5 things to prepare the CIO for disruption

Originally posted @ Gigaom Research 9/22/2014

http://research.gigaom.com/2014/09/5-things-to-prepare-the-cio-for-disruption/

 

For years, IT organizations operated in a certain way. They provided a relatively standard service in a particular way. Of course, both of these evolved incrementally year over year. Over the past 5-10 years, that direction has changed pretty significantly. And it shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.

Data Center

10 years ago, if one said ‘death of the data center’ in a room of IT leaders, it would be seen as heresy. Today, IT leaders are actively looking for ways to ‘get out of the data center business.’ If you are one of the corporate environments not already thinking about this strategy, you are behind the curve. No longer is a physical data center a representative requirement to operate IT. Today, many options from colocation to cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) exist to replace this functionality. Not only does it exist, many solutions are already mature and more sophisticated than traditional approaches within the corporate data center.

Organization

At the other end of the spectrum, the organization is undergoing a significant shift too. Traditional organizations thought of their ‘customers’ as the internal users of the organization. The focus was predominantly on the internal operations of the company. Development may have spanned externally to partners and customers, but in specific ways. IT organizations are shifting to determine who their ‘customers’ really are. The shift in thinking starts with a change in focus. And that focus is one of the preparations.

Partnerships

The way IT organizations interacted with ‘customers’ was typically as two different organizations. The discussion typically included a distinction between IT and ‘the business.’ To some, this appears as an us-and-them perspective. The two were seen as very different and therefore required a different level of partnering within the company. At the same time, IT needed to clearly understand how ‘the business’ operated and at times translate between business requirements and IT deliverables. Part of the changes over time created a means to clarify this partnership. However, changes to the perspective assist with the introduction of disruptive methodologies. For example, Shadow IT, to some a threat, can become a real asset.

Changes in customers and users

Consumption expectations for customers and users changed as well. Consumers became more technologically savvy and demanded more. Overnight, consumers become familiar, and more comfortable with solutions quicker than IT organizations could adopt them. The technology available to consumers rapidly became more sophisticated. The combination of these two drove a change in consumer behaviors. Consumers, and customers became more demanding of technology…and by extension, corporate IT.

Getting ready for disruption

So, how does the CIO respond to these changes in a timely and meaningful manner? Start at the top and work down. That means, start with a business-centric approach that takes the perspective of the true customer (the company’s customer) and work your way down.

  1. Business-Centric Perspective: Change the culture and perspective to focus on a business-centric approach. Stop focusing on IT as a technology organization. The CIO needs to be a business leader that happens to have responsibility for technology. Not the other way around. Instill this change within the IT organization that is both meaningful but also helps staff adapt to the changing landscape. This will take time, but must be a mission for IT.
  2. Adopt DevOps: A fundamental premise behind DevOps is the ability for IT to work more holistically across traditional silos (applications & operations). Brining the teams together to work collaboratively and effectively is essential to the future IT organization and their customers.
  3. Stay Flexible & Responsive: Customers expect quicker response to change. Instead of building a fortress that will withstand the test of time, build one that will adapt to the changing business climate and requirements.
  4. Engage Cloud: Cloud is the single largest opportunity for IT organizations today. Plan a holistic strategy to leverage cloud in appropriate ways. For many this will look like a hybrid strategy that evolves over time versus a haphazard approach.
  5. Challenge the Status Quo: Lastly, do not assume that the way things were done in the past will work moving forward. Many organizations struggle to find success with newer methodologies because they apply past paradigms. In some ways, it is almost easier to forget the past and think about how to start from scratch. Momentum can provide some resistance, but it is healthy to challenge the status quo.

Each of these steps provides a different perspective that helps shift the thinking around IT. It starts with the CIO and involves both the IT organization and the business organizations outside of IT. Each of these five steps provides the change in perspective to evolve the IT organization and value it provides.

