I was recently asked to comment on the significant IT challenges of today and what they have in common with each other. There are certainly no shortage of topics to consider and after some thought I found myself focused on four broad areas that I see having radically changing requirements that need to be embraced and considered carefully for forward looking enterprise IT organizations: software-defined data center (SDDC), cloud migration, end-user computing (EUC) and security. The unifying thread for me shared between these diverse topics is the changing expectations of IT and how the IT organizations will be measured. I’d like to make a few comments about each and why they imply radically changing success criteria for IT.
Let’s start with SDDC. SDDC was a term coined by my former VMware colleagues Raghu Raghuram and Steve Herrod, reflecting the broadening of the original “virtual infrastructure” vision to the entire data center. First, treat all data-center hardware, such as CPU, memory, storage and network, as building blocks to be aggregated, virtualized and then 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 server, storage and network infrastructure. In the SDDC world, these disciplines are all merged together, blurring the lines and responsibilities.
I could write a whole article on the impact of cloud computing for IT, but I decided to call out one aspect in particular – IT has now has competition. Five years ago, when a business unit wanted to invest in a new application, it typically had one provider it could work with – corporate IT. And whatever time and cost IT proposed, the business had to adapt to. In the world of cloud computing, IT has competition. They need to be responsive to the business or the business will just go elsewhere. And dynamic, elastic, on demand clouds let you buy just what you need for the application, when you need it and provide a formidable benchmark to measure internal IT against. There are 2 takeaways; the obvious one that IT needs to be more responsive, but the more fundamental one is that IT needs to become a trusted advisor for cloud workloads to have or keep a strategic seat at the table.
What about End User Computing? Before joining Infinio as CTO, I had spent 4 years as VMware’s End User Computing CTO which included defining, building and selling VMware’s Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solution now called Horizon View. For a long time, VDI looked like a core strategic technology that addressed a variety of shortcomings of Windows PC infrastructure in the corporate world. Whether it was desktop/application management and services, roaming and remote access use cases, data security, Windows desktops as a managed service, etc. VDI had a lot to offer. However, the world changed. Very quickly, mobile access along with employee owned and operated computers and devices became required. Also the resurgence of Apple Macs and Windows 8 with its clunky new user interface provided an additional shove away from the venerable PC. All of a sudden, a well-managed corporate Windows desktop became a whole lot less strategic. The key takeaway for IT? IT needs to move from concentrating on corporate owned PC desktop management and applications towards mobile enablement in a world where many of your customers are self-service and using their own devices and services.
Finally, my 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 anti-virus scans and 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 connected over the public internet. And, while security is usually not a business profit center, lack of security is now an existential threat to companies and their CIOs. Protection and breach detection of IT systems, services and data, preventing social engineering hacks while still maintaining employee productivity is a very difficult IT tight rope to walk. But it must be done and at a very high priority.
To summarize, IT today is undergoing a radical transformation due to rapidly shifting requirements for the organization as whole and changing expectations on what success means. It is a vastly different environment than it was just a few short years ago. Flexibility, embracing changing requirements and always re-evaluating business priorities are key to success.