Top 5 Posts of 2013

Over the course of 2013, I wrote a number of posts about CIOs, Cloud Computing, Big Data, Data Centers and IT in general. Here are the top-5 most popular posts in 2013:

5. Time to get on the Colocation Train Before it is Too Late

In the number 5 spot is a post addressing the forthcoming challenges to the data center colocation market and how the ripple effect hits IT.

4. A Workload is Not a Workload, is Not a Workload

Number 4 is a post written in 2012 about the discrepancy between cloud computing case studies. Not all workloads are the same and many of the examples used do not represent the masses.

3. The IT Role in Value Creation is Not a Technology

The number 3 spot goes to a post that addresses the direction of IT organizations within the business and how it is evolving. It is this very evolution that is both very difficult and very exciting at the same time.

2. Motivation And Work Ethics: Passion Fuels the Engine

Another post from 2012 goes to the number 2 spot, which shows that some subjects (like: the importance of passion) have staying power. This post addresses important characteristics for a leader to consider. It addresses the intersection of passion, work ethic and motivation.

1. What is Your Cloud Exit Strategy?

Probably one of the most controversial titles goes to the number 1 spot. This post addresses the challenges faced with cloud when one doesn’t think about their end-state and evolution.

Honorable Mention: So Which Is It? Airplane Mode or Turn Devices Completely Off?

Back in Apr 2012, I was traveling and noticed that many didn’t turn off their devices even though they were instructed to…which prompted the post. Even though the FAA changed their rules in US, this post still gets quite a bit of attention.

Rise of the CDO…do you need one?

The CIO (Chief Information Officer) and CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) roles are in a state of flux and starting to evolve pretty significantly. In the past year, the role of CDO or Chief Data Officer started picking up steam. 2014 will bring the CDO role to prominence among the CIO and CMO roles. But what exactly is a CDO and why is it needed now? And where is the role headed especially in consideration of the changes to the CIO and CMO roles?

THE CDO (CHIEF DATA OFFICER) ROLE

First, the CDO role is not new. Enterprises have had people filling the role for several years now. The specific function of the role, however, varies greatly…and continues to do so. Organizations tag the CDO with functions ranging from ensuring regulatory compliance to IT system integration. With the advent of Big Data, companies are now looking at the CDO to manage the huge influx of data.

Late last year, Gartner published results from a recent study on the 5 Facts About Chief Data Officers. Namely:

  1. There are over 100 CDOs today (double the number from 2012).
  2. Most reside in Banking, Government and Insurance industries.
  3. 65% reside in the US.
  4. Over 25% of those are in New York or DC.
  5. Over 25% are women (almost twice that of CIOs).

WHAT SHOULD A CDO DO AND WHY NOW?

The sheer volume of data in both type and source is growing exponentially. The methods used by a traditional marketing and IT organizations are simply inadequate to keep up. A new perspective is needed. In addition, the CMO and CIO are fully bogged down with existing challenges to streamline and evolve their organizations.

The importance of data to a company is simply too valuable to wait for existing organizations to evolve. There is a half-life to the value of data. This is where the CDO comes in. The CDO can take a business-centric approach to the data without being inhibited by existing challenges. Data spans multiple facets from marketing to product development to customer service and beyond. By leveraging a separate organization that is not biased by the priorities of either the IT or marketing organizations, companies can leverage the true value of the data more readily.

Managing data is less about how to store it on physical drives and more about correlation of data points and trends.

CDO DIRECTION

There was a time that I felt that the CDO should be part of the CIOs role. I still feel that way, but it will take time. As outlined above, the CDO role needs to be autonomous from the CIO and CMO roles. However, as each of those roles evolves, so will the CDO role. More specifically, as the CIO role evolves, so will the CDO role.

As IT organizations shift from technology-centric to business-centric, their role with data also evolves. The prevalence of data as a business driver presents a unique challenge and opportunity for IT. Stronger companies will seize this opportunity through the evolution of their CIO and collaboration with the CDO function.

