Time for CIO’s to regain controlBy Steve Coakley,
Taking the compass back
The IT roadmap for organisations may be clearer now – a hybrid IT combination of public/private clouds alongside legacy – but it doesn’t make the journey any easier. The tendency of boardrooms to see “anything-as-a-service” as the way forward, giving the business more flexibility while offloading the burden of having to manage and pay for stacks of hardware, presents a lot of challenges for the CIO and heads of IT. With less infrastructure and applications to actively manage, they have to redefine their roles and navigate their organisations to thrive.
We know from a BT survey of Irish CIO’s that62 percent find it difficult to keep pace with technological change and admit to underestimating the level of change to their role
Who can blame them, given the spectre of “shadow IT” that also hangs over them? It’s become so easy to sign up for SaaS (software-as-a-service) solutions that many lines of business are doing it on their own accord, outside of the IT department’s budget and beyond its control.
The sales team uses Salesforce, for example, HR subscribes to Workday and a product group wants Amazon Web Services for extra compute power to do a data analytics project. No wonder CIOs feel like they’re losing control. For the good of the business, they need to redefine their roles and put themselves centre stage in helping manage and orchestrate these hybrid services.
What connects them all, quite literally, is the network. As the use of 3rd party cloud services become prevalent so too does a greater reliance on connectivity, whether it’s to a public/private cloud or your own data centre. When different business units buy SaaS solutions off their own back, quality, security and the resilience of the connection are rarely a consideration. At the same time, there is a significant increase to network traffic that needs to be managed.
So the network becomes a common denominator for controlling the performance of hybrid services – the problem is that most organisations are running infrastructure ill-equipped for the digital age. Hybrid services need hybrid networks. The way the market is heading, according to Gartner, is towards standardised hybrid WAN offerings that combine MPLS, internet VPNs, Ethernet services and local internet breakout with added security.
This is what BT calls an Intelligent Hybrid Network – infrastructure that puts CIOs and the network management team firmly in control again. And by providing a single window on all network activity disparate IT services can be managed much more effectively, both in terms of cost and performance.
Different traffic requires a different type of network service, from highly available, fully managed internet access to low-cost, best-effort connections for remote sites. And MPLS remains essential for business critical traffic. What organisations now need is the flexibility to take new services quickly on board as cloud services continue to evolve. Adaptability is also key for a global company, supporting multiple sites across different regions.
The ability to balance performance, security, scale and cost savings across hybrid networks is going to give CIOs and their organisations a real edge in increasingly competitive global markets. Decisions can be made about when it makes sense to move to software-defined networks for even greater control, or if the best way to evolve legacy networks and sweat network assets a little longer. With an intelligent hybrid network, properly managed, everything is on the table.
This is the new world that the modern digital CIO is operating in. Not for the first time in the evolution of business technology, a significant shift in the delivery of IT services has eradicated some tasks but created a whole bunch of new ones. Orchestrating disparate services is now part of the CIO’s job, optimising the cloud opportunity to deliver on value and performance, real benefits that will go down well with their boardroom colleagues.