Don’t be complacent CIOs! Here’s how to transform your business

Few, if any, CIOs would think of themselves as complacent, but there can be no denying that in some ways we are very much creatures of habit. For example, CIOs will often shy away from re-evaluating the fundamental way in which their companies work.

Indeed, with the average CIO tenure hovering around the five year mark delivering long term transformative change can prove difficult and more than many feel they can manage.

After all, it is in the IT function where the concept of: ‘you won’t get fired for buying x…’, where ‘x’ represents systems and solutions delivered by one of the tier one providers in the space, was a fair descriptor of attitude to risk.

This needs to change as the entire framework for service delivery in IT is challenged. With the advent of the software defined data centre, we are being forced to consider our ability to deliver this change more urgently.

Why the disruption is happening now

As each day passes, the digitisation of business moves on apace. Businesses assessing their core priorities for growth and innovation are talking about things like predictively spotting new opportunities, innovating in an agile way, delivering personalised experiences to customers etc., as core to their future. All of these trends call on technology to take a more prominent role in service innovation and delivery.

This therefore changes the dynamic for CIOs. When applications were few and data demands were relatively modest, going with the status quo was fine. However, in a world of cloud economics and agile development, and with digital data doubling every two years, more and more organisations are trying to flex with a mix of high-performance high quality infrastructure and ‘commodity’ resources - an enterprise-grade ‘hybrid cloud’, if you will.

Just as virtualisation brought about a gradual but ultimately dominant trend to re-architecting the way compute resources were delivered, so is storage virtualisation and the rise of the software-defined data centre bringing about a more holistic shift.

Three steps to enabling the next wave of software-defined growth

So, how does a CIO plan this transformation without committing to excessive risk? If the CIO was safe buying the big brands… how can risk be managed in this more diverse, heterogeneous world?

The answer comes in three parts:

  1. Get visibility into the IT environment: Most CIOs don’t know what their IT resources are doing. This is down to the fact that it is difficult to track what resources are doing when CIOs need to deploy global, multi-tenant applications in their private cloud environment. In this scenario applications share resources over multiple physical hosts and therefore incur a cost that is challenging to track and document. However, advanced software can now be used to understand the use of resources by these more complicated applications giving much more insight into the IT environment.
  2. Use that insight to optimise resources: Once a CIO has a view of how applications are mapped, decisions can be made about how to optimise the available resources. Application environments have traditionally been oversized to ensure availability and most customers are running applications on tier 1 resources when it’s not strictly necessary. This is largely due to the consolidation of environments that has happened over the last few years, where most businesses, due to complexity, have only had two to three tiers available in their infrastructure. In this world of ‘hyperscale’ applications, and with huge changes happening on a weekly basis in many enterprises, more flexibility is needed. The introduction of hyperscale elastic cloud resources; software SANs that capitalise on commodity hardware and orchestration platforms and which let you burst to public cloud resources in a secure and controlled manner will be key to helping businesses optimise their IT resources in the software-defined world.
  3. Automate infrastructure to deliver at speed: In a world where application deployment times are shortening dramatically it is essential that businesses are able to provide infrastructure ten or even one hundred times faster than in the past. Everyone is aware of the trend in the industry towards cloud and the adoption of “Shadow IT” by the developer community. This is driven by a constant market pressure to innovate and deliver business outcomes faster. It is an easy problem to solve for a start-up company with no legacy environment to deal with. However, many businesses need to deliver this agility and flexibility internally. After all, a public cloud provider will never fully understand a business as well as the internal IT department can; but IT needs help in developing its agility. No longer will internal IT departments be rewarded for delivering efficient infrastructure; that is ‘table stakes’ in today’s environment. The issue for CIOs today is to move the team’s resources up the stack, to help the business achieve its goals more directly.

The biggest challenge with any change on this scale is getting the will behind it; most CIOs know that the status quo cannot be maintained, and are therefore joining the software defined revolution.

Those that do will find their infrastructure performance improves exponentially, helping their businesses to succeed.

Dayne Turbitt, Vice President EMEA Sales for Software Defined Solutions at EMC