Customers today are hyper-connected and their connectivity is rewriting the rules of business. Access to mobility, social networks, wearable devices, connected cars and hotels managed by robots are rapidly changing the behaviors of how customers engage and purchase. Think how you watch a film, shop or order a taxi.

The disruptive power in the hands of newly tech-savvy customers is forcing every business to evolve into a digital business or perish.

Infrastructure is at the center of the Digital Transformation

The digital transformation requires that organizations evolve their underlying technology infrastructure investments to fuel a business technology (BT) agenda, with technology designed to win, serve, and retain customers. Infrastructure – whether it is managed internally or hidden behind some cloud service – is a big part of the digital in digital business. I&O leaders can no longer simply focus on the same old approach to infrastructure. Internal business operations, or systems of record will remain important, but the emphasis must shift more to systems powering the newer digital customer experience

We are all aware that software is at the center of transitioning every successful business today. This software focus fueled a rapid expansion of cloud services and many argue that there is no longer a necessity to own hardware. This has turned the infrastructure world upside down. Hardware speeds and feeds no longer dominate infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals' criteria. In some use cases, qualities like the fastest packet-processing chip or largest disk capacity are critical, but they matter less to many of the systems of engagement in the BT agenda. As you design your BT services, be aware of which solution is right for optimizing the customer experience.

The software-centric thrust is crucial to the new class of infrastructure needed for the BT agenda. Hardware is not just hardware anymore. To attain the flexibility and speed necessary today, infrastructure is software-defined. The actual hardware is hidden beneath layers of software to abstract the functions and accelerate deployment and adaptation. You see this SDx notation everywhere now (e.g., SDN, SDDC). I&O professionals now seek technologies, such as infrastructure-as-code or interaction technologies, that can help with a business's digital transformation — and the market has responded.

Forrester identified and investigated 13 of the most important BT infrastructure technologies that help make this digital transformation happen. My colleague Andre Kindness, led the development of our TechRadar™: BT Infrastructure, Q2 2016, which defines the current state, business value, and long-term prospects for each technology.

Key Findings from the TechRadar™:

This TechRadar™ report highlighted Cloud management, Composable Infrastructure, Containers, Disaster Recover as a Service, Hyperconverged Infrastructure, Interaction Technologies, IoT Hardware, Network function virtualization, Private cloud platforms, Software Defined Networking, Server virtualization, Solid-state storage and Software Defined Networking. Important conclusions of this research include:

Software is disrupting the entire infrastructure landscape

Today's infrastructure metamorphosis started years ago with server virtualization. Now, software is changing every component, including how I&O pros need to design, deploy, and manage the infrastructure.

A primary I&O challenge is transitioning from hardware to software

Hyperconverged systems and commodity hardware have pushed the conversations and decision points about interoperability from hardware to software. Common software interfaces, data types, and management identifiers among technologies keep them evolving to the next phase.

More than half of the technologies haven't achieved their final forms

Four of the technologies are in the Creation phase, and four are in the Survival phase. Many of the solutions on the market offer only part of the technology's value and may be science projects. Be aware of the still-evolving state as you plan.

Be vigilant to remove silos and not create new silos

Technology is blurring the lines of responsibility between either I&O teams or technology management and business. Instead of working in silos, I&O teams will need to transition culture and work practices to function as a single innovative unit in the new world. This will additionally be true with interaction technologies, which will require both employees and I&O professionals to choose the right solutions to enhance productivity.

Furthermore, some of the technologies will never reach their full potential so constantly evaluate the landscape for business relevance. Past decisions had 3 to 5 year lifespans but these timeframes are shrinking. The most innovative "unicorns" (e.g., Facebook, Google, Amazon) assume infrastructure will refresh annually! You likely will not share this view, but learn from the unicorns and emulate some of their practices. To thrive in the digital business, you must.

The TechRadar™ report is available here and feel free to let me know if our analysis differs from your experiences.