When IT decision makers think about the significant challenges they face today, there is no shortage of topics to consider. The one unifying trend, however, is the changing expectations of IT and what IT success means in the near future. There are at least four broad IT focus areas with radically changing requirements that forward-looking enterprise IT organizations need to embrace and consider carefully: software-defined data center (SDDC), cloud migration, end-user computing (EUC) and security.
SDDC is a term coined by VMware’s Raghu Raghuram and Steve Herrod; it reflects the broadening of the original “virtual infrastructure” vision to encompass all resources in the data center. First, treat all data-center hardware, such as the CPU, memory, storage and network, as elements to be aggregated, virtualized and applied programmatically in the appropriate quantities to application workloads. Sprinkle in a healthy dose of policy-driven automation and you have this SDDC concept. The impact on IT, while a logical extension of the pervasive virtualization trend, is profound. IT has historically been siloed into different disciplines, such as servers, storage and network infrastructure. In the SDDC world, these disciplines all merge, blurring the lines and responsibilities.
Countless articles have already covered the impact of cloud computing for IT, but one particular aspect is worth discussing at greater length: IT now has competition. Five years ago, when a business unit wanted to invest in a new application, it typically had one service-provider option—corporate IT. The business had to adapt to whichever time and cost parameters IT would define and deliver on. In the world of cloud computing, IT has competition. The IT department must be responsive to the business, or the business will just go elsewhere. Dynamic, elastic and on-demand clouds let you buy just what you need to provision and deploy an application when the business needs it. It also offers a formidable benchmark against which to measure internal IT. There are two takeaways. The obvious one is that IT needs to be responsive and cost effective as a service provider to the business, as it will now be measured against cloud providers. Additionally, another fundamental takeaway is that IT needs to become a trusted advisor and evaluator for cloud services to have and keep a strategic seat at the table.
What about end-user computing? When VMware’s virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution—now called Horizon View—first emerged, VDI looked like a core strategic technology that addressed a variety of shortcomings of Windows PC infrastructure in the corporate world and that would quickly become pervasive. Whether it was desktop or application management and services, roaming and remote-access use cases, data security, desktop as a service, or any of its other features, VDI had a lot to offer. But the world changed. Very quickly, mobile access and employee-owned and employee-operated computers and devices became required. Also the resurgence of Apple Macs and Windows 8, with its clunky user interface, provided an additional shove away from the venerable PC. All of the sudden, a well-managed corporate Windows desktop became a whole lot less strategic and no longer adequate by itself as a comprehensive IT-delivered solution. What’s the key takeaway for IT? IT needs to move away from concentrating on corporate-owned PC desktop management and applications and toward mobile enablement in a world where many customers are self-service and are using their own devices and services. A well-managed corporate Windows desktop by itself is no longer sufficient for many employees.
Finally, a fourth area of dramatically changing requirements in IT is security. It used to be that the security mandate was a “check-the-box” that was adequately addressed by IT-managed antivirus scans and by securing corporate systems in the data center behind a firewall. In that era, the corporate LAN was a meaningful boundary and security was more of a good hygiene principle for IT, not a CEO career-limiting event. Today, corporate LANs are pretty close to irrelevant as a boundary with far-flung distributed cloud services and a mobile workforce. And, while security is seldom a business profit center, lack of security is now an existential threat to companies and their CIOs. Protection and breach detection for IT systems, services and data, as well as preventing social-engineering hacks while still maintaining employee productivity, are very challenging IT tightropes to walk. It must be done and at a very high priority if the CIO and IT department are to maintain credibility for the enterprise.
To summarize, IT today is undergoing a radical transformation thanks to rapidly shifting requirements for the organization and its success criteria. It is a vastly different environment than it was just a few short years ago. Flexibility, embracing changing requirements and always reevaluating business priorities are critical to success.
About the Author
Scott Davis is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Infinio, where he drives product and technology strategy while also acting as an important public-facing company evangelist. Davis joined Infinio following seven years at VMware, where he was CTO for VMware’s End User Computing Business Unit.