IBM BLU Acceleration speaks to core business challenges with Cancun Release

Originally posted @ Gigaom Research 9/15/2014

http://research.gigaom.com/2014/09/ibm-blu-acceleration-speaks-to-core-business-challenges-with-cancun-release/

 

IBM’s BLU Acceleration is starting to make inroads in addressing common issues faced by enterprise IT organizations. BLU Acceleration is IBM’s in-memory database processing is based on DB2. In-memory processing provides significant performance advantages over traditional methods by eliminating the need to constantly read and write from hard drives. Instead, BLU Acceleration pulls the data into memory and performs the analytical processes within memory. This results in accelerated performance during analytical operations.

IBM’s Cancun Release of BLU Acceleration includes a number of new enhancements to the core product including support for Shadow Tables, Oracle & SAP and IBM’s POWER8 integration.

Shadow Tables

The Cancun Release provides the ability to conduct operations using tables on top of existing tables within the database. Interestingly, the Shadow Tables are column-oriented versus traditional row-oriented tables. This provides a second layer of capability without impacting the performance of core table structures.

Integration with Oracle and SAP

In different ways, IBM is providing greater integration with both Oracle and SAP. For Oracle, IBM is providing tools to migrate existing Oracle environments into IBM DB2 in order to retain existing work. This is key when considering a move from one database platform to another.

For SAP, IBM has provided greater integration with SAP BW (Business Warehouse) beyond the core offering. In doing so, SAP workloads can leverage BLU Acceleration with a number of enhancements. It will be interesting to see how this space evolves compared with SAP’s own in-memory solution, SAP HANA.

Integration with IBM POWER8 processor

The last of the Cancun Release enhancements provides optimizations that fully leverage the POWER8 processor such as concurrent multithreading and 128-bit register instructions. In doing so, IBM creates a powerful combination of tying software applications to engage specific hardware features and therefore optimizing the application for the hardware platform.

Migration Required

IBM BLU Acceleration provides a number of opportunities for in-memory database process. The catch is that it leverages IBM’s DB2 database. In order to leverage the benefits, customers will need to migrate from their existing platform (Oracle, SQL, etc) to DB2.

For organizations looking to enhanced performance in their Big Data and Analytics operations, in-memory processing is key. DB2 with BLU Acceleration is an interesting solution but may pose a moment of pause for non-DB2 customers when considering the requirements to migrate. For Oracle customers, the migration tools in the Cancun Release will help with this process.

CIOs ill equipped to manage the growing security threats

Originally posted @ Gigaom Research 9/7/2014

http://research.gigaom.com/2014/09/cios-ill-equip…curity-threats/ ‎

Security, or Information Security (InfoSec) as the more formal term, is going through a period of massive change. In recent months, the public has become keenly aware of the risks from Information Security. Public security issues at Target, UPS, Apple’s iCloud, Home Depot and the government’s Healthcare.gov website moved the security awareness front and center for the general public. When considering the reach of these companies, statistically speaking, it is highly probable that one or more of these issues has affected most in the US.

Public awareness

At a recent conference of CIOs, Chief Information Security Officers (CISO), CEOs and security experts discussed the challenges all companies face. One expert noted that security is a balance between privacy and security. While that may be true, risk also must be considered along with cost. One could argue that ethics may or may not play a role in the decision too. While somewhat unrelated, it does bring to mind the case study of the Ford Pinto. The decisions made can impact a great number of people.

Security’s big data problem

Today’s security problem has evolved from the days of firewalls and virus protection. Today’s security problem is far more complex and involves people, mobile devices, unsecure networks, complex applications and subtle footprints. These subtle footprints, while independently insignificant, point to a larger issue when considered with other data points.

Collaboration, whether within a company or across companies is key. Competitors within a single industry are even starting to collaborate on security issues. In addition, the volume of data being analyzed is really a big data problem. No longer are the days where just looking for a certain ‘signature’ will suffice. Threats are far more sophisticated, clever and adaptable.

