As we discussed in the previous article, load balancing, though by no means a “new” technology, has found renewed focus and relevance among IT leaders, as it has become a crucial component in achieving business resiliency at a time where work environments are so completely distributed.
As businesses start to rebound from the disruption of 2020, load balancing will continue to be a critical cog and priority for CIOs, as the technology will underpin the successful digital transformation initiatives.
As a recent KPMG report argues¹ : “history has shown that companies that take a strategic future-focused investment approach during times of unrest were better placed when the global economy rebounded.”
There are already signs of recovery, Another KPMG report ² found that while nearly 2/3rds of large enterprises said that they have been “significantly impacted on” by the disruption of 2020, 32 per cent of those large enterprises also said that they are now in the recovery stage. Across all businesses – small through enterprise, close to 80 per cent of businesses surveyed are “confident” of their ability to recover.
For many of these companies, the rebound will be technologically driven, with transformation projects providing the foundation for a new, better, way of working.
The challenge with transformation
As noted in Harvard Business Review, the disruption of 2020 has only resulted in an acceleration of existing technology trends: “The rapid spread of technology accelerated by the pandemic has led to a pressing need for businesses and governments to adapt. Many businesses, especially in developing economies, are digitally disconnected… To face these challenges, businesses need to embrace technology and upgrade training programs to equip their workers with the best skills.”
Transformation was the hot topic before the pandemic, and now organisations are being driven to transformation with even greater urgency. The problem is that transformation projects remain a tricky proposition.
A big part of the problem is that too many organisations approach transformation with grandiose expectations, rather than view it as an opportunity to achieve simplicity. Transformation is successful when it aims to modernise the technology environment, and then leverage that to improve the use of applications and the subsequent customer experience.
“Digital transformation is about leveraging the power of technology to modify the way the business model operates. To achieve that, load balancing is a key component in this digital transformation journey,” Kemp Technologies’ principal application experience architect, Frank Yue, said.
“Load balancing provides two distinct benefits: First, load balancing technology enables a flexible and agile framework to evolve the IT architectures. It is the technology that allows a business to move from their legacy ‘brick and mortar’ business to the digitally transformed one with minimal disruption to the business.
“Second, the load balancer enables the availability, scalability, and agility that businesses need in their digitally transformed worlds. Businesses need to adapt fast to be competitive. They need to embrace mobile technologies and other solutions. The customer experience (CX) is critical for a business’ success. And from an IT perspective, CX is all about application experience (AX).”
Building effective engagement around transformation
The partner is critical in the success of a transformation project by being the energy behind interpreting the broad IT vision and structuring practical solutions around it. In this way they can advocate for the kind of scalable and future-ready foundation that will allow the customer so subsequently build on with further projects.
“Digital transformation is as much as people and organisational structure as technological revolution,” Yue said. “Transforming a business process provides no benefit if the people and organisations supporting it are not transformed as well. A great example is what we see with CI/CD, and DevOps. The process is designed to be fluid from app developer, to test, to staging, and then to production. But unless the teams of people are fluid and unified as well, we are stuck with a waterfall model that creates conflict. The developers, QA team, NetOps, and production operations teams need to become one team just like the process.”
And so while an organisation might be looking to AI, deep analytics, augmented reality, the IoT and other end points for transformation projects, the role of the channel partner is to ensure that the organisational buy-in is on preparing the foundations and environment for that first. In many cases enterprises are not aware of how their environment might change over time, and that could result in a transformation project that stagnates when unforeseen roadblocks become difficult to overcome.
“Too often, organisations will say that an application is not mission critical or that since there is only one server running it, they do not need load balancing. They are looking at this from a short-sighted perspective and trying to save a little money upfront, but they will eventually pay the price later. All applications should be load balanced,” Yue said.
“There are a lot of differentiators in the market. We have the concept of application delivery controller (ADC) as a term for load balancers because they are doing many other functions today. What is interesting is that in reality, probably 80 per cent of projects that look for an ADC, really, only need a core load balancer that supports the server load balancing (SLB) and global server load balancing (GSLB) features. The rest is superfluous and ends up adding to cost and complexity. Vendors are trying to differentiate by branching out to other markets such as DDoS mitigation, but this, in turn, dilutes the value of their load balancing solution, which is all that most customers really need.”
Transformation projects are complex, and have the potential to become unwieldy. The failure rate is high, and there is the need for change management across the organisation, so getting executive buy-in, even if they understand the end goal and its ability to prepare the organisation for growth, is a challenge. A partner that is able to come in and demonstrate how proven technology like load balancers is able to deliver the beginnings of transformation is well-placed to be able to drive transformation success for their customers.