Gartner’s annual CIO Agenda report is one of the world’s largest surveys of over 2,500 peers and a great barometer of their priorities for the year ahead. One of this year’s central insights is the idea that leading CIOs are already preparing for nothing less than the “next evolution of digitalisation” – the “digital ecosystemsurge” as they call it. Gartner defines a digital ecosystem as:
“an interdependent group of actors (enterprises, people, things) sharing standardised digital platforms to achieve a mutually beneficial purpose.”
This digital ecosystem enables businesses to achieve agility and performance far superior to those that continue to take an independent and often isolated approach to their IT strategy.
The report highlighted that 79% of the survey’s top performing CIOs were highly active participants in the ecosystem, compared to just 24% of the those who were rated as trailing the pack. This would suggest that the new breed of CIO is not only open to collaboration within their market, even those once considered competitors, but is also actively driving the agenda within their teams and at the board level.
In the report, Gartner suggest that these leaders are focused on three critical areas. Their technology infrastructure has been set up to leverage this ecosystem interoperability, their IT organisation is open minded to external collaboration and finally, the leadership is more focused on mastering their independence.
As more businesses accelerate their digital maturity, often at different speeds across the organisation, the concern remains that many are still investing in siloed digital transformation initiatives without a clear focus on how to exploit the potential of the ecosystem. At the same time, in my opinion there has been less focus on the one area within the IT organisation that can make this participation easier to achieve: Infrastructure.
The limitations of not just legacy infrastructure designs, but also early implementations of converged-infrastructure solutions are now holding many CIOs back, hindering the transition to these new business models and collaborative opportunities. Enter the latest iteration; Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI), which helps IT organisations meet the demands of the modern digital business. Let’s define some of the business benefits.
Dealing disruption, inspiring innovation
We’ve seen a new style of start-up who have been able to quickly disrupt many traditional business sectors through a new way of delivering their internal and external agendas. It’s instructive to look at the example of the banking and financial services sector which has seen (and continues to see) game-changing disruption from these FinTech start-ups.
Many FinTechs lean on the strengths of HCI to underpin their success, specifically allowing development teams to innovate with agility and lethal speed. These attributes in turn resulted in what many commentators see as the key differentiator for FinTechs: becoming truly customer-centric businesses able to conceptualise and deliver new services at a rate of speed faster than the establishment.
The FinTech example hasn’t been lost on leading CIOs, who now see the potential of HCI to accelerate their transformation agendas as well as acting as a catalyst to instil a new culture within their teams. They have focused on recruiting, nurturing and empowering experts who expect the latest cloud-enabled infrastructure to operate and to bring their ideas to life. These CIOs are seen by Gartner as ‘digital leaders’, leveraging the capabilities and power of HCI to drive their digital transformation agenda, placing their IT departments at the heart of the business.
Use case: Accelerating innovation with automated and PCI compliant infrastructure deployments
Just one example of a compelling use case for HCI is that of a major card payments provider who had global data centres and an ambitious plan to differentiate themselves with the rapid development of new services and Apps.
Due to the complexities of maintaining their PCI compliance the client had to deploy physically isolated infrastructure which was both costly and time consuming to deliver. The Architecture and Operations team were constantly under pressure from developers to deploy server and SAN infrastructure far quicker than the days and weeks that their traditional technology stack could allow.
Asystec implemented an architecture that provided rapid automated infrastructure provisioning and micro-segmentation for PCI workload management. The implementation allowed the developers to deploy new infrastructure environments with self-service controls whilst teams maintain the quality and security of each instance.
Tackling silos, re-imagining teams
Because HCI delivers a software-centric architecture that more tightly integrates compute, storage, networking and virtualisation resources compared to a converged infrastructure (all in one box, supplied and supported by a unified/standardised vendor architecture), it has proven to be a key enabler of ‘de-siloisation’ of single-skill IT operatives. Many digital leaders are responding to the benefits of HCI. By changing how they assign new skillsets and resources within their new IT teams, they are effectively breaking down the traditional silos of network, server and storage capabilities and building new multi-disciplinary “cloud teams”.
CIOs are falling in love with HCI because it cures their immediate and longer-term headaches. It simplifies IT, reduces TCO, increases resource-utilisation rates and solves capacity, performance and management challenges. Above all, HCI is designed with the future in mind – its scalability and adaptability means it’s as close to ‘future-proof’ as technology really gets.
Another reason it’s proving increasingly popular with CIOs is it gives them back control: it enables them to retain control of spend and specifications for large scale infrastructure investments, and address challenges associated with ‘Shadow IT’. For smaller companies, HCI can enable them to achieve the agility of large-scale web companies and “punch above their weight”.
I feel that building a business case to the board for investing in an HCI strategy shouldn’t focus only on the cost savings, but on how it can enable innovation and increasing competitive differentiation. Gartner’s report highlighted the successes of CIO who were able to align their agenda to the CEO’s needs and priorities for the business.
Grasping the opportunity
The CIO of today needs to be confident in leading their organisation to respond to market competition and interdependence with a combination of agility, innovation and interoperability. The CIO’s role is to help their IT teams unlock greater value for their infrastructure and its customers by opening the minds to the potential of the digital ecosystem within the boardroom.
Gartner’s report recommended that CIOs should make participation in the digital ecosystem a priority for 2017. I believe that HCI is a key component to achieve that goal. For me, HCI is extending the horizons of possibilities for CIOs in surprising, empowering ways.
Lorne Chedzey, Software Defined DataCenter Sales Manager