IN SUMMARY

Over time, the CIO & CDO roles become far more inter-related and eventually merge into a single CIO role. However, that will take time to happen. In the meantime, every company should be considering who is responsible for truly managing (and leveraging) their data for business intelligence and growth opportunities. In many cases, that may be the CDO role.

CIO Predictions for 2014

This year, I thought I would shift the focus from cloud-specific to the broader agenda for CIOs. But before I jump into my predictions for 2014, let’s take a trip down memory lane and review how I did on Cloud Predictions for 2013.

How did I do?

  1. Rise of the Cloud Verticals: We have seen an uptick of ‘cloud brokers’ but very little in the way of cloud verticals targeting specific industries or suite of services. There has been a feeble attempt at integration between solutions, but even that was lukewarm at best in 2013. (1/2pt)
  2. Widespread Planning of IaaS Migrations: Spot on with this one! Over 2013, the number of IT organizations planning IaaS migrations stepped up in a big way. That’s great news for the IT organization, the business units and the industry as a whole. It demonstrates progress along the maturity continuum. (1pt)
  3. CIO’s Look to Cloud to Catapult IT Transformation: This has been a mixed bag. Many have leveraged cloud because they were forced into it rather than see it as one of the most significant opportunities of our time. There are exceptions to this, but they are not as prominent yet. (1/2pt)
  4. Mobile Increases Intensity of Cloud Adoption: Mobile is taking off like wildfire. And cloud is enabling the progress, as traditional methods would simply be too challenging and slow. (1pt)
  5. Cloud Innovation Shifts from New Solutions to Integration & Consolidation: Over 2013, the number of new solutions has progressed at a feverish pitch. The good indicator is that new solutions are taking into account the requirement of integration with solutions within their ecosystem. While consolidation within cloud providers started to pickup in the 2nd half of 2013, I would expect it to increase into 2014. (1pt)

Total Score: 4/5

Overall, slower general adoption of cloud paired with strong adoption of specific cloud solutions lead to 2013’s progress. I had hoped to see us further along…but alas, 2014 is shaping up to be a very interesting year.

What to look for in 2014?

  1. Cloud Consolidation: Look for plenty of M&A activity as larger incumbents gobble cloud point solutions up. Also look for incumbents to flesh out their ecosystem more fully.
  2. CIOs Focus on Data: Conversations move beyond the next bell or whistle and onto items that really change the economic landscape for a company: data. Look for the CIO to shift focus to data and away from infrastructure.
  3. Colocation is in Vogue: As the CIO moves up the maturity model toward higher-value functions, look for IT organizations to move to colocation in droves. The challenge will be moving before it’s too late.
  4. CIO, CMO + Other Execs Become Best Friends: We’ve talked for some time about how the CIO strives for a ‘seat at the table’. The challenge is in how to be a relevant participant at the table. As the CIO role shifts from support org to business driver, look for the relationships to change too.
  5. One Size Does NOT Fit All: As we talk about newer technologies, CIOs, IT organizations, vendors and service providers get realistic about where their products/ services fit best…and don’t. OpenStack and HP Moonshot are great examples of awesome solutions that fit this statement.

As I’ve said before, this has got to be the best time to work in Information Technology. How will you embrace and leverage change? Here’s to an awesome 2014!

Time to get on the Colocation Train Before it is Too Late

The data center industry is heading toward an inflection point that has significant impact on enterprises. It seems many aren’t looking far enough ahead, but the timeline appears to be 12-18 months, which is not that far out! The issue is a typical supply chain issue of supply, demand and timelines.

A CHANGE IN THE WINDS

First, let’s start with a bit of background… The advent of Cloud Computing and newer technologies, are driving an increase in the number of enterprises looking to ‘get out of the data center business. I, along with others, have presented many times about ‘Death of the Data Center.’ The data center, which used to serve as a strategic weapon in an enterprise IT org’s arsenal, is still very much critical, but fundamentally becoming a commodity. That’s not to say that the overall data center services are becoming a commodity, but the facility is. Other factors, such as the geographic footprint, network and ecosystem are becoming the real differentiators. And enterprises ‘in the know’ realize they can’t compete at the same level as today’s commercial data center facility providers.