Reducing the risk footprint

One way to break down the problem is to look across the enterprise and break down the risk footprint. The risk footprint is the area that is most sensitive to the enterprise. It may refer to systems, applications or data. Simply treating all systems, networks, applications and data equal, creates a fairly daunting problem. In addition, the problem is only getting more complex, not simpler. Reducing the footprint allows the organization to understand the varying degrees of risk and bring attention to those areas that need it. In many ways, it provides clarity for the organization to focus on the crown jewels.

Defining the crown jewels

As with any assessment, understanding what is critical is key. According to Alex Stamos, Yahoo’s CISO, “Nobody but Microsoft is qualified to run Exchange today.” One could argue with that statement in the past. Today, one would be hard-pressed to argue, as Exchange gets increasingly more complex and becomes more of a utility to companies rather than a strategic differentiator. It is those more sensitive areas that one needs to focus on.

New threat vectors

In addition to commercial applications like Exchange, the IT organization needs to consider (relatively) new potential threat vectors from open source software and Internet of Things (IoT). Open source software is not new. However, it is gaining wider appeal in the enterprise IT organization. According to Tom Reilly, CEO of Cloudera, “400 people look at commercial software versus open source where 4 million people look at it.” Even major companies such as Salesforce take an ‘open source first’ approach with software.

Open source is not the only new tool in the shed getting the InfoSec attention. IoT is both exciting and scary at the same time. Unlike traditional IT systems, networks and applications, IoT presents an exponentially complex problem for security. Concerns circle around IoT being built on a broken foundation that was not built for IoT. PG&E, the main power and gas utility in the San Francisco Bay Area is concerned about security and IoT with their smart meters. PG&E uses IoT to evaluate the validation of devices and data coming in to avoid fake power outages. Without validation, the ramifications could be huge. And that is just the start. What happens when IoT devices such as wearables become more commonplace, but not updated. Each of those could present a growing threat.

The sky is not falling

According to Yahoo’s Stamos, “There is nothing that Yahoo can buy today to solve the problems.” The panel of security experts mentioned that when considering threats from nation states, there are only 30-40 Fortune 500 companies that are keeping up.

With all of the concerns, one could easily become paranoid. It is good to keep a healthy degree of concern around security, but support innovation and new paradigms. Cyber security is not going away, it is just going to evolve. Today’s CIO and IT organization needs to understand, stay on top of and adapt accordingly.

Three harmonious factors that change the CIO octave

Originally published @ Gigaom Research 9/1/2014

http://research.gigaom.com/2014/09/three-harmonious-factors-that-change-the-cio-octave/

Wikipedia: The term harmony derives from the Greek ‘harmonia’, meaning “joint, agreement, concord”, from the verb ‘harmozo’, “to fit together, to join.

The future of the CIO role comes down to this very issue. Many speak of the demise of the Chief Information Officer (CIO). Yet, a growing contingent of folks sees the path to success for the ‘new’ CIO role. Make no mistake; the (old) traditional CIO looks little to nothing like the (new) transformational CIO role. Unfortunately, many in traditional CIO roles will never make it into transformational CIO roles. The leap between the two roles will prove too great for many.

While these changes may seem obvious, actual widespread adoption continues to lag. Companies and their business leaders are craving these CIO success factors, yet they remain illusive.

Shifting focus

For those looking to shift gears to a higher orbit, there are a number of core success factors that come to light. Each of these provides the alignment necessary to refocus the CIO role toward a business-centric role.

  1. Follow the Money: Focus on key areas that govern the flow of money both in and out of the company.
  2. Partner: Go beyond just the basics of partnering with fellow business leaders. Truly understand their objectives and propose ways to enhance or expand their opportunities. In order to partner, collaboration is a must.
  3. Communicate: Providing regular status reports will not cut it. Use communication vehicles to communicate the IT priorities and how they benefit both the company and the specific leader’s objectives.

All about business

At a CIO Summit last week, the executive recruiter panel addressed how CEOs and other business leaders in search of a CIO are changing their perspective and ostensibly, their wish list. Instead of asking the executive recruiter to ‘get me one of these’ with specific technical or leadership skills, they are looking for CIOs with greater business knowledge about their industry…and the ability to apply that knowledge.

