Industry blog: Unlocking data center innovation in virtual era

By Christopher Papa

The fundamentals of the data center change about every 10 years. The industry is in the midst of a transformation largely brought on by the opportunity created by cloud computing.

The future has always been about the nexus of people, process, and technology — technology alone doesn’t fundamentally change the game.
The trends are about efficiency, innovation and productivity.

Here’s a great example.

The Bank of Hawaii, named Forbes #1 bank in the US in 2010 and 2011, is relentlessly focused on improving the customer experience. They embrace a “Moneyball” approach to enterprise IT meaning looking at every aspect of the IT spend to see how disadvantage can be turned to advantage.

The CIO discovered his team was spending an inordinate amount of time focused on managing their storage, time that really wasn’t adding value to the bank — it was a distraction.

The CIO determined their strategy was to provide the right data at the right place at the right cost. This strategy enabled IT to find a solution that met those requirements and to shift energy and attention to innovation that would enable the bank to remain #1.

Michelle Bailey, vice president of research for IDC’s enterprise platform and data center practice, offered that the challenge for the CIO is how to maintain necessary control without being seen as irrelevant and backward.

“The new CIO will come in, set a strategy and send people off to make it happen.” CIOs must be able to simultaneously define and execute the strategy for a portfolio of diverse projects. The best practice approach to systems is that they must be open, capable and affordable, enabling both process and computing innovation.

Part of strategizing a project portfolio is to determine where applications must live: on-premise, off-premise, private cloud, or public cloud. The biggest potential risk today is in the public cloud.

Bailey points out that, “The public cloud is disruptive and that is where true innovation takes place.” Applications that can live in the cloud may be best served moving to a private cloud first.

The private cloud must be non-disruptive to the business and all cloud applications — public or private — must conform to business service level requirements.

Another very important trend that Michelle Bailey sees is for a “trusted sourcing specialist,” a new role on the CIO’s team. This is a person (or function) that can straddle relationships with business process owners and suppliers and help determine the right partners to participate. This person is not in procurement and acts more like an evangelist to the organization.

Today, business-to-business applications running in a public cloud are probably considered high-stakes. To be successful requires balancing flexibility with customization needs and paying careful attention to outsourcing agreements. The trusted sourcing specialist mitigates risk.

The stakes are higher for small and medium businesses (SMBs) making the transition to the cloud. They need a strategic IT advisor. This trusted advisor might be a channel partner or trusted IT vendor. The important consideration for SMBs is to not try to “go it alone.”

Another big opportunity for CIOs is in measuring the value that IT creates, an area of traditional weakness according to Bailey. While IT must be vigilant about security and contain cost sprawl, the CIO must be a partner in looking for efficiencies and raising the bar on organizational performance.

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