THE TWO FLAVORS OF COLOCATION

Commercial data center providers offer two basic models of data center services: Wholesale and Retail. Digital Realty and DuPont Fabros are examples of major wholesale data center space and Equinix, Switch, IO, Savvis and QTS are examples of major retail colocation providers. It should be noted that some providers provide both wholesale and retail offerings. While there is a huge difference between wholesale and retail colocation space, I will leave the details on why an enterprise might consider one over the other for another post.

DATA CENTER SUPPLY, DEMAND AND TIMELINES

The problem is still the same for both types of data center space: there is a bit of surplus today, but there won’t be enough capacity in the near term. Data center providers are adding capacity around the globe, but they’re caught in a conundrum of how much capacity to build. It typically takes anywhere between 2-4 years to build a new data center and bring it online. And the demand isn’t there to support significant growth yet.

But if you read the tea leaves, the demand is getting ready to pop. Many folks are only now starting to consider their options with cloud and other services. So, why are data center providers not building data centers now in preparation for the pop? There are two reasons: On the supply side, it costs a significant amount of capital to build a data center today and having an idle data center burns significant operational expenses too. On the demand side, enterprises are just starting to evaluate colocation options. Evaluating is different from ready to commit spending on colocation services.

Complicating matters further, even for the most aggressive enterprises, the preparation can take months and the migrations years in the making. Moving a data center is not a trivial exercise and often peppered with significant risk. There are applications, legacy requirements, 3rd party providers, connections, depreciation schedules, architectures, organization, process and governance changes to consider…just to name a few. In addition to the technical challenges, organizations and applications are typically not geared up to handle multi-day outages and moves of this nature. Ponder this: When was the last time your IT team moved a critical business application from one location to another? What about multiple applications? The reality is: it just doesn’t happen often…if at all.

But just because it’s hard, does not mean it should not be done. In this case, it needs to be done. At this point, every organization on the planet should have a plan for colocation and/or cloud. Of course there are exceptions and corner cases, but today they are few and shrinking.

COMPLIANCE AND REGULATORY CONCERNS

Those with compliance and regulatory requirements are moving too…and not just non-production or Disaster Recovery systems. Financial Services organizations are already moving their core banking systems into colocation. While Healthcare organizations are moving their Electronic Health Records (EHR) and Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems into colocation…and in some cases, the cloud. This is in addition to any core legacy and greenfield applications. The compliance and regulatory requirements are an additional component to consider, not a reason to stop moving.

TIME CHANGES DATA CENTER THINKING

Just five years ago, a discussion of moving to colocation or cloud would have been far more challenging to do. Today, we are starting to see this migration happening. However, it is only happening in very small numbers of IT firms around the globe. We need to significantly increase the number of folks planning and migrating.

DATA CENTER ELASTICITY

On the downside, even if an enterprise started to build their data center strategy and roadmap today, it is unclear if adequate capacity to supply the demand will exist once they’re ready to move. Now, that’s not to say the sky is falling. But it does suggest that enterprises (in mass) need to get on the ball and start planning for death of the data center (their own). At a minimum, it would provider data center providers with greater visibility of the impending demand and timeline. In the best scenario, it provides a healthy ecosystem in the supply/ demand equation without creating a rubber-band effect where supply and demand each fluctuate toward equilibrium.

BUILDING A ROADMAP

The process starts with a vision and understanding of what is truly strategic. Recall that vitally important and strategic can be two different things. Power is vitally important to data centers, but data center providers are not building power plants next to each one.

The next step is building a roadmap that supports the vision. The roadmap includes more than just technological advancements. The biggest initial hurdles will come in the form of organization and process. In addition, a strong visionary and leader will provide the right combination skills to lead the effort and ask the right questions to achieve success.

Part of the roadmap will inevitably include an evaluation of colocation providers. Before you get started down this path, it is important to understand the differences between wholesale and retail colocation providers, what they offer and what your responsibilities are. That last step is often lost as part of the evaluation process.

