Recently I attended the Gartner Symposium in Barcelona. Regarded in our industry as one of the leading gatherings of CIOs and senior IT executives, it certainly lived up to that reputation. For me this represented another fantastic opportunity to speak to customers, get to know their challenges and requirements, and showcase to them the strength and capabilities of the Converged Platforms and Solutions Division of Dell EMC.
Nigel Moulton, EMEA CTO, Mark Govan, Head of EMEA Pre-Sales, Alan Butler, marketing Director and I hosted an interactive roundtable at the show. One of the key themes that emerged was that CIOs and IT leaders are increasingly asked to reduce overall IT spend, whilst at the same time increasing agility and competitive advantage. In other words they’d like to reduce the time spent and costs incurred on simply ‘keeping the lights on’ and re-focus their priorities on what’s most important to the business – provide transformational IT services, create new revenue streams, and establish differentiation in the marketplace.
Our discussion focused on three key steps CIOs must take towards repositioning the whole organization to thrive in the era of digital business.
The best, fastest and the most risk-averse approach to modernizing IT infrastructure is to leverage a converged or hyper-converged platform. CIOs want to invest in easy-to-deploy infrastructure platforms which they can either quickly build or buy enabling them to run core business applications that differentiate their organization. Converged infrastructure reduces the time and cost of procuring, deploying, configuring, and managing hardware and software components separately, while accelerating time to value for IT investments. Roughly 40 percent of our audience had made CI investments (some with Converged Platforms and Solutions Divisions) but nearly 100 percent of the attendees were looking at or evaluating HCI. This is hugely encouraging as it strengthens our view that this will be a massive market opportunity for us.
The good news for our customers – with the coming together of Dell EMC we now offer a comprehensive converged and hyper-converged portfolio that enables them to build or buy their infrastructure. They can build their own outcomes by individually sourcing compute, networking, storage and software. Alternatively, they can buy their outcomes through integrated solutions. It is this ability to cater to different customer requirements, regardless of where they are on their digital journey, which validates that Dell and EMC are indeed better together and customers stand to gain from this.
The next critical step towards transforming your business is to automate the delivery of IT services to lines of business and application owners. Often an average IT organization does not have systems in place that are agile enough to keep up with the rapidly changing needs of the business. While it may take a few minutes to provision a virtual machine but it can take the average IT organization several weeks to provision all the storage and networking services associated with that virtual machine.
The easiest way of delivering automation is by embedding these functions in a converged and hyper-converged infrastructure. These modern infrastructure platforms provide all the capabilities an IT team needs to manage the underlying software-defined infrastructure. The IT organization simply defines a set of policies using templates. Those templates are then used to automatically provision all the infrastructure resources required by any given application workload. The end result is a much more agile IT organization capable of dynamically responding to any new application requirements.
The skillset and culture of any IT infrastructure team could make or break a company’s chances of becoming a successful digital enterprise. It’s absolutely critical for CIOs to breaks down the silos of storage, networking and server virtualization in which IT engineers traditionally work, and realign their teams in a way that will optimize the available skill sets to take full advantage of an agile and flexible IT infrastructure. Converged teams are able to respond quickly to services when they understand the entire stack – not just the silos of compute, network and storage. They work more collaboratively – providing efficiencies and better productivity and are quick to provision new systems, resulting in less time spent on the delivery of infrastructure and more on the added value to the business.
Sometimes, language is a barrier, so we outlined a narrative that uses the nomenclature of ‘Pioneers’ (people who lead the way and explore uncharted territory), ‘Settlers’ (people who can turn a prototype into a product) and ‘Town Planners’ (who build on the works of Pioneers and Settlers and are able to find ways to make things faster, better, smaller and more efficient) as an alternative way of describing the journey that IT operations teams need to embark on if they are to successfully transform to deliver against an increased set of expectations.
These three attributes – Modernize, Automate and Transform – are intrinsically linked and it is challenging to implement one without others. It was a very satisfying experience to watch customers absorb this discussion and start planning their journey towards modernizing their data center.