Similar to other IT roles where someone has a certification (ie: CCIE, MCSE, ITIL, CISSP), the certification itself brings little to no value without the ability to apply it. A CIO in title may only bring limited value without the applicability. For the CIO, this means quickly understanding the industry, company, customers and how the flow of money takes place.

Follow the Money

Key to starting is in understanding how the company makes money. How does the ecosystem of money flow both in, and out, of the company? Which departments or divisions are key to driving both top-line revenue and bottom-line expenses for the company. What attributes are critical in maintaining this ‘engine’ of commerce within the company? A successful CIO will clearly understand the process, the players and the levers of opportunity.

Partner

Partnering today means building a symbiotic two-way relationship that mutually benefits both parties. This means that the CIO must build critical relationships with fellow c-suite executives across the organization. In order to accomplish this, the CIO must be open-minded and collaborative in nature. Walking in with a closed-minded, technology-centric agenda need not apply. One must possess the ability to reach escape velocity from the daily grind. In addition, the language used in these conversations needs to shift from technology to business. For many, this means talking about money and how it applies to the executive(s) at the table. Applicability of the conversation is key to the success of the collaborative process. The CIO needs to lead this conversation, which may push them well outside their typical comfort zone.

Communicate

We have all heard the phrase: Communicate, communicate, communicate. But is it the right communication? More is not always better if it isn’t the right content. Part and parcel with the collaborative nature of the relationship, the CIO needs to clearly communicate their priorities and how they benefit the company and/or the specific executive’s priorities. In some case, the CIO’s objectives may not benefit the executive in question, but that doesn’t mean it should be omitted. There is a level of appreciation in understanding (and respecting) the CIO’s methods of prioritization among fellow executives. This leads the CIO to greater credibility and buy-in.

CIO = Career Is Over?

In a word: Hardly. The role of the traditional CIO is at a state of plateau. However, the role of the traditional CIO is just getting ramped up. The business-centric transformational CIO will thrive and succeed beyond the current expectations. One trend that exemplifies this is the appointment of CIOs to corporate boards of publicly traded companies. We can only expect far more opportunities from the CIO as the momentum of this evolution takes firm hold.

Seven Things the CIO should consider when adopting a holistic cloud strategy

Originally posted @ Gigaom Research 8/25/14

http://research.gigaom.com/2014/08/seven-things-the-cio-should-consider-when-adopting-a-holistic-cloud-strategy/

 

As conversations about cloud computing continues to focus on IT’s inability at holistic adoption, organizations outside of IT continue their cloud adoption trek outside the prevue of IT. While many of these efforts are considered Shadow IT efforts and frowned upon by the IT organization, they are simply a response to a wider problem.

The IT organization needs to adopt a holistic cloud strategy. However, are CIOs really ready for this approach? Michael Keithley, Creative Artists Agency’s CIO just returned from CIO Magazine’s CIO 100 Symposium which brings together the industry’s best IT leaders. In his blog post, he notes that “(he) was shocked to find that even among this elite group of CIOs there were still a significant amount of CIOs who where resisting cloud.” While that perspective is widely shared, it does not represent all CIOs. There are still a good number of CIOs that have moved to a holistic cloud strategy. The problem is that most organizations are still in a much earlier state of adoption.

In order to develop a holistic cloud strategy, it is important to follow a well-defined process. The four steps are straightforward and fit just about any organization:

  1. Assess: Provide a holistic assessment of the entire IT organization, applications and services that is business focused, not technology focused. For the CIO, they are a business leader that happens to have responsibility for technology. Understand what is differentiating and what is not.
  2. Roadmap: Use the options and recommendations from the assessment to provide a roadmap. The roadmap outlines priority and valuations that ultimately drive the alignment of IT.
  3. Execute: This is where the rubber hits the road. IT organizations will learn more about themselves through action. For many, it is important to start small (read: lower risk) and ramp up quickly.
  4. Re-Assess & Adjust: As the IT organization starts down the path of execution, lessons are learned and adjustments needed. Those adjustments will span technology, organization, process and governance. Continual improvement is a key hallmark to staying in tune with the changing demands.

