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Tech challenges

Machine learning, artificial intelligence, cloud and microservices, are the technologies at the top of CTOs’ minds, according to research conducted by STX Next for its Global CTO Survey 2020 Report

Researchers asked respondents an open question about the biggest challenges they see themselves facing in the next two years. The number one challenge for CTOs was prioritisation, after that, most of the top challenges relate to delivering the product in one way or another – either having the money to do it (budget constraints), finding the talent (hiring), or delivering it on time (velocity).

More than three-quarters of organisations are developing cloud-native technologies, underlining a commitment to slicker operations and reductions in capex. 85% of CTOs said they have now introduced cloud practices at their organisation. When asked where their teams’ work takes place, CTOs most typically report that the majority of the work takes place in the public cloud. This compares with just 10% carrying out the same proportion of their work using private cloud, and 13% doing so using on-site capabilities.

That’s unsurprising given the costs incurred by on-premises hosting – the cost of the servers, the space they’re in, the electricity bill, cooling and the salaries of the admins managing the servers. Scaling server capacity up and down to meet current demand is also much more complicated on-premises compared to working in the cloud.

CTOs’ teams also get work done within SaaS solutions, but it’s not a ubiquitous trend – 45% of respondents reported they hardly use SaaS solutions at all.

Appetite for public cloud
Maciej Dziergwa, CEO of STX Next, said: “Cloud has been around for a long time but arguably, the current landscape has reinforced it’s criticality in maintaining business continuity. Monitoring its evolution therefore always provides interesting insights into how technology leaders and their teams are increasing efficiency and scalability, while cutting down on expensive owned hardware. Companies that use on-site infrastructure to manage most of their workloads are now few and far between, and the appetite for public cloud over private cloud is clear.”

He added: “This isn’t to say private cloud and on-site are disappearing, both still provide a range of benefits depending on the type of workload or each organisation’s individual circumstances.”

When it comes to software development specifically, the average CTO develops software in the cloud using agile methodologies. 84% of organisations carry out activities using agile methodologies, and 78% embrace continuous integration (CI) practices. Furthermore, 64% apply continuous delivery (CD), 66% make use of DevOps, and 69% have adopted test automation to safeguard quality. Microservices also appear to be transitioning towards becoming an industry standard, with 59% of respondents employing them. On the flipside, platform as a service, infrastructure as a service, and DevSecOps are among the least adopted practices.

Agile methodologies
“Cloud providers naturally fulfil the needs of flexibility introduced by agile methodologies. Using the cloud is a major benefit to speed up the time-to-market of the product,” said Szymon Piasecki, Head of DevOps at STX Next. “Companies realised that the typical work of DevOps with CI/CD and automated tests is much easier, cheaper and predictable with the cloud. From a budget perspective, controlling infrastructure costs is crucial, cloud solutions make that easy.”

Dziergwa added: “Agile methodologies are essential to the modern business, so it is crucial embracing such approaches is as straightforward as possible for CTOs and their teams. Our research shows that cloud is making this possible, due to its inherent flexibility and its ability to ease processes such as DevOps and CI/CD.

Outsourcing cybersecurity
The research found that dedicated security teams are a rarity in companies smaller than 300 people.

Just 20% of respondents have a dedicated security department in their organisation. However, the proportion shifts significantly with company size, larger companies are much more likely to have a dedicated team.

Outsourcing cybersecurity seems to be the more popular choice. The majority of organisations with a headcount of 100 or more are tasking an external company with protecting their digital space. STX Next suggests one reason for this trend might be cost-effectiveness. Internal cybersecurity teams are expensive, especially taking into account the budgets at smaller companies.

When asked what security measures CTOs have adopted, and to what extent, over 75% of respondents stated that they are using some manner of identity and access management (IAM); nearly half have implemented it in most or all cases. Multi-factor authentication is the most popular tool to manage access, followed closely by single sign-on. The outlier of the bunch is security information and event management (SIEM). 61% of respondents don’t use it at all.

For the most part, CTOs take the additional security threat seriously, the overall adoption rate of security tools was higher in companies with BYOD policies in place. Still, 13% of respondents have a BYOD policy and yet don’t even use multi-factor authentication.

Dziergwa concluded: “2021 should hopefully be a year where businesses bounce back from the impact of COVID-19. Throughout 2020, cloud showed its mettle in helping organisations remain resilient in the face of unprecedented pressures. In a year where keeping costs to a minimum will be the modus operandi for most companies, cloud’s ongoing role – whether in software development or beyond – will remain integral.”

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