Truly understand what your requirements are. Space, power and bandwidth are just scratching the surface. Take a holistic view of your environment and portfolio. Understand what and how things will change when moving to colocation. This is as much a clear snapshot of your current situation, as it is where you’re headed over time.

TIME TO GET MOVING

Moving into colocation is a great first-step for many enterprises. It gets them ‘out of the data center’ business while still maintaining their existing portfolio intact. Colocation also provides a great way to move the maturity of an organization (and portfolio) toward cloud.

The evaluation process for colocation services is much different today from just 5 years ago. Today, some of the key differentiators are geographic coverage, network and ecosystem. But a stern warning: The criteria for each enterprise will be different and unique. What applies to one does not necessarily apply to the next. It’s important to clearly understand this and how each provider matches against the requirements.

The process takes time and effort. For this and a number of other reasons, it may take months to years even for the most aggressive movers. As such, it is best to started sooner than later before the train leaves the station.

Further Reading:

Applying Cloud Computing in the Enterprise

Cloud Application Matrix

A Workload is Not a Workload, is Not a Workload

What is Your Cloud Exit Strategy?

Cloud computing is still one of the hottest subjects in IT and business today. As the cloud market starts to mature, the interest to leverage cloud only grows further. And the sources of demand are not limited to only IT. Business units and non-IT users are quickly discovering they can engage cloud-based services on their own.

While there is quite a bit of interest in discussing how to best apply cloud and moving to leverage cloud services, there has been little conversation about a Cloud Exit Strategy. Yes, thinking about the divorce even before marriage. While many have enough on their plate with thinking about how to best leverage cloud, how one exits a cloud is equally important.

And there are a number of different factors that one should consider with regards to their cloud exit strategy. In addition to terms in the service provider agreement, data integrity, size of data and alternative providers are just a few of the considerations.

CONTRACT TERMS

Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) may, or may not include terms in their contract outlining what happens to data in case of contract termination. However, the details outlined in the terms vary widely from provider to provider. Here is how two different providers addressed the issue.

Provider 1:

(iii) we will provide you with the same post-termination data retrieval assistance that we generally make available to all customers.

Provider 2:

12.1 You will not have access to your data stored on the Services during a suspension or following termination.

12.2 You have the option to create a snapshot or backup of your Cloud Servers or Databases, respectively, however, it is your responsibility to initiate the snapshot or backup and test your backup to determine the quality and success of your backups. You will be charged for your use of backup services as listed in your Order.

The concern is that not all providers will include terms in their default contracts. And even if the terms outlined above, it leaves many of the important specific details up for question. What is the method in which the data is provided? If we are talking about database files, are they provided in a CSV flat file, Excel spreadsheet or database? Before you engage a contract, it is important to work out the details on what works best when it is time to cancel the contract. If you don’t, the downside is that the provider might tack on professional services fees to ‘help’ export your data into a useful format. And that assumes they are willing to do it since you have effectively cancelled the relationship with the provider and left them with little to no incentive to help.

DATA INTEGRITY

Determining the format of the data for export is a good first step. But what happens with relational data? Simply dumping the atomic level data into a CSV file technically fulfills the terms of the contract, but leaves the data unusable. Without understanding the relationships between data elements, the data goes from readily usable to practically unusable. This is where the nature of the data needs to drive how it is exported and the format in which it is exported. That, in turn, must drive the export process that is outline in the terms of the contract.

SIZE OF DATA

Moving small amounts of data is a relatively trivial thing to do today. The amount of preparation, time and effort to do so is relatively small. In addition, the cost of high-bandwidth network connections has dropped considerably in recent years. At this point, it is common that even the average home may have a high-speed connection to the Internet.

But what if you need to move large quantities of data? Even with cheaper bandwidth and larger connections, it may still be cheaper and faster to ship physical storage devices to the CSP for initial upload. The CSP often has a service to allow shipping storage devices for importing large data loads. What they often do not have is a clear process to export large quantities of data via storage devices. And again, you have terminated the agreement and they are less inclined to work with you and your data.

It is important to think ahead about the volume and type of data being considered for the CSP and how best to move it around.