For many, following this process alone is not enough to develop a holistic cloud strategy. In order to successfully leverage a cloud-based solution, several things need to change that may contradict current norms. Today, cloud is leveraged in many ways from Software as a Service (SaaS) to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). However, it is most often a very fractured and disjointed approach to leveraging cloud. Yet, the very applications and services in play require that organizations consider a holistic approach in order to work most effectively.

When considering a holistic cloud strategy, there are a number of things the CIO needs to consider including these six:

  1. Challenge the Status Quo: This is one of the hardest changes as the culture within IT developed over decades. One example is changing the mindset that ‘critical systems may not reside outside your own data center’ is not trivial. On the other hand, leading CIOs are already “getting out of the data center business.” Do not get trapped by the cultural norms and the status quo.
  2. Differentiation: Consider which applications and services are true differentiators for your company. Focus on the applications and services that provide strategic value and shift more common functions (ie: email) to alternative solutions like Microsoft Office 365 or Google Apps.
  3. Align with Business Strategy: Determine how IT can best enable and catapult the company’s business strategy. If IT is interested in making a technology shift, consider if it will bring direct positive value to the business strategy. If it does not, one should ask a number of additional questions determining the true value of the change. With so much demand on IT, focus should be on those changes that bring the highest value and align with the business strategy.
  4. Internal Changes: Moving to cloud changes how organizations, processes and governance models behave. A simple example is how business continuity and disaster recovery processes will need to change in order to accommodate the introduction of cloud-based services. For organizations, cloud presents both an excitement of something new and a fear from loss of control and possible job loss. CIOs need to ensure that this area is well thought out before proceeding.
  5. Vendor Management: Managing a cloud provider is not like every other existing vendor relationship. Vendor management comes into sharp focus with the cloud provider that spans far more than just the terms of the Service Level Agreement (SLA).
  6. Exit Strategy: Think about the end before getting started. Exiting a cloud service can happen for good or bad reasons. Understand what the exit terms are and in what for your data will exist. Exporting a flat file could present a challenge if the data is in a structured database. However, that may be the extent of the provider’s responsibility. When considering alternative providers, recognize that shifting workloads across providers is not necessarily as trivial as it might sound. It is important to think this through before engaging.
  7. Innovation: Actively seek out ways to adopt new solutions and methodologies. For example, understand the value from Devops, OpenStack, Containers and Converged Infrastructure. Each of these may challenge traditional thinking, which is ok.

Those are seven of the top issues that often come up in the process of setting a holistic cloud strategy. Cloud offers the CIO, the IT organization and the company as a whole one of the greatest opportunities today. Cloud is significant, but only the tip of the iceberg. For the CIO and their organization, there are many more opportunities beyond cloud today that are already in the works.

Cloud is now a boardroom discussion and more are requesting CIO adoption

Originally posted @ Gigaom Research 8/18/14

http://research.gigaom.com/2014/08/cloud-is-now-a-boardroom-discussion-and-more-are-requesting-cio-adoption/

Cloud computing and the board of directors may seem like an odd match. However, it is not the first time that executives and technology have met up. It may come as a surprise, but those magazines in the airplane seat back pocket are influential for technology. An airline publishes their magazine in which features about the latest innovation have influenced the direction of technology for years. The inflection point of a technology going mainstream often happens when it becomes the magazine cover story. An executive reads the article and asks when their company can leverage said technology.

Cloud goes mainstream

Using this methodology, cloud computing’s inflection point to mainstream took place in May 2009 when Continental Airlines (now merged with United Airlines) published a cover story on Russ Daniels, then HP’s Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Cloud Services Strategy. Surprisingly, cloud was still very much in its infancy in May 2009. Corporate IT organizations were neither broadly discussing cloud nor planning wide-scale adoption. That was five years ago.

