In this edition of Voices of the Industry, Angie McMillin, vice president and general manager, IT Systems at Vertiv, discusses how a scalable IT management platform can address the challenges IT managers are facing as digitization, remote work and other trends drive industry change.

Angie McMillin, Vice President and General Manager, IT Systems at Vertiv

It is fair to say the global pandemic has induced a paradigm shift in how we do business. Market volatility and fast-changing customer behaviors completely altered how companies operate in virtually every industry. To address these changes, businesses across all sectors have shifted gears in the race to go digital. According to one McKinsey survey,

organizations have accelerated the digitization of customer interactions, supply chain processes, and internal operations by three to four years.

But the ramping up of digital transformation initiatives is just one piece of a puzzle that, for IT managers, is becoming increasingly difficult to solve. As concerns regarding the Delta variant and rising cases of COVID-19 continue to grow, offices all over the world, including Google and Apple, have pushed back return-to-work plans until at least early 2022. Even in a post-COVID world, the flexibility, productivity and other related benefits to working remotely could mean a sizable chunk of the workforce remains at home permanently or incorporates a hybrid model. In Deloitte’s “2021 Return to Workplaces” survey, 68 percent of employers who responded said they plan to implement some sort of hybrid model, staggering the number of employees in the office at any given time.

This major shift to remote work is putting tremendous stress on the edge of the network, and IT professionals are having to work harder to manage their edge resources, reduce network latency and ensure continuous uptime.

Examining Current Challenges for IT Management Processes

So, what are some of the other challenges being faced by IT professionals in this rapidly changing environment? Here are just a few examples:

  • Networks are spreading out: Modern networks often include on-premises and colocated sites, public and private clouds, and a growing edge presence. During the pandemic, 46% of all organizations increased hybrid cloud investments to enable remote workforces, scale digital services, and push computing resources closer to users.
  • Greater edge demand: The demand for data center equipment and edge sites is growing fast with edge spending slated to reach $250.6 billion in 2024. According to IDC, “However edge is defined, the compute, storage, and networking cornerstones gird data creation, analysis, and management outside of the core.” The same article states that this growth has created great value and opportunity for technology ecosystem stakeholders.
  • More complex IT management: IT teams need secure, remote access to a wide array of equipment, including production, development and test servers; non-essential servers; administrative desktops; storage devices; networking equipment; remote rack power distribution units (rPDUs), remote uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems; rack door locks; sensors and cameras; and more. These devices are increasingly packaged with vendor tools, increasing management complexity.
  • IT site access is not guaranteed: During the pandemic, most IT work was done remotely. IT teams may or may not have remote access to all computing resources.
  • IT site access can be costly and time-consuming: In the event of an issue, companies will request a remote engineer inspect the problem in person, which involves travel costs and likely days to fix, depending on the location of the data center.
  • Manual processes don’t scale: IT teams are managing more devices and sites than ever. Using manual processes is likely to create challenges keeping up with demand.

Benefits of Introducing a Modern Management Platform

As an organization’s IT infrastructure transforms in real-time to tackle these challenges, it will need a robust, scalable management platform to support the changing landscape. Those who introduce one of these newer platforms can address these challenges and achieve the following goals:

  • Managing IT device complexity: The influx of 5G, Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence/machine learning is driving explosive growth of compute, network, and storage at the edge. By connecting to IT devices at the edge, organizations gain visibility into health and status and can remotely manage and control their devices from anywhere, anytime.
  • Increasing automation to scale services: By automating device management processes and shortening their deployment times, an organization can increase business agility.
  • Providing a better user experience: It’s now easier to improve the end-user experience with faster video performance, ending substandard video, glitches and online meeting and collaboration tool failure.
  • Ensuring infrastructure resilience: Leverage always-on, always-connected tools for out-of-band device management and enable rapid recovery from any outages, especially at remote sites. A more modern IT management platform allows you to utilize cellular access to connect to sites where ethernet is down or doesn’t exist.
  • Enhancing the security of IT infrastructure: A management platform needs to prevent unauthorized access to devices and tightly control the operations authorized users can perform on them. Additionally, it must provide the ability to manage the firmware on the IT devices so the latest versions are being used.
  • Building for the future: As IT builds for tomorrow’s needs, it is crucial to have a management platform built on open standards and APIs. The platform must also be extensible and easy to integrate into IT systems and have an adaptable and scalable architecture to handle dynamic markets.

Better Infrastructure Solutions for Tomorrow and Beyond

There are new IT management platforms entering the market that provide the data visibility, device access, and automated processes needed to increase speed and improve capacity planning and security. With the new management tools, IT teams can handle more users, devices, and locations than before without sacrificing quality or responsiveness.

Some products are specifically designed to meet the unique challenges of remote work and edge proliferation by incorporating various hardware and software tools to increase edge visibility and remote management capabilities. These types of IT management ecosystems allow organizations to support user and device growth flexibly and rapidly, including use cases where workers need 4K streaming access.

Between the pandemic, the rise of 5G and greater demand for edge computing to support low-latency applications, today’s business demands necessitate a different approach to IT management. By considering these new solutions, organizations can provide their IT teams the tools they need to support their data centers and edge growth as we navigate this new digital terrain.

IT managers who adapt quickly can streamline IT management, strengthen security, support users, and provide the uptime and responsiveness their organizations require. To learn more, read our white paper, “From Enterprise to Edge: Speeding Deployment and Management of Complex IT Infrastructures.”

This article was written by Angie McMillin, vice president and general manager of IT Systems at Vertiv. Vertiv brings together hardware, software, analytics and ongoing services to enable continuous and optimal running of vital applications for data centers, communication networks, and commercial and industrial facilities. Its portfolio comprises power, cooling and IT infrastructure solutions and services, extending from the cloud to the edge of the network. Learn more at Vertiv.