ALTERNATIVE PROVIDERS

Even if all of the details about exporting services and data have been worked out, where does one go to form a new relationship? Even with a maturing cloud marketplace, not all cloud providers offer the same services or ecosystems. Before pulling the plug on one provider, consider the process to move to an alternative provider and what they offer based on the application’s requirements.

Leveraging the evaluation criteria and selection process used to get to your first choice can provide a guide to consider alternative solutions. Be careful to consider that in such a volatile and ever-changing market such as cloud computing, the providers, services and ecosystems are constantly in flux. The list of providers used last month might not apply for this month.

WHERE TO GET STARTED

Contract negotiations on their own are a fine art. If the terms are left to an attorney to negotiate, the outcome might not be what was expected. One needs to appreciate that an attorney works with what they know. Unfortunately, they cannot be expected to know everything about cloud services nor the nuances as mentioned above. This is a good opportunity to partner with your counsel (either internal or external). They can help guide you as much as you guide them to a successful outcome.

In parallel with engaging legal counsel, map out the workflow of your application, processes, connections and data elements to provide a clearer picture of the service. Consider what you need going in and coming back out. Imagine the entire lifecycle of your relationship with the CSP from start to finish. Use that as your model for the next steps. Then take a look at the prospect CSP and their service agreement. What terms already exist regarding export and contract termination? How well does the CSP map against your requirements with both application and lifecycle? This is where the negotiations and adjustments come into play. And this is all before the contract has been signed.

IN SUMMARY

Hopefully you can see how thinking ahead and doing some planning will save quite a bit of time and headaches on the backend. As with most vendor agreements, think through the entire process before engaging. What are the most common scenarios and does your exit strategy address the needs? If not, consider what changes are needed to the cloud exit strategy to best match the requirements.

The IT Role in Value Creation is Not a Technology

For CIOs and the IT organizations they lead, what is their role in value creation? Can IT create value or are they simply an enabler to value creation? And can the implementation of technology really create value? Those seem to be hot topics of contention today.

First, let’s take a look at what value is and where it comes from. There are two types of value sources in a business organization: Those that contribute to lowering ‘bottom line’ expenses and those that contribute to ‘top line’ revenue growth. Some of the most valuable contributions to a company come in the form of top line revenue growth.

So, what is IT’s contribution to value and where does it come from? In past years, IT was perceived as a cost center. In essence, IT was an expense that pulled from the bottom line. IT was seen as simply a support organization that users engaged when technology is needed or broken. IT, in turn, looks for ways to lower the hurdles and to use technology more efficiently. In this paradigm, much of the ‘value’ IT provided came from cost efficiencies that contributed to bottom-line operational savings. The paradigm considers IT as a service ‘delivery’ organization to the company and business units. For many IT organizations, they still work within this paradigm today.

It is time to change the paradigm. IT needs to think of itself as a business organization that drives value rather than simply a delivery or technology organization. And transformational IT CIOs are doing just that. There are many who question IT’s ability to contribute to top line value. Based on the traditional paradigm, the question is well supported. However, in the new paradigm, IT can provide top line value creation through new revenue streams. Examples might include online portals or ecommerce activities. IT essentially creates new revenue streams not previously possible.

But not every CIO or IT organization is ready for this level of transformation.  Even so, at a minimum, the transformational IT organization should provide value enablement. In other words, enabling others within the company to contribute top line revenue growth rather than directly driving it. In either case, IT plays a central role in driving the conversation and opportunity for value creation.

Of late, the subject of cloud computing has been suggested as an opportunity for value creation. Technology does not create value; at least not by itself. Technology is, however, an enabler to create value (top line and/or bottom line). And, cloud is one of the most significant opportunities to leverage for value creation today. It provides two significant opportunities for IT organizations: 1) It provides the ability to maximize efficient use of traditional infrastructure and capital resources. And 2) it enables IT organizations to change their paradigm from focusing on infrastructure to focusing on value creation.