Fast-forward five years later to August 2014. Over the past several months an interesting trend in cloud is starting to emerge. While cloud continues to be a discussion point among executives, the board of directors is now raising the topic of cloud.

The Chief Information Officer (CIO) is already under pressure to adopt cloud among an increasingly complex IT portfolio. And now the board of directors is asking their CIO about cloud adoption. Ironically, the overall adoption of cloud continues at a rather sluggish pace.

Is the boardroom the right place to discuss a company’s wholesale cloud adoption? Probably not. Cloud does present the single largest lever for the CIO to help catapult the company forward. Which specific tools are used and how they are applied does affect business strategy. However, at the end of the day, cloud is still just a technology. Technology is a tool, not a strategy. Nor does simply employing cloud result in a magical business windfall. Connecting the dots between cloud and business is a bit more complex.

Upping the ante

The board of directors asking about cloud should not be a surprise. Cloud is a technology, but is widely used across both consumer and corporate worlds. Cloud also spans industries and geographies. In many ways, cloud represents a wide range of solutions to a quickly changing landscape. Conceptually, cloud is a broad solution to a number of problems. So, why should the board of directors not be interested in it? The problem is not that it comes up in a board meeting. The problem is in who brings it up: The CIO or a board member?

In a related vein, shadow IT is seen as a response to a discrepancy between needs and solutions. This is very similar to the questions being asked by board members today. The pace of business is increasing and companies are looking for ways to break free of the constraints. To some, traditional IT is viewed as a constraint that must change.

As IT pressure increases, so does visibility up the leadership chain to the board of directors. Customers are already making purchase decisions based on the technology of one company versus another. Companies and their respective IT organization must adapt to this changing customer behavior through the use of Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC).

Seeking relief from the pressure

Change is hard. The world of IT is not getting simpler; it is getting far more complex. IT organizations see this first hand every day and are seeking relief from the building pressure. However, traditional approaches are simply not enough to keep up.

Relief needs to come from non-traditional means. In many ways, cloud presents a non-traditional approach to the norm. It is important not to underestimate the amount of momentum behind traditional IT approaches. Looking back at the anthropology of IT, one quickly understands why.

The challenge for today’s CIO comes down to a few key items:

  • Understand the Business: First and foremost, understand how the company makes money. It may sound simple, but understand the different value chains, opportunities and challenges. Look for opportunities to improve and/ or grow.
  • Executive Engagement: As CIO, engage peer executives and board members at a business level. Up-level the conversation from that of technology to business.
  • Balancing Innovation vs. Legacy: Strike a balance between quick adoption of new methodologies and management of existing legacy solutions. Specific to cloud, establish a holistic cloud strategy while maintaining a solid operational footing with legacy systems.
  • Challenge the Norm: Traditional IT approaches are not enough to turn the corner. Look for new, innovative ways that change the path of inertia.
  • Organizational Shift: Establish a vision that engages staff in the changes.

In specific terms for the CIO role, it could be more dramatic and mean the difference between relevance and extinction.

The number of 9’s don’t matter but business metrics do

Originally posted @ Gigaom Research 8/11/14

http://research.gigaom.com/2014/08/the-number-of-9s-dont-matter-but-business-metrics-do/

Information Technology (IT) organizations across the globe use a number of metrics to measure their success, failure and standing. One of the more popular metrics is the ‘number of 9’s’ as a measure of system uptime. Why use 9’s? It is relatively easy for technology organizations to measure system performance. Unfortunately, it does not matter outside of IT.

What are 9s?

The number of 9’s refers to the percentage of system uptime. Typically, we hear about three 9’s, four 9’s or five 9’s. Three 9’s refers to 99.9% uptime, or .1% downtime whereas five 9’s refers to an ever-illusive 99.999% uptime or a mere .001% downtime.

