Survey: Operations automation top IT funding priority for next year

A survey of IT professionals by Red Hat finds that the top funding priority for 2019 is automation. (Red Hat)

IT departments from around the world have rated operations automation as their top funding priority for next year.

Following on the heels of automation, cloud infrastructure and security were second and third, respectively, in Red Hat's fifth annual global tech customer outlook survey.

Those same three areas were also the top three in last year's survey, according to a blog post by Red Hat's Margaret Dawson, but automation moved from third in 2017 to first this year. In 2018, 36% of the survey respondents cited automation, but the increase to 44% this year indicates a sharper focus on the area as a means to reduce manual operations and costs across IT departments as well as to increase productivity, according to Dawson.

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While cloud and security were down slightly from last year, they still outranked most of the other IT priorities by a significant margin.

"This year’s fourth and fifth place funding priorities were optimizing or modernizing existing/legacy IT and enterprise integration," said Dawson, vice president of portfolio product marketing at Red Hat. "When I talk with customers, I consistently hear how integration has become even more complex with increasing business requirements around data and applications.

"For IT optimization, organizations continue to shift investment from legacy to innovation, but for most enterprises, 50% to 60% of IT funding will still go to existing technologies. Numbers this year around investment in legacy versus new seemed aggressive, which I take as either overly optimistic or we are finally moving the needle in what we used to call the 'bimodal challenge.'"

The survey, which went to more than 400 Red Hat customers around the world with respondents from 51 countries, found companies wanted to provide virtualization as a self-service cloud. On that note, 51% of the respondents cited virtualization as the top technology they intended to offer as a service.

While not mentioned by the Red Hat results, companies are increasingly looking to service providers and cloud providers to enable their software-as-a-service offerings.

Most the respondents are hedging their hypervisor bets by having multiple hypervisors with no plans to move to a single hypervisor over the coming years.

"From what I’m hearing from customers, they are looking to reduce the cost and complexity of their virtualized environments, but are currently using different hypervisors for different workloads or environments," Dawson said. "I think we will see this start to consolidate as virtualization is needed as a consistent architectural fabric across environments, from on-premise to public multicloud. "

Dawson also wrote in her blog that containers aren't quite living up to the market hype from the past year or so, but their use will accelerate. Based on Red Hat's survey, container usage is projected to increase by 89% over the next two years.

"On the upside, companies see the value in containers and are moving ahead with them," Dawson said. "The biggest issues involve concerns around security and ease of use. In addition, many IT leaders still have a knowledge gap about what containers are and are not. About half of those who responded said that they aren’t sure if containers are secure, and only 42% said that containers are easy to set up.

"I think some of this confusion comes from container vendors and the market. Some would have you believe that all containers are created equal, and that all containers are inherently secure."

While customers still have questions about containers' performance, 57% of the survey respondents said they are now using them, with the majority using Linux containers. Overall, 75% said they expect to use containers over the next two years.