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece titled “Transforming IT Requires a Three-Legged Race.” The premise of the piece talked about the need for IT transformation and how there are three components that need to change: 1) the CIO, 2) the IT organization and 3) the business’ perception/ expectations of IT. In order for IT to create value (value creation or value enablement), these three components will need to be considered. And the CIO should lead the charge to do so.

So, going back to the original question: What is IT’s role in value creation? The bottom line is that IT’s role in creating value is significant. Whether IT creates value or enables value, the opportunity is there waiting. Changing the paradigm is not trivial, but needs to happen across the industry, not just with a few leading CIOs. The question is what will you contribute to the evolution?

Applying Cloud Computing in the Enterprise

There has been a bit of confusion around the applicability of cloud computing in the enterprise space. Recently, the question has come up as to where/ when/ how/ what cloud applies to enterprises and the challenges that enterprises face when considering cloud. Now, that’s a big ball of yarn to address even before you address the secondary complexities.

Ben Kepes wrote a good article in Forbes responding to comments made by an SVP at HP portraying Amazon Web Services (AWS) as a ‘legacy cloud’ and the reality of the situation. Does it really apply to addressing the enterprise ball of yarn? My point of view: If AWS is a legacy cloud, traditional IT infrastructure must be downright Jurassic. Neither statement is true. Nor does it directly address the reality of the challenges that exist.

In response, Jeff Sussna wrote a good counter missive suggesting that NetFlix is more than just an edge case. Jeff goes on to suggest that current enterprise legacy applications are far from static and IT orgs would prefer not to perform an ‘forklift’ upgrade of their legacy apps into the cloud. I couldn’t agree more…but the devil is in the details as to why.

There are several factors to consider:

  1. Differences in workloads: I wrote a missive 18 months ago about the differences in workloads (A Workload is Not a Workload, is Not a Workload). It’s important to characterize what you have (legacy and otherwise). No two will be the same.
  2. Application of Best Practices: There is a common misconception that how one company leverages cloud will apply directly to others. The thinking being: If NetFlix has success, so will I. I call this the ‘lemming approach’. It may have worked for IT in the past, but will not serve us well moving forward. First, one has to go back and understand point #1 and more importantly understand the reasons the solution was chosen. Which leads to point #3.
  3. Business Drivers: What factors apply when considering different cloud solutions? Aside from the technical merits, there are business factors to consider too. Not everything is about technology. Is there a regulatory or compliance requirement? How would one solution support my business drivers better than the next? While those are just examples, the business drivers are unique to each company.

And when you’re ready to move into the cloud, especially a legacy app, a forklift upgrade is probably not at the top of the list for a number of reasons. Risk, cost, effort just being three of the top ones…but there are many more to consider. What about all of the 3rd party partner connections? What about the interconnections between apps? How will processes and data governance change? As you can see, there are many factors that need to be considered before taking that first step.

For many, the simple thought of moving a legacy app and its tentacles into the cloud can bring shutters. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be considered. But it does mean that it needs greater care and consideration than a greenfield application.

In the end, does this mean that enterprises can’t learn from what companies like NetFlix, Zynga, Dropbox and others have done in the cloud? Of course not. It just means that it should not be taken as a cookie-cutter approach and adapted as appropriate. Use the aspects that are relevant for your situation and leave the rest behind. One size of cloud does not fit all. This is especially true for legacy applications.

If this sounds downright hard and potentially not worth the trouble, then the point has been lost. The move needs consideration, planning and quite a bit of preparation. Best to get started down the path now.

The Importance of rIrTrPrM

Many in the technology world focus on the technology itself without significant consideration of the data or more importantly, the information. When you dig a bit deeper, the real reason, the business reason we exist is about the data. Just presenting data, however, it not enough. When building applications to present data, we need to consider how to best present information. And with information, there is a core principle to follow. I call it ‘rIrTrPrM’. rIrTrPrM is an acronym of sorts:

rIrTrPrM

rI = right Information: Ensuring that the right information is presented. Extraneous or wrong information creates a convoluted picture. And it’s important to consider the information to present, not just data or data elements.

rT = right Time: Presenting the information at the right time or point when the user or consumer is looking for it.

rP = right Person: Matching the correct information to the right person looking for it. This is more of a matching of interests rather than security paradigm.

rM = right Medium: With several ways to present information, delivering the information in the right channel or medium. Is paper the right medium or mobile device or web application?

