One of the biggest misconceptions about cloud? That it somehow makes IT infrastructure less important. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, infrastructure has never been more critical to the success of the business.

That’s because technology itself has never played a greater role than it does today—helping companies deliver profitable growth, create innovative experiences and operate in a responsible, sustainable way.

Infrastructure is the backbone of the modern “ever-ready” digital enterprise. As discussed in our research on the Cloud Continuum, cloud is no longer just a single, static destination, but an operating model for innovation across a continuum of capabilities and technologies—everything from public cloud to smart devices, digital factories and connected vehicles.

Infrastructure is the foundation that allows companies to seamlessly operate this vast extension of capability. It provides the compute, network, workplace and database platform capabilities needed to run the applications that run the business. It also provides the foundation on which exceptional customer and employee experiences can be built.

New Infrastructure, new challenges

However, as the technology continues to evolve and accelerate—and the demands placed on it continue to grow—IT departments are under ever-more-intense pressure. Traditional approaches are increasingly limiting their ability to adapt, innovate and compete.

What’s changed? As Marc Andreessen famously said, software is eating the world. And this is particularly true in infrastructure engineering. The shift to infrastructure-as-code is creating huge new opportunities for rapid and agile innovation.

At the same time, enterprises are recognizing that “cloud” does not simply mean public cloud. The evolution of the Cloud Continuum requires organizations to dynamically balance public, private, hybrid, co-location, multi-cloud, and edge to support the ever-changing needs of the business.

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Winning companies architect their infrastructure for competitive advantage across an expanding array of capability.

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Plus, consider the distributed nature of today’s workspaces and workloads. In the past, an enterprise typically had a limited number of sites and a finite number of connections to worry about. Now—and especially because of the pandemic—connectivity is required anywhere and everywhere.

For a large global organization, this can mean hundreds of thousands of new locations that need continuous connectivity to the cloud, which dramatically increases the need for modern enterprise networks. These networks must meet a wide and rapidly changing set of business requirements and provide seamless, secure connectivity to data, applications and platforms.

A renaissance in infrastructure

It’s clear that IT infrastructure has become a much more complex environment to orchestrate. If you don’t rethink the way you architect in that environment, you risk ending up with a “spaghetti soup” of complexity—which can have serious real-world consequences.

In the worst cases, IT performance can actually deteriorate in the cloud. Despite the world-leading infrastructure, the high-quality assets, and the more democratized innovation you get from the cloud providers, an enterprise can still struggle to match the level of performance the organization achieved in its on-premises data center. Why? Because the infrastructure and processes, and the skills supporting them, aren’t able to keep pace with new digital business requirements.

This need to rearchitect for the cloud is why we say there’s a renaissance in infrastructure. And a renewed recognition of its criticality to the modern enterprise.

This renaissance is also evident in the availability, sophistication and scalability infrastructure can now deliver. In fact, this is now the single biggest differentiator for a digital business. Winning companies architect their infrastructure for competitive advantage across this wide and expanding array of capability.

This is one of the key reasons the digital natives have had such huge and disruptive success. Modern IT infrastructure enables enterprises to do new things, create new products, develop new offerings, enter new markets, and conduct new experiments at a pace that was previously unthinkable.

Stabilize, optimize, transform

How should enterprises respond to this infrastructure renaissance? Having a modern infrastructure is key, even if your organization isn’t ready to move heavily into cloud. Successful enterprises will still need to run in a more “cloud-like” fashion.

But how? At Accenture, we help organizations modernize their infrastructure at a pace that suits their unique needs through a three-step stabilize–optimize–transform approach.

  1. Stabilizing the existing environment first is critical. If you don't, the organization’s bandwidth will inevitably be taken up with outages and other fire drills. Automation is an essential part of this—especially for repetitive issues and failures.
  2. Then you can think about optimizing infrastructure for the cloud. This includes shifting the organization towards an infrastructure as code approach and, in turn, creates a gateway for DevOps teams to start accelerating the innovation cycle.
  3. The transformation stage involves properly rearchitecting the environment and expanding the infrastructure footprint across the breadth of the Cloud Continuum. Whether it’s public, private, on-prem, or edge, the goal is to ensure each workload ends up in the landing zone that will let it deliver the most value.

A renaissance in infrastructure engineering

Of course, this is not about just the infrastructure itself, but also the talent, skills and career opportunities that go with it.

For infrastructure engineers, the last decade or so hasn’t always been easy. There’s been a persistent nagging feeling their craft was being chipped away, as each part of the stack was abstracted into the cloud.

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Companies who are serious about software should be serious about infrastructure.

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This has all changed. Infrastructure engineers are now at the center of designing and architecting the new systems upon which exceptional experiences are being built. And because the work is increasingly tied to strategic business objectives, it’s more interesting, iterative and collaborative.

Thanks to renewed emphasis on infrastructure capabilities and hybrid architectures, infrastructure engineering is again a place to build a long-term career in enterprise IT–provided IT leaders are ready to create the environment and invest in the training infrastructure engineers need to thrive in the future.

It’s a massive change, and one we understand first-hand at Accenture. Our organization is also embracing this renaissance of IT infrastructure. As part of our $3 billion investment in Cloud First, we’re revitalizing and refreshing our solutions, skills, assets and partnerships to help organizations address these critical needs.

Time to get serious about infrastructure

Alan Kay’s much-quoted view is that “people who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.”

The cloud, of course, is somewhat different. You don’t need to make—or even own—your own hardware. But you do need to rearchitect it if you want to capture the transformative opportunities created by the Cloud Continuum and by the digital economy.

So perhaps today we should say that companies who are serious about software should be serious about infrastructure. And now that every company is a software company, this means everyone.

To learn more about Accenture’s views on the infrastructure renaissance, click here.

Karthik Narain

Lead – Accenture Cloud First

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