There’s a popular, widely-applied metaphor around marathons and sprints. People are quick to tell you that life or business or whatever topic is a marathon, not a sprint. While I appreciate the sentiment, I’ve been a CIO three times, and it’s my observation that IT—and the business that drives it—is a series of heart-pounding sprints punctuated by brief periods of confusion, contemplation, and adjustment—quickly followed by more sprints. These pauses occur as we consider disruptive changes in technology or business, and the next sprint begins when business opportunity and technology suddenly align. For a surprising number of businesses, the next starting gun is about to go off as Microsoft ends support for Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008.
We had a nice, regular IT modernization tempo of hardware and software refresh going in the 1990s and early 2000s that matched the incremental business evolution of the time. Then mobility and social media happened—and the cloud. The way people live and work changed. And just when businesses were trying to adapt to a new wave of customer expectations and business opportunities, IT was contemplating what to do about cloud computing. Should we upgrade our servers and storage, or should we move all our apps to SaaS? Should we use public IaaS services, or should we build our own cloud? Now, however, the contemplation is over, IT is ready to move ahead, and the business is saying “About time!”
Three forces have aligned to signal the next sprint.
- Enterprises have settled on a cloud strategy. The votes are in, and the winner is hybrid cloud. Organizations are looking to a future that consists of on-premises private clouds linked to public clouds and sharing data and applications. DevOps pipelines will flow applications quickly and seamlessly into whichever part of the environment best suits business, technical, and economic needs. Open-source technology and commercial products from vendors like Microsoft, VMware, and Red Hat are already making it happen, and it’s enabling the agility businesses need to survive and thrive.
- A new wave of software is enabling new apps. Analytics, machine learning, and the Internet of Things are enabling new kinds of customer experiences, new levels of operational efficiency, new products and services, and even new business models. Cloud-native environments and containers help accelerate the deployment of new applications and services in hybrid clouds.
- A new generation of hardware—designed and built for the cloud—is ready to power digital transformation. Compared to the systems still in place in most data centers, modern servers based on Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors, solid state drives (SSDs), and Intel® Optane™ DC SSDs can provide three-times the compute power, support up to 16-times more memory, handle up to 2,500-times more IO operations per second, and maintain 40-times the storage capacity. New network interfaces deliver up to 10-times the throughput of earlier ones. And Intel® Trusted Execution Technology helps ensure virtual machines launch in a trusted environment that hasn’t been compromised.
A new generation of software leverages this powerful new hardware. Microsoft products, such as Windows Server* 2016, Windows Server* 2019, and SQL Server* 2017, grow the scale of virtualized environments, bring new cloud-native technologies like containers, and enable hyperconverged infrastructure that’s easier and more cost effective to acquire, deploy, and operate. SQL Server support of Linux OS is a big opportunity, as is the added Linux and Docker* container support of Windows Server.
In all this technology uproar, the long-anticipated end of support for SQL Server 2008 in July 2019 (and Windows Server 2008 just six months later) seems like but a whisper. But it’s the trigger that signals the next sprint for IT. More than half of enterprises are still running it, and each of them must upgrade to a later version in the next year or risk running their datacenters on unsupported software. With a solid cloud strategy now in hand, enterprises will take the opportunity to refresh dated server environments and begin to build the computing environments of the future.
To make infrastructure deployment fast and easy, we’ve teamed with key partners like Microsoft to create Intel® Select Solutions—tested and verified hardware and software configurations optimized for specific workloads and delivered via Intel® OEMs. They feature the Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors, solid state drives, and network interfaces that deliver the performance I described earlier, and they simplify infrastructure acquisition and deployment, so IT can focus on delivering the new applications the business needs.
Get ready to run. Find the Intel® Select Solutions you need to shed the past and begin the next phase of your digital transformation.