Opinion: This Instant-On world needs another superhero

Clive Brindley gives us his views on why the IT industry needs a new “hero” to drive innovation and change

August 18, 2011

By Clive Brindley, Channel Manager, HP Software, South Africa

Having been in the IT management space for the past 18 years, I have seen a dramatic change in what is expected from IT. I guess we all have. It reminds me of the song by Bob Dylan, “Things they are chang’in”. Having met three customer CIOs last week, the discussion was very similar with all of them. IT has to provide more innovation and get closer to business, while driving down costs through standardisation, automation and consolidation.

IT certainly does need a new hero if it has to drive all this innovation and save costs in an ever more complex IT fabric. A new breed of CIO is needed to support the instant-on enterprise. Everything is demanded now, whether working from home and requesting new flights, submitting your tax reports, collaborating with friends and communities or giving your customers the information they need, on time, accurately and securely. I have seen this instant-on, instant-now mentality permeate into my life too. I too am a lot more demanding and less tolerant to wait – I have become a tougher consumer. So what tools/techniques might this new instant-on superhero need to make the grade? I offer five domains for your consideration below:

1. Converged architecture. It all starts with the building blocks of the data centre – intelligent and efficient converged infrastructure. Imagine being able to have one architecture for storage, network and server components, all managed via a central control platform. If you need more storage, you slide in more disks. We could add more network ports and then servers, all built to a common architecture and integrated data centre chassis.

The superhero could sit at a console, see the floor plan of the data centre, select a rack and fly down to see what is deployed. Click on a server module, view all properties including cabling, power conduits and more but then most importantly be able view what applications are installed and what business services are dependent on those applications. How useful might that be for change management, data centre moves or maintenance?

2. Application Transformation. This should not come as a surprise to you but the only reason we have any IT infrastructure in business today, is to make applications run. Why? Because that is where all our business processes are digitised. Show me one business process today that is not embedded in some form of application or service.

All of IT serves these critical applications, from word processes, social apps to mission-critical financial systems, ERP, CRM and more. Thus, it should also not come as a surprise that most of the budgets in IT go into building and maintaining these applications. What our superhero needs is an application transformation strategy that covers all aspects of building, maintaining and retiring applications.

All this can be done in three easy steps. Step 1: Access your application portfolio. This means discovering, analysing and deciding what applications need to be continued, retired or alternatively sourced (Application Portfolio Management). Step 2: Modernise the apps portfolio so business can remain agile to new opportunities, competitor threats and more (SOA, Web 2 and cloud integration). Step 3: Application Management encompassing end-to-end application performance and quality management. This is the ability to monitor end-user experience, linking to application infrastructure performance for a speedy triage of issues, end-to-end quality when building, changing and securing these new and modernised applications. There is so much more to elaborate on this subject but space is limited.

3. Information lifecycle management. Now that we have world class data centres and infrastructure as well as modern, agile and performing applications, we need a holistic approach to information management. From information creation, storage, retrieval, compliance, recovery, archiving and ultimately retirement, all aspects need to be considered. Modern technology, process and strong policies are needed, all working in concert to serve business, so that intelligent and calculated business decisions can be made.

4. Enterprise security. This is a no-brainer and one of the greatest challenges facing organisations and consumers today. We need to provide a robust security management platform, correlating multiple security systems/monitors so sense can be made of the security posture at any time. Applications are the single biggest target – industry stats show that 70% of all security exploits are in the applications space. Security needs to be baked into applications from the beginning; as the developers are writing code, testing and ultimately when they have deployed the app into production. A holistic application security solution is needed to hopefully make our superhero sleep a little better at night.

5. Hybrid sourcing. The CIO of today and the future will be more of a service broker than a builder of new services, systems and solutions. Flexibility in choice, whether internal cloud is used to deliver agility to internal business divisions, or if external cloud services will be used for HR or email services is irrelevant. What if you only want your desktops and printers managed by your previous outsourced provider and your other services managed elsewhere? Monolithic sourcing is no more, you need a technology partner that offers all this flexibility in addressing your sourcing needs.

That’s it, enough to get our superhero on the road to ruling the skies and bringing peace and prosperity to IT. It is interesting how much Hollywood is focusing on this too with Thor, Captain America, The Green Lantern, X-Men and of course the new Transformer movie soon to hit the big screen.

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