There are several national conferences within the data center industry that generate the same topics over and over again. Nothing new, nothing informative. The worst conferences are the “pay to play” panel discussions that generate the same panelists from one show to the next, all of which have nothing new to say. A few of the conferences, such as AFCOM and 7x24, have intelligent speakers and are created to be in an educational format. However, for the most part, the “pay to play” data center experts are running out of things to talk about.
Until the CIO Summit came along. In August I was fortunate to speak at the CIO Summit in Chicago. I have been invited to several of the CIO Summits to speak either as a panelist or as an individual speaker. As with a majority of my presentations, the topics are educational and based on recent and past trends. With the CIO Summit crowd, I find myself getting feedback at an extremely high level. It is the accumulation of this knowledge that I want to pass on, combined with other CIO discussions over the last year.
HISTORY OF THE CIO
Table 1. The amount of data needed to support the mobile industry is increasing. CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW LARGER SIZE
In the past, the CIO reported mostly to the CFO and was responsible for the IT budget and technology deployments. As a necessary evil, CIOs were put in a position to support the business, not drive it. They were technical in nature and usually came up through the IT ranks. The skills required were technical capabilities, and “if you can manage a budget” that was even better. Their role was more of a department head rather than a “leader” within the organization. Prior to 2000, IT budgets were primarily based on equipment, software, and support staff. Investments towards future technology were extremely rare, and the overall IT budget was considered strictly overhead.
The Y2K scare didn’t help the CIO either. Companies invested heavily in IT infrastructure upgrades, and companies such as Compac, Gateway, HP, and others had record breaking years. However, the typical CFO felt “hoodwinked.” When the clock stroked midnight, nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing happened. The CIO didn’t know whether to be proud of the infrastructure they had just deployed or go hide in a closet from embarrassment. Whatever the case, IT investments plummeted after Y2K and the role of the CIO had once again diminished in the eyes of senior, chief level management.
Additionally, there was previously a big disconnect in the role of real estate with the IT departments. Neither department really knew what the other did nor how to support it. The real estate group utilized a proven approach to projects that had worked for years. The IT approach was “innovated.” What does an “innovated approach” even mean? To the real estate group the approach was: programming, schematic design, design development, construction documents, and construction — every time. An innovative approach didn’t make sense to the facilities staff.
LEVERAGING, INSTEAD OF SUPPORTING, TECHNOLOGY
Vicki Shillington, vice president of the North Highland Consulting Group, said it best, “We need to empower employees to say yes to technology instead of avoiding technology.”
Companies that enable their employees to embrace change are the ones moving ahead, those that don’t become stagnant. Moving towards the future, the CIO role is evolving to a position in which positive change can occur with the use of technology. At a recent CIO Summit, Sasi Pillay, CIO of University of Wisconsin, discussed the dropout rate of students in a four year program. Only 30% of students as freshman graduate college in four years. Pillay states that the key to the CIO in the university sector is to identify the key indicators that lead to dropout and to be proactive at the individual student level. Information technology is one of the few departments that encompasses all aspects and departments of the business. Therefore, today’s CIO is focused on the business and not the technical aspects of operations.
Also, the CIO has now gained recognition among the C-Level peers as a business driver instead of being treated as overhead and a necessary evil. Most CIOs today report to the CEO (vs. the CFO) who is driven towards results and leverages technology to gain market share. CEOs have recognized the value of quickly getting information to the customer and the advantages technology has over competition. The CIO’s role now is to create the vision to the C-Level and rely on his technical advisors to deploy technology. This is perhaps why the collocation and wholesale market has risen dramatically, due to the “speed-to-market” business advantages these companies have to offer. Typically a data center design and construction project can take six to nine months, which is too long for deployment of a new technology.
TECHNOLOGY ADVANCEMENTS AND POPULATION
The growth in technology has skyrocketed, with new technologies being deployed every day. This combined with the growth in population has created an accelerated boom within the industry effecting both business and people. Countries that were previously depressed economically and have large populations now embrace new generations of technology faster than those of us who don’t.
The massive amount of data required to support the mobile industry alone is astonishing compared to even Big Data 10 years ago. This, combined with a population boom, further creates opportunities within the Asia Pacific and Latin America (see last month’s column on Brazil). The amount of data storage alone within China has accelerated more than 13x within four years. Similar data storage requirements are happening in the Americas and Europe.
THE GLOBAL CIO
As more and more companies are relying on the CIO to drive revenue, the money always migrates to the populist. We have become a global economy, and in order to sustain profits, the CIO is being required to go beyond the borders. With that said, language barriers, cultural differences, and infrastructure creates limits on deployment of technology. The major U.S. colo providers have recognized this and hence have begun to deploy infrastructure in China, the Pacific Rim, and Latin America. The challenge remains on supporting the infrastructure in a managed services capacity. Just ask Sasi Pillay how the university’s “Bring your own device” program is going. More like “bring your own device … bring your own disaster.”