From a marketing perspective, getting the right information to the right person at the right time has been a basic principle. However, with the advent of newer technology methods and a change in the behaviors of how people consume information, the medium is a new component to consider.

When building applications, one must consider the user of the application and the information they will consume. In doing so, consider using the rIrTrPrM principle.

IT Reaches the Tipping Point

IT is dead. Long live IT! 2013 is turning into a watershed year for CIOs as the traditional CIO is not the CIO of today. Business expectations, IT leadership styles and technology solutions are all driving an evolutionary change for CIOs and the IT organizations they lead. The changes did not happen overnight as business shifts, Shadow IT and New Technology were all contributors.

Now that the industry is reaching a tipping point where the new CIO model becomes the new standard, look for a number of changes moving forward:

Business-IT Relationship

The CIO will lead the charge in transforming the relationship between IT and the rest of the business. In a related post I talk about the importance of the Three-Legged Race on the business, CIO and IT relationship. As such, business leaders start to view IT as providing greater business value rather than just a support organization. The new CIO works with peers toward revenue growth, not just expense containment.

IT Strategy

Similar to changes in the CIO role, the IT function changes as well. The IT focus shifts from technology to business innovation. IT strategy directly aligns with and is driven by the overall business strategy. If an IT activity is not directly supporting the business strategy, why is IT doing it? Day-to-day operations become table stakes while innovation and revenue growth take priority. In essence, the IT organization becomes a business organization rather than a technology organization. IT’s customer is no longer the internal user, it is the business’ customer.

IT Leadership

The CIO and his/ her lieutenants all speak a common language: business. The days of talking technology are behind us. To support this change, the CIO creates is a strong culture within IT that breeds business focus and career growth. Outside of IT, the CIO leads the charge for true business engagement with fellow executives and their organizations.

Technology

The purpose of technology changes to become an enabler, nothing more. The new model moves away from religious technology debates. With technology, CIOs shift focus on the business value for the entire company, not just the IT organization. The new model CIO embraces new and innovative technology as a differentiator rather than waiting for peers to adopt it first. Common stumbling blocks like security, while still very important, are not used as a wet blanket to smother opportunities like cloud computing.

Opportunities

The new IT model presents a massive opportunity for the CIO and business that looks very different from today’s CIO and IT organization. Moving from technology to business and turning data into information creates the new business currency. The new CIO presents the core differentiator between competing businesses. In essence, by leveraging the new model, the difference between businesses is influenced by the CIO and IT organization. The business looks to the CIO and IT organization for information to make core business decisions and the conversations take a decidedly business-focused turn.

These changes represent a significant shift from prior or even the current model being used by many organizations. None of these changes will be easy or quick. 2013 simply presents a tipping point for the new model. Reaching critical mass between the business, IT and technology creates the catalyst for change. The new model is strong and provides a strong opportunity for the CIO to shine. Now is the time for CIOs in the old model to turn the corner and adopt the new model.

HP Converged Cloud Tech Day

Last week, I attended HP’s Converged Cloud Tech Day in Puerto Rico. Fellow colleagues attended from North, Latin and South America. The purpose of the event was to 1) take a deep dive into HP’s cloud offerings and 2) visit HP’s Aguadilla location, which houses manufacturing and an HP Labs presence. What makes the story interesting is that HP is a hardware manufacturer, a software provider and a provider of cloud services. Overall, I was very impressed by what HP is doing…but read on for the reasons why…and the surprises.

HP Puerto Rico

HP, like many other technology companies, has a significant presence in Puerto Rico. Martin Castillo, HP’s Caribbean Region Country Manager provided an overview for the group that left many in awe. HP exports a whopping $11.5b from Puerto Rico or roughly 10% of HP’s global revenue. In the Caribbean, HP holds more than 70% of the server market. Surprisingly, much of the influence to use HP cloud services in Puerto Rico comes from APAC and EMEA, not North America. To that end, 90% of HP’s Caribbean customers are already starting the first stage of moving to private clouds. Like others, HP is seeing customers move from traditional data centers to private clouds to managed clouds to public clouds.

