VCE, the converged platforms division of EMC, has surveyed more than 2,700 business and IT professionals in Europe, the Middle East and Africa to try and get a hold on the current IT landscape. Naturally, the research pointed towards businesses taking on more converged IT infrastructure, but it also showed what IT teams are worried about, what they are prioritising this year and where the opportunities lie.
The report generally painted a picture of organisations where IT and the rest of the business are miles apart on a range of issues, with VCE constantly pointing to a converged solution to bring them closer together on issues like the cloud, big data and innovation.
Just a quick refresher: hyperconverged systems are an infrastructure system with a software-centric architecture which tightly integrates storage, networking and virtualisation resources.
Closing the gap between IT and business leaders
The survey pointed towards a deep divide between IT teams and business leaders. It says: “IT needs to learn the language of business just as the rest of the business needs to learn the language of technology.”
“CIOs are isolated both from their C-suite colleagues and from their own IT teams, lacking faith in the ability of IT professionals and infrastructure to meet emerging business needs. They often disagree with other CxOs on IT-related issues and appear to judge the IT team far more harshly than their business-focused colleagues do.”
The diminishing influence of IT
Nigel Moulton, EMEA CTO at VCE spelt out the scenario: “Say you have a company which is running ten business units, and your IT agenda is based on supplying services to the ten business units.
"If one of those units is sales, and they want to run their sales platform or CRM on Salesforce.com, for example, all of a sudden your budget and your people that were catering for 100 percent of the business are now catering for 90 percent because that business unit has wandered off somewhere else.”
“However the cost in IT and the people in IT are still based on 100 percent, so you’re then into a law of diminishing returns because you have excess people and a budget that doesn’t work out.
"So there is a danger in IT that your ability to offer a cost effective service becomes even less capable than when you started.”
Put more simply: 57 percent of CIOs surveys felt “that the IT team is losing its grip on the technology that is held and used across the business”. The executive summary of the report states: “The more technology is embedded, the more traditional IT becomes marginalised,” a phenomenon it calls “invisible IT”, not shadow IT.
A converged platform
Naturally, a survey undertaken by a converged solution vendor suggests that the best way to bridge the gap between IT and the broader needs of businesses is to build on a “scaleable, flexible converged infrastructure [which] will provide the platform for growth.” With 80 percent of respondents believing that this approach would “reduce risk by providing a solid foundation for business growth and innovation.”
Data is a huge priority
The VCE report claims that using a converged infrastructure could help businesses achieve their number one priority over the coming years, namely: “The study found that most businesses are struggling to evolve their traditional IT infrastructure and culture to meet the challenges of big data, operational complexity and real-time business.”
Survey respondents identify their greatest IT challenge
Despite 41 percent of respondents seeing the need to release value from big data as the number one priority, only four in ten CIOs saw it as their greatest challenge. The problem could be the question itself, with one set of respondents seeing opportunity and the generally-more-reticent CIOs seeing a challenge. Again this points to a divide in priorities between IT and the business itself.
The report states that 76 percent of business leaders would be happy outsourcing most or all of their IT systems and data to the cloud, but CIOs are more reticent, preferring a hybrid solution. It comes down to what is considered “essential,” with IT wanting to keep what it sees as core, sensitive and confidential data and systems on-premises or in a private cloud.
VCE says that IT needs to be aware of the compute power alongside the growth of data. Moulton calls this “data gravity”. He explains: “The associated compute that you need to move with that data the two tend to move hand in hand.”
Buy not build
VCE believes that: “The IT function needs to adapt, professionally and culturally, to the concept of IT infrastructure as an advanced, on-demand utility it can use rather than manage. Something to buy rather than build. The time saved not having to keep the operational lights on will release IT professionals to share their expertise across the business; listening, understanding and enabling. This is the key to reclaiming IT relevance.”
Moulton said that he believes IT tends to have a “build it yourself” mentality whereas business leaders “are more comfortable acquiring the building blocks for IT.”
The cracks of expansion
Many of those surveyed said they are worried that business growth may expose their IT teams as under-prepared (68 percent) and put excessive pressure on existing IT operations, damaging customer satisfaction and brand reputation (69 percent). The main concern is around exposing a skills gap if they were to change their IT landscape too quickly.
Moulton presented an all-too-common situation: “These divisions don’t speak to each other, and even when they do, they talk in a completely different set of languages. The storage individual doesn’t understand the network perspective, and the network person doesn’t understand the server person’s problem.
"The languages they use are embedded in the technologies they have ownership of. However if you put the word ‘cloud’ in a job title today, it’s expected the individual is a master of multiple disciplines.”
Barry Cashman, VP EMEA at VCE, spelt out the way staffing would need to change under a converged infrastructure: “[Before] you have a server team, a network team and a storage team. Ultimately, actually, instead of three people you have one cloud architect who is trained across all three. So there’s two jobs released.
"There are two ways of looking at this. One is you lay the two jobs off, or you retrain say the server administrator as the cloud administrator across the whole piece and the other two people you repurpose above the infrastructure line, up to the application line, to interact with the businesses, understand what they want and then move forward with the businesses.”
As Moulton put it: “Cloud people rather than siloed experts.”
And Cashman says that VCE are practicing what they preach: “We are increasingly asking our people to sit across various roles. For example, storage guys broadening around converged infrastructure and also software. We recognise the economics of retraining and we think our customers will."
Finally there is that impossible to pin down, magic in the bottle: Innovation. According to the survey 68 percent of CIOs see IT as a barrier to innovation. But 70 percent of all respondents regard IT as an enabler.
Moulton believes this is because IT works in isolation and that “the power is shifting away from IT in that ideas are being implemented there, rather than germinating there.” His solution is to allow IT to be more business savvy. How do they achieve this? By implementing a hyper converged IT infrastructure of course.