Dell World: CIOs Need To Manage IT Transformation In Move To Cloud

As existing data centers mature and companies ponder how to embrace the cloud, CIOs will need to look at how to maintain control of IT infrastructures even as those infrastructures go through the next wave of transformation.

That's the message from Brad Anderson, senior vice resident of Dell's Enterprise Solutions Group, and Michelle Bailey, IDC research vice president for enterprise platforms and data center design, who Friday took the stage at the Dell World conference to talk about data center transformation.

Anderson said transforming the data center to be ready for the cloud is not just a question of having the right technology.

"We understand your IT environment has to support your needs .. We also understand that technology can't get you all the way there," he said. "It's a nexus of technology, processes, and people that will get you there."

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Anderson cited the 2002 Oakland Athletics, who were able to transform from a losing team to one that nearly won the World Series with a miniscule salary budget thanks to the club's focus on player efficiency, as an analogy to Dell's strategy for competing to help customers transform their approach to data center transformation.

In the movie "Moneyball," based on a true story, Billy Beane, the Oakland A's general manager, used statistical analysis to find relative unknowns to join the team instead of trying to compete with much better funded teams for well-known players, and was able to build a competitive team.

"We think we're taking a 'Moneyball' approach," Anderson said. "While our competitors are rushing headlong into monolithic solutions, we're focusing on open solutions."

Those open solutions, which Anderson said are essential for transforming IT environments, include the upcoming 12th generation Dell x86-based servers with built-in Flash storage; the company's storage offerings with advanced tiering, deduplication, and management features; its new top-of-rack Force10 networking products, and the ability to manage IT across blade, rack, virtualized, and cloud environments.

The 2002 Oakland As missed winning the World Series, but still left their mark on baseball, Anderson said.

"Everyone in baseball fundamentally changed how they staff their teams ... IT has to make that transformation, too," he said.

Bailey said that IT organizations need to understand that they are entering a new IT cycle with the move towards cloud computing, and that the change will be disruptive for some time.

"We're seeing a maturity of the data center ... But we're seeing this next disruptive technology coming," she said. "And disruptive cycles take about 10 years."

It is important that CIOs be seen as relevant to their organizations as companies go through the coming disruptive IT cycle, Bailey said. "What we'll see with the future CIO is, let's set a strategy," she said. "Maybe the cloud is not there today. But let's get set on the path."

The biggest fear for many companies is that the push to the cloud will not come from a centralized focus by the IT department, but from individual business departments moving in their own fashion, Bailey said. "How does (the CIO) main control without being seen as irrelevant?" she said.

One answer is hiring what Bailey termed the "trusted sourcer." This person does not source products, but instead understands the organization and partners to help mitigate the risks of the transformation and makes sure a company does not choose the wrong cloud provider partner.

Next: CIOs Need To Handle Disruptive Technology, Future-proof Their Companies

That partner choice is especially critical when looking at public clouds where an attempt to change providers can prove much more disruptive than for private clouds based on a company's existing processes, she said.

Finding the right partners and technology is also more urgent for SMBs than for enterprises, Bailey said. Large companies have big budgets, enabling them to better negotiate terms and licenses than SMBs, she said.

SMBs, on the other hand, are more likely to move to disruptive technologies like the cloud on an as-needed basis than larger companies, and so are likely to turn to trusted advisors like channel partners, Bailey said. "So you'll see they will need a lot more help," she said.

Companies' approaches to the cloud will also differ from how they approached the last disruptive technology, which Bailey identified as virtualization.

As companies virtualized, they gradually got rid of server, storage, and networking silos through individual departments, she said. "A lot of organizations changed from the bottom-up," she said. "But going forward, change will have to come from the top-down."

CIOs will find it hard to future-proof their organizations, but they can do so by taking a portfolio approach to the cloud and finding new ways to benchmark their progress. For instance, Bailey said, they can start their cloud journey by moving test and develop environments and their new applications to the cloud. They can also start looking at how to better handle big data and business analytics on the cloud, she said.

"We need to step back and make some really prudent choices," she said.