Moving to the Cloud

Not surprisingly, HP is going through a transition by presenting the company from a solutions perspective rather than a product perspective. Shane Pearson, HP’s VP of Portfolio & Product Management explained that “At the end of the day, it’s all about applications and workloads. Everyone sees the importance of cloud, but everyone is trying to figure out how to leverage it.” By 2015 the projected markets are: Traditional $1.4b, Private Cloud $47b, Managed Cloud $55b, Public Cloud $30b for a cloud total of $132b. In addition, HP confirmed Hybrid Cloud approach as the approach of choice.

While customers are still focused on cost savings as the primary motivation to move to cloud, the tide is shifting to business process improvement. Put another way, cloud is allowing users to do things they could not do before. I was pleased to hear HP offer that it’s hard to take advantage of cloud if you don’t leverage automation. Automation and Orchestration are essential to cloud deployments.

HP CloudSystem Matrix

HP’s Nigel Cook was up next to talk about HP’s CloudSystem Matrix. Essentially, HP is (and has been) providing cloud services across the gamut of potential needs. Internally, HP is using OpenStack as the foundation for their cloud service offering. But CloudSystem Matrix provides a cohesive solution to manage across both internal and external cloud services. To the earlier point about automation, HP is focusing on automation and self-service as part of their cloud offering. Having a solution that helps customers manage the complexity that Hybrid Clouds presents could prove interesting. Admittedly, I have not kicked the tires of CloudSystem Matrix yet, but on the surface, it is very impressive.

Reference Architecture

During the visit to Aguadilla, we joined a Halo session with HP’s Christian Verstraete to discuss architecture. Christian and team have built an impressive cloud functional reference architecture. As impressive as it is, one challenge is how to best leverage such a comprehensive model for the everyday IT organization. It’s quite a bit to chew off. Very large enterprises can consume the level of detail contained within the model. Others will need a way to consume it in chunks. Christian goes into much greater depth in a series of blog entries on HP’s Cloud Source Blog.

HP Labs: Data Center in a Box

One treat on the trip was the visit to HP Labs. If you ever get the opportunity to visit HP Labs, it’s well worth the time to see what innovative solutions the folks are cooking up. HP demonstrated the results from their Thermal Zone Mapping (TZM) tool (US Patent 8,249,841) along with CFD modeling tools and monitoring to determine details around airflow/ cooling efficiency. While I’ve seen many different modeling tools, HP’s TZM was pretty impressive.

In addition to the TZM, HP shared a new prototype that I called Data Center in a Box. The solution is an encapsulated rack system that supports 1-8 racks that are fully enclosed. The only requirement is power and chilled water. The PUE numbers were impressive, but didn’t take into account every metric (ie: the cost of chilled water). Regardless, I thought the solution was pretty interesting. The HP folks kept mentioning that they planned to target the solution to Small-Medium Business (SMB) clients. While that may have been interesting to the SMB market a few years ago, today the SMB market is moving more to services (ie: Cloud Services). That doesn’t mean the solution is DOA. I do think it could be marketed as a modular approach to data center build-outs that provides a smaller increment to container solutions. Today, the solution is still just a prototype and not commercially available. It will be interesting to see where HP ultimately takes this.

In Summary

I was quite impressed by HP’s perspective on how customers can…and should leverage cloud. I felt they have a healthy perspective on the market, customer engagement and opportunity. However, I was left with one question: Why are HP’s cloud solutions not more visible? Arguably, I am smack in the middle of the ‘cloud stream’ of information. Sure, I am aware that HP has a cloud offering. However, when folks talk about different cloud solutions, HP is noticeably absent. From what I learned last week, this needs to change.

HP’s CloudSystem Matrix is definitely worth a look regardless of the state of your cloud strategy. And for data center providers and service providers, keep an eye out for their Data Center in a Box…or whatever they ultimately call it.