and their senior managers on priorities for IT investment over the next three to five years.
- On the weighted list of technologies IT professionals believe are needed for an IT organization’s digital transformation over the next three to five years, AI did not even make the top five.
- This contrasts with a recent CEO survey by Fortune, which found that 81 percent of CEOs consider AI and machine learning to be a priority for their business, up from just 54 percent in 2016.
- As AI and machine learning continue to mature, IT professionals will be required to have a fundamental understanding of these technologies and their capabilities to act as an educated liaison for business leadership when it comes time to consider the benefits of adoption.
*While IT professionals continue prioritizing cloud computing and hybrid IT, adoption of these technologies has made it challenging to optimize performance of their systems and applications.
- 58 percent of IT professionals surveyed indicated that by weighted rank, cloud/hybrid IT is the greatest challenge when it comes to implementation, rollout, and/or day-to-day performance. This is followed closely by automation and software-defined everything technologies.
- Nearly half (47 percent) of all IT professionals surveyed think that their IT environments are not operating at optimal levels.
- Over half of all IT pros surveyed spend less than 25 percent of their time proactively optimizing performance, and only one in 20 IT professionals spend 75 percent or more of their time doing so.
- Nearly half of IT professionals spend 50 percent or more of their time reactively maintaining and troubleshooting their IT environment.
- This echoes findings from the 2017 SolarWinds IT Trends Report: Portrait of a Hybrid IT Organization, in which 35 percent of IT pros surveyed who migrated critical applications and infrastructure to the cloud ultimately brought back/left area(s) on-premises due to security concerns, budget, and performance issues.
*Many IT professionals cite a lack of organizational strategy and inadequate investment in areas such as user training as the most common barriers to system optimization.
- Of IT professionals indicating that their environments are not optimized, 43 percent ranked inadequate organizational strategy as one of the top three barriers to achieving optimization, followed closely by inadequate investment in other areas, such as user and technology training (42 percent).
- To achieve optimized performance and work toward a successful digital transformation, IT professionals require deeper strategic collaboration with business leaders.
To explore and interact with all of the 2018 findings, please visit the SolarWinds IT Trends Index, a dynamic web experience that presents the study’s findings by region, including charts, graphs, socially shareable elements, and additional insights into the data.
The findings of this year’s North American report are based on a survey fielded in December 2017, which yielded responses from 234 IT practitioners, managers, and directors in the United States and Canada from public-and private-sector small, mid-size, and enterprise companies. All regions studied in 2018, as reported on the SolarWinds IT Trends Index, were North America, Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the United Kingdom, with 803 respondents across all geographies combined.