Special Report: A Look at 2018 Workload Trends

Growth/Transformation vs. Keeping the Lights On

By Tracy Corbo

Like it or not digital transformation is real and organizations need to have plans in place to ensure that their infrastructure can meet the demands of the shift toward a digital-based economy.

Organizations must balance the imperatives of growth and modernization against the mundane reality of day-to-day operations that ‘keep the lights on”. Although growing proportions of organizations find themselves at advanced stages of digital business transformation, IT budgets remain largely focused on maintaining current systems and operations.

IT organizations struggle to address both transformation and maintenance objectives, particularly with regard to workload placement. There is no “one size fits all” solution for workload deployment; therefore, the proper IT environment for each workload must be assessed and evaluated individually. Mission-critical legacy applications pose an even greater challenge with regard to the transformation vs. maintenance question, especially if they are wedded to legacy infrastructure.

This report looks at some of the issues with regard to digital transformation and workload distribution. The data from this report is derived from the Digital Pulse survey of 1,159 IT end-user decision-makers, primarily based in North America, completed during February and March of 2018.

Survey Highlights

§ Steady-State Operations Remains IT Budget Focus. Over the next 12 months, while keeping the lights on remains the primary IT budget objective, larger organizations and those at later stages of digital transformation are re-orienting their IT spending toward “grow/transform the business” projects.

§ The Shift to Cloud. Workload deployment continues to move away from traditional legacy IT environments in favor of cloud venues which offer greater operational flexibility. A growing number of workloads are expected to migrate to both public and private cloud environments over the next two years.

§ Mission-Critical Workloads. While the majority of mission-critical applications are expected to remain on-premises, these applications cannot afford to remain rooted in old-school IT infrastructure. Therefore, respondents are pursuing a variety of options to adapt and modernize these applications.

§ Influence of Non-IT Roles on Workloads. Organizations that have formal digital strategies in place and are actively digitizing their business processes indicate a higher level of influence from individuals in non-IT roles with regard to workloads/application deployment strategies.

IT Budgets – Growth vs. Keeping Lights On

Operation and maintenance of current IT systems is a necessary function in any IT shop and must occur alongside IT investment geared toward growth-enhancing business transformation projects.

In order to better understand the importance of transformation respondents were asked what percentage of their organizations’ IT budgets is allocated to business growth/transformational projects versus basic operations. For a majority of respondents (67%) spending on transformation is less than 40% of the overall IT budget.


A closer look at organizations with plans to devote more than 40% of the IT budgets to transformation projects, shows direct proportionality with organization size and current stage in the digital transformation process.


Migration of Workloads to Cloud

Traditional legacy IT environments are too rigid. Cloud-based deployment venues offer greater flexibility, but public cloud is just one among many possible destinations. Nearly 30% of respondents reported that the majority of their organizations’ workloads/applications currently reside in private cloud environments (both on-premises and hosted), increasing to 38% by 2020.

At present, 17% of respondents run the majority of their organizations’ workloads in public cloud environments (IaaS/PaaS, SaaS), expanding to 30% by 2020.


Cloud Deployment Drivers

Respondents indicating that the majority of their organization’s workloads/applications will be deployed in off-premises cloud/hosted IT environments two years from now were asked about the drivers behind this decision.

Cost reduction remains a key factor driving workloads to the cloud, but vies with agility and technology modernization. Among organizations with no digital transformation strategy, IT cost reduction is the predominant driver for workload placement in off-premises cloud environment.


Top Drivers by Age of Company. The factors behind workload placement in off-premises cloud environments varies by age of the company. Younger companies are all about speed and getting applications deployed quickly while more mature organizations struggle simultaneously to modernize their IT and reduce operating costs.