These metrics have been used for a very long time; from internal IT organizations reporting status to Service Level Agreements (SLAs) from service providers. The number of 9’s is used as a metric to set performance targets…and measure progress toward them. The problem is, they are technology focused. When looking at the inverse as a function of downtime, it equates to the following table:

Downtime TableEven at four-9’s, that equates to a maximum of only 52.56 minutes of downtime per year. Unfortunately, this means very little if the company is in retail and those 52 minutes of downtime came during Black Friday or Cyber Monday. In addition, the number may be artificially low as other factors may not be included in the calculation.

The Fallacy of Planned vs. Unplanned Downtime

First, it is important to differentiate between scheduled downtime and unplanned downtime (outages). Most measure their system performance based on the amount of unplanned downtime and exclude any scheduled downtime from the calculations. There has been an ongoing debate for years whether to include scheduled downtime.

Arguably, if a system is down (planned or unplanned), it is still down and unavailable. In today’s world of 24×7, 100% uptime expectations, planned downtime must be considered. Ironically, the inclusion of planned downtime causes uptime figures to drop and may cause a rethinking of how applications and services are architected.

Technology Metrics

In today’s world, do these metrics even make sense anymore? They are not business metrics…unless you are a service provider that makes your business about uptime. For the majority of IT organizations, these metrics are just ‘technology’ metrics that have little to no relevance to the business at hand. Just ask a line of business owner what five-9’s means to their line of business. For IT, it is hard to connect the dots between percentage uptime and true business impact. And by business impact, this refers to business impact measured in dollars.

Business Metrics

If not 9’s, what business metrics should IT be focused on? Most companies use a common set of metrics to gauge business progress. Those may include Cost to Acquire a Customer (CAC), Lifetime Value of Customer (LVC) and Gross Margin. Customer engagement is a key area of focus that includes customer acquisition, retention & churn. For IT, these metrics may seem very foreign. However, to a company, they are very real. Increasingly so, IT must connect the dots between that new technology and the value it brings to business metrics. As IT evolves to a business focused organization, so should their metrics of success.

The Role of the CIO

The CIO, above all others, is best positioned to take the lead in this transformation. Instead of looking for ways to express technological impact, look for ways to express business impact. It may seem like a subtle change in nomenclature, but the impact is huge. Business metrics provide a single view that all parts of a company can directly work toward improving.

A good starting point is to understand how the company makes money. Start with reading the income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement. Are there any hotspots that IT can contribute to? And what (business) metrics should IT use to measure their progress.

Not only will this shift IT thinking to be business focused, it will also highlight better alignment with other business leaders across the company.

Death of the Data Center

Back in 2011, Mark Thiele (@mthiele10), Jan Wiersma (@jmwiersma) and I shared the stage at a conference in London, England for a panel discussion on the future of data centers. The three of us are founding board members with Data Center Pulse; an industry association of data center owners and operators with over 6,000 members that span the globe.

Our common theme for the panel: Death of the Data Center. Our message was clear and poignant. After decades of data center growth, a significant change was both needed and on the horizon. And this change was about to turn the entire industry in its head. The days of building and operating data centers of all shapes, sizes and types throughout the world was about to end. The way data centers are consumed has changed.

Fast forward the clock to 2014, a different conference (ECF/ DCE) and a different city (Monte Carlo, Monaco). The three of us shared the stage once again to touch on a variety of subjects ranging from SMAC to DCIM to the future of data centers. During my opening keynote presentation on the first day, I referred back to our statement from three years earlier professing “Death of the Data Center.”

Of course, making this statement at a Cloud and Data Center conference might have bordered on heresy. But the point still needed to be made. And it was more important today than ever. The tectonic shift we discussed three years in London was already starting to play out. Yet, the industry as a whole was still trying to ignore the fact that evolution was taking over. And by industry I’m referring to both internal IT organizations along with data center and service providers. How we look at data centers was changing and neither side was ready to admit change was afoot.

The Tectonic Data Center Evolution

During the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009, a shift in IT spending took place. At the same time, cloud computing was truly making its own entrance. Companies of all sizes (and their IT organizations) were pulling back their spending and rethinking what ‘strategic spending’ really meant. Coming into focus was the significant costs associated with owning and operating data centers. The common question: Do we still really needed our own data center?

