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IT Infrastructure and Operations
By Jessie Burges, EVP CIO, G6 Hospitality, LLC
Change is the dominant theme for IT Infrastructure and Operations leaders today. IT leaders are being asked to change their view and approach to their systems, their customers and their business as a whole. The change required today may, as a luxury, come with specific requirements that outline what needs to be done immediately. The more complex effort, however, is considering the need to continue evolving to meet business demands of the future. The work to be done, after the planning is complete, has to occur in a way that allows you existing operations to continue seamlessly. This challenge is one that I often compare to overhauling an engine while it’s running. In the midst of change, IT leaders should explore options that improve the organization’s agility in the future—anticipating the need to continue changing on increasingly faster cycles. We should explore options that provide flexibility, option value and lower TCO. Most importantly, we must equip and align talent to this new IT operational structure.
2) What are the major pain-points that exist today when it comes to the IT infrastructure landscape?
The IT infrastructure landscape used to be more self-contained, allowing the highest levels of control over your systems and data. These systems used to be in close proximity, as well—allowing you to have more ownership of the entire business domain in which you were operating. Today, there are higher dependencies on shared service-based platforms and data elements, with ownership spread across several highly-interconnected entities— most of which are not within your formerly-self-contained environment. This scenario is often driven by the need for highly specialized services that may be more efficiently produced, optimized and maintained by others. As organizations transition to this model, the pain often arrives when they realize that their legacy platform has a hard time keeping up with these high-speed, highly-interconnected, tighter-tolerance environments.
3) Gartner predicts that by 2020, more compute power will have been sold by infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) cloud providers than sold and deployed into enterprise data centers. Most enterprises—unless very small—will continue to have an on-premises (or hosted) data center capability.
The Gartner prediction of this 2020 landscape is no surprise at all. This is mainly because 1) computing power is more prolific than ever and advancing rapidly, 2) the demand of each customer base is ever-increasing, and 3) customer demand is frequently based on emerging, more data-driven business models. With the inevitability of movement to the cloud, in some form or fashion, the decision of how much to invest in on-premises data centers will remain heavily specific to the entity and their business model. As organizations continue to take the hybrid approach when it comes to cloud infrastructure, there are still places where an on-premises solution makes sense. Some of the key opportunities to leverage an on-premises solution include situations where control is paramount. This includes your business’ requirement to control the timing of maintenance windows and code updates for certain business domains. In addition, there could be additional requirements around data residency that may be fulfilled with an on-premises solution.
We should explore options that provide flexibility, option value and lower TCO
The more the data center monitoring, management, and provisioning capabilities are API-based, the more agility the data center will have to extend its usefulness and overall efficiency. This is especially true as it relates to the ease of future hardware or software changes. An API structure for these services improves the dynamic capability of the data center to fulfill the needs of the business as they evolve over time. This future evolution could, therefore, be supported with less reliance on manual changes to tightly-coupled configurations—ultimately increasing speed of service delivery.
5) What are the major tasks for organizational CIOs at this point in time? Is there any unmet need in terms of IT infrastructure that is yet to be leveraged from the vendors?
Two of the major tasks of today’s CIO are: 1) Understanding your business above all. As a strategic leader, you cannot optimize your effectiveness if you’re tech-first. We must all, no matter our role, be business-first. 2) Translating opportunities presented by new and innovative technology platforms to other functional leaders in the business. This allows you to engage more deeply in strategic discussions regarding business challenges and opportunities, and truly collaborate on ways to best leverage technology.
Many vendors are placing the majority of their R&D in cloud-hosted solutions. While doing this, they should remember that much of their current customers are on their traditional, premises-based platforms. Some legacy customers, while eager to move to the cloud, are not able to move quickly, due to challenges with the changing cost structure, limited knowledge to build and support cloud-based platforms by their staff, or simply limited readiness by their business to move on to something new. With this said, vendors should continue to invest in the areas that ease both the hybrid operation and full cloud transition for their customers. Attention in these areas could also yield positive effects for the vendor, including increased customer retention through cloud transitions.
6) What is your advice for budding technologists in the IT infrastructure space? How do you see the evolution few years from now with regards to disruptions and transformations within IT infrastructure?
Today’s budding technologist should, 1) know your business, 2) stay true to the core principles of your role, 3)have an open mind, 4) seize opportunities and 5) be a leader that shows your team consistency and vision. These points tend to endure, no matter the specifics of the technology or the times. As we move forward, technologies that are platform-based, service-oriented, on-demand, highly-accessible and highly-resilient will continue to have tremendous impact.