Transforming IT To Move At The Speed of Opportunity

Blog Post from Forbes Oracle​Voice

By Mark Sunday, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Oracle

Mark Sunday, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Oracle.

CIOs everywhere are aware of the transformative technologies currently ascending the adoption curve. Consider that each of these—big data, cloud computing, customer experience (CX) initiatives, the Internet of Things, and social media in the enterprise—would individually have considerable impact. Yet they’re all happening simultaneously.

Add to this the continuing flood of tablets and smartