Why agile IT is rewriting the business rulebook

As the so-called ‘sharing economy’ gathers pace around the world, it seems there’s no industry Silicon Valley can’t disrupt. From Uber and established taxi companies, to AirBnB and well-known hoteliers, traditional businesses are finding themselves outmanoeuvred and undercut by digital revolutionaries harnessing the power of peer-to-peer connections.

Crucially, the IT capabilities of these new entrants aren’t simply supporting their businesses - they are their businesses. These companies have minimal assets, manufacture nothing and make no physical sales. Examine the underlying business models at work and it becomes clear that eBay isn’t a retailer, any more than TaskRabbit is a recruiter.

What makes these organisations successful is pure connectivity; it’s the ability to link buyers, sellers, service providers and more in a cohesive digital ecosystem. The lynchpin for all this is agile IT that delivers massive scalability with minimal overheads.

Ahead in the cloud
The cloud is often the first choice for agile, disruptive businesses - allowing them to move at software development speeds and not be slowed down by hardware provisioning. As Mike Curtis, VP of Engineering at Airbnb, commented: “We started entirely on AWS, and those companies that just missed the mark have hundreds or thousands of engineers managing their data centres…I think it is important for our engineers to focus as much as possible on the things that are unique to our business, not running a ton of infrastructure”.

When more established players in the sharing economy do invest in their own data centres, they operate them on cloud-based principles to drive up agility. eBay recently finished construction on an 18MW facility in Salt Lake City, Utah – but this and its other data centres support an OpenStack private cloud that runs all the company’s critical workloads, including its website.

Suneet Nandwani, Head of Cloud Engineering at eBay, revealed: “95% of eBay marketplace traffic is powered by our OpenStack cloud. We’ve also gained operational efficiencies and have saved double-digit million dollars on hardware expenditure”.

Tear up the rulebook
As digital disruption quickens, remaining competitive will increasingly mean the agility to turn new ideas into business reality, at speed and at minimal cost. Businesses can’t afford to be tied down by inflexible legacy infrastructure anymore. IT must help, not hamper.

Today, that means data centres are becoming one of the most important strategic assets in every enterprise, whether they’re on premise, colocated or accessed via the cloud. Ultimately, the right IT is critical to adapt rapidly in a fast-moving competitive environment – today’s choices can make or break a business tomorrow.

From balancing security and performance with the hybrid cloud, to modular data centres that can be operational in weeks not years, new ways to drive business agility are constantly emerging. Are traditional sectors ready to tear up the old-school IT rulebook, harness these new approaches and push back against the sharing economy? Only time will tell.

To learn more about how agile IT is reshaping the business world, register for Datacloud Europe 2016 in Monaco. Rub shoulders with the dealmakers of the digital economy and hear about the future of transformative change from the people who’ll make it happen.