This is a tough question to consider for those that always believed that data, applications, and systems needed to be in their own data center in order to be 1) manageable and 2) secure. Neither of those hold true today. In fact, by many accounts, the typical enterprise data center is less secure than the alternatives (colocation or cloud).

The reality is: This shift has already started, but we are still in the early days. Colocation is not new, but the options and maturity of the alternatives is getting more and more impressive. The cloud solutions that are part of a data center’s ecosystem are equally impressive.

Data Center Demand

Today, there is plenty of data center capacity. However, there is not much new capacity being built by data center providers due to the fear of over capacity and idle resources. The problem is, when the demand from enterprises starts to ramp up. It takes years to bring a new data center facility online. We know the demand is coming, but when. And when it does, it will create a constraint on data center capacity until new capacity is built. I wrote about this in my post Time to get on the Colocation Train Before it is Too Late.

Are Data Centers Dying?

In a word, are data centers going away? No. However, if you are an enterprise running your own data center, expect a significant shift. At a minimum, the size of your existing data center is shrinking if not completely going away. And if you are in an industry with regulatory or compliance requirements, the changes still apply. I have worked with companies some of the most regulated and sensitive industries including Healthcare, Financial Services and Government Intelligence Communities. All of which are considering some form of colocation and cloud today.

Our point was not to outline a general demise of data centers, but to communicate an impending shift in how data centers are consumed. To some, there was indeed a demise of data centers coming. However, to others, it would generate significant opportunity. The question where are you in this equation and are you prepared for the impending shift?

HP Launches Helion to Address Enterprise Cloud Adoption

Today, HP takes a huge step forward to address the broad and evolving enterprise cloud demand through their HP Helion announcement. HP Helion presents HP’s strategy to provide a comprehensive cloud portfolio. As HP’s CEO Meg Whitman mentioned, “HP is in it to win.” HP is investing over $1b in their cloud-based solutions. It’s clear that HP is working hard to win the new enterprise game.

Traditional IT demand is not going away, but the demand for cloud is increasing. Most enterprises struggle to leverage traditional IT while adopting Transformational IT. Providers, such as HP, need to address this complex and hybrid approach. With Helion, HP ups the ante in addressing this demand.

Today, HP launches their Helion brand encompassing their entire cloud portfolio. The formerly know HP Cloud solution is now part of the Helion branding. But the key change isn’t the branding change. It’s the end-to-end products that address an enterprise’s needs regardless of their state of cloud adoption.

Open Source Software Part of HP’s Strategy

HP’s commitment to OpenStack is not new. They have two board members as part of the OpenStack Foundation. And their further commitment to embrace OpenStack as part of their core cloud offerings furthers both HP and the OpenStack movement as a whole. OpenStack is a key opportunity for enterprises and service providers alike. However, open source software, and specifically OpenStack has presented significant challenges for enterprise adoption.

One of the first solutions from HP is their OpenStack Community Edition (OCE). OCE is intended for entry-level use up to 30 nodes. OCE is an approachable way for enterprises interested in OpenStack to get started. For enterprises interested in going beyond 30 nodes, HP’s commercial solution bridges the gap.

OCE is not only open source, but supported by HP. It’s also one of the first distributions based on the OpenStack Icehouse release. HP intends to ship updates every six weeks, which will keep the distribution fresh. HP OCE is available today as a free download.

Also announced today was HP’s commitment to Cloud Foundry. Cloud Foundry presents an additional opportunity for enterprises to embrace cloud through PaaS. For many enterprises, PaaS presents the solution between a core infrastructure solution and SaaS solutions. Plus, PaaS provides portability for applications based on a specific platform.

In Summary

HP Helion presents one of the most comprehensive end-to-end solutions for enterprises today. OpenStack is very interesting for enterprises, but difficult to consume. Helion lowers the bar and gives enterprises options they’ve been clamoring for.

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.