ITO Infrastructure: Headaches and Hot Buttons | Article

Button with hot flamesWhen asked about current ITO infrastructure challenges, industry experts opened the floodgates, revealing that they’ve been inundated by a tsunami of customer demands for 24/7 IT infrastructure speed and agility.

“The consumer market and increased awareness of sourcing have triggered the expectation of 100 percent availability of infrastructure services, as well as uniform speed,” remarks Mg Raghuraman, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer of MphasiS, an HP Company. “Business managers see and hear about new products, speed to market and IT agility in the consumer space and expect their CIO to match or exceed these expectations in the enterprise, as well.”

“Customers still can’t view their data through ‘a single pane of glass,’ and without that visibility, they have no common view of their infrastructure. It’ll be a long time before we’re out of the chaos and fragmentation created by cloud.”

Dan Huberty, Chief Technology Officer, Managed Services, Unisys

Still another challenge is the level of complexity presented by the end-users’ many personal devices, such as smartphone and tablets. The proliferation of these devices has spawned a rampant trend in which employees e-mail documents to themselves at their personal addresses, upload them to their iPads for optimum mobility, and often compromise the security of their company’s proprietary data. Amitava Sengupta, Global Head of Vertical Solutions and Opportunity Management at HCL, a leading global IT and technology enterprise, sums up the problem: “Organizations have rapidly moved to a real-time business model—demanding anywhere/anytime/any device connectivity—which has brought an exponential increase in the complexity of managing additional IT assets and maintaining an appropriate level of data security.”

As clients increasingly move to mobile devices and infrastructures become more deeply, universally impacted by end users’ multiplicity of available devices, data security issues abound. “Global companies have concerns about the Patriot Act; it protects the physical security of the U.S. but increases security threats to data,” says Michael Goodspeed, Global Leader of Infrastructure Services and Cloud Services at Unisys, a worldwide information technology company, “We’ve talked to clients in Canada, for example, who do not want their data in U.S. data centers for that reason.”

The growing mobile environment brings additional challenges beyond those presented by the loosening grip on data security. It requires a detailed understanding of software delivery methods and mobile applications, as well as knowledge of how to use the data and network to achieve higher productivity and business improvements. HCL’s Sengupta explains, “IT architecture needs to be thought through at a granular level, and mobile device management must be capable of managing organizational resources.”

“The nexus of forces between mobility, cloud and social networking will likely influence just about every strategy decision a CIO will make from now on.”

Mg Raghuraman, Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer, MphasiS

Even with our evolving technologies, the more things change, the more they remain the same. Infrastructure fragmentation is causing problems on multiple levels. For example, the dreaded information silos of the distant past—the ones that denied a holistic view of business data—aren’t entirely extinct, according to Dan Huberty, Chief Technology Officer of Managed Services at Unisys. “Ironically, customers still can’t view their data through ‘a single pane of glass,’ and without that visibility, they have no common view of their infrastructure. It’ll be a long time before we’re out of the chaos and fragmentation created by cloud.” Huberty cautions that the situation is just going to grow more complex before “we’re finally able to arrive at a single source of truth.”

IT service providers are also being challenged with managing clients’ expectations for utility computing. Goodspeed observes, “Customers are saying, ‘I want to pay for this capability only when I’m using it, and I don’t want to be charged for it when I’m not.’ Since none of the infrastructure vendors out there have come up with a highly effective way of managing that yet, providers are finding they have to push back a bit.” Additionally, with cloud computing’s plethora of players, the environment is simply much more complex than it was just a few short years ago. “For example,” says Goodspeed, “if a client’s e-mail is outsourced to Google or Microsoft, and its front-end platform is with Amazon, they’ve reached a point where it’s much too complex for them to manage on their own.”

Because of the pervasiveness of IT in every aspect of business operations, the growth of business—both in terms of geographical spread and increase in revenue—has made it increasingly difficult for providers and customers alike to accurately forecast and manage the requisite IT infrastructure to support ongoing business operations, while reducing cost.

Current Trends and Directions

Despite the many hurdles in the IT infrastructure universe, strides are being made. Both customers and service providers are finding creative ways to scale these hurdles, however. According to HCL’s Sengupta, “Customers are starting to share their future IT road maps with service providers, and some have gone a step further by on-boarding the service providers as partners.” At the same time, service providers are developing domain capabilities that offer customers expertise in their specific businesses, and many are also offering business and IT consulting services that help customers plan an IT strategy focused on delivering measurable business outcomes.

“Big data” seems to be on everyone’s lips these days, and the fact that it enables quick, intelligent analysis and provides insights for business strategy has been well established. No one seems absolutely sure yet how the influence of big data and analytics will play out in 2013, but HCL’s Sengupta declares, “the current challenge will increase in magnitude as corporate data is enhanced with streams of social and mobile data and big data is used as a true business enabler.” Raghuraman of MphasiS adds, “The nexus of forces between mobility, cloud and social networking will likely influence just about every strategy decision a CIO will make from now on.”

There are a number of IT infrastructure vendors who are finding ways to move their customers away from traditional data centers and their associated burden of fixed costs to bring down space requirements and costs, while improving agility. VCE, which was formed by Cisco, EMC, VMware and Intel and is a leader in converged cloud infrastructure systems, has created a converged infrastructure platform and is capable of deploying a private cloud. Goodspeed of Unisys notes, “It’s a turnkey operation that offers simplicity and convenience for a smaller business, albeit at a price. And in the government space—more so than commercially—we’re also seeing a growing use of cloud brokers.” He adds that virtualized server and storage are continuing to gain acceptance, along with network-converged virtualization in the data center.

Finally, another emerging trend noted by Lalit Dhingra, President of NIIT Technologies, Inc., a global IT solutions company, is that of “bolt-on” functionality, or the melding together of functional fragments and components into logical systems—in lieu of more traditional, all-encompassing systems. Explaining that this phenomenon was spawned by the rapidly changing consumer landscape, where new, quickly evolving components and functionality prohibit efficient, effective system retooling.

So, despite technology advances, it’s fairly certain that the overburdened infrastructures of the global business arena won’t be lightening their loads anytime soon. In fact, as NIIT Technologies’ Lalit Dhingra wryly observes, “With the world now being truly flat, the environment will only get more dynamic.”

How are you and your service provider coping with the data security issues posed by the “bring-your-own-device” (BYOD) trend?

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