Pressure rises on IT executives to get their digital acts together

The majority of IT leaders in a recent survey are concerned about being left behind. Can microservices, containers, and service meshes pave the way to digital transformation quickly and safely?

When it comes to digital transformation, the clock is ticking, and the pressure is rising.  In a recent survey, 51% of executives predict that an inability to get their digital transformation acts together will likely result in their companies going out of business -- and soon, within the next three to four years. This dire prediction is up 14 percentage points from a year ago. At the same time, 62% say a more tech-savvy competitor could quickly displace their own companies in their markets. For most IT executives and managers, this is a personal concern as well. 

The survey of 400 executives released by Kong Inc., shows just about all, 89%, believe creating new digital experiences is the key in today's economy. What do they see helping to deliver these new experiences? Microservices, containers, open source and service meshes are the critical building blocks.

There are career implications as well. More than two-thirds of this group, 67%, expect their careers could suffer if they don't successfully deliver modernization initiatives such as cloud, microservices, and other transformative technologies. 

A majority, 87%, are now using microservices, and the same percentage say the failure to adopt microservices will hurt their company's ability to compete. The main reasons (beyond cost) that are driving enterprises to transition to microservices include the following:  

  • Increase security (63%) 
  • Integrate new tech faster (59%) 
  • Increase speed of development (57%) 
  • Increase infrastructure flexibility (52%) 

Challenges with microservices include the following:

  • Security issues (37% overall)
  • Complexity of managing services across platforms (32%)
  • Connecting all services to create an end-to-end digital experience (29%)
  • Communication among various teams working on different microservices (26%)
  • Difficulty integrating existing monoliths with microservices (23%, down from 32% the prior year)

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Eighty-six percent of organizations are already using or planning to use the Kubernetes open source container orchestration system, with only 5% with no plans to do so in the next 12 months. "This data demonstrates that Kubernetes has emerged as the standard operating environment for applications built with modern distributed architectures," the survey's authors point out. At the same time, they report that serverless has reached a significant adoption rate of 29% as an alternative to the use of containers.

Ninety-one percent report working with open-source solutions. The types of open source technologies used most include: databases (57%), infrastructure automation (47%), API design, testing and automation (46%), and API gateway (38%) and containers (38%), which are enabling technologies to develop, deploy and manage applications with distributed architectures based on microservices. 

In pursuit of IT modernization and digital transformation, there may be a bump in technology budgets. Three-quarters (75%) of survey participants expect to see an increase in their IT/developer budgets in the next 12 months, with 27% of respondents expecting an increase of 25-50% in their budgets and 5% of participants expecting to see more than an increase of 50%. Sixty-four percent of respondents say they will continue to pursue multi-year digital transformation initiatives. When asked about the impact the pandemic has had on their company's IT/developer budget over the last 12 months, 55% of respondents reported an increase. 

While the rush to digital is on, technology leaders are saying whoa, not too fast -- they are not willing to forsake quality for speed. In addition, technology professionals feel application security and performance are more important than reducing costs and time to market. When asked to rank business priorities, improve operational efficiency (39%), improve application performance/reliability (37%) and improve application security (35%) were deemed higher priorities than reduce cost (33%) and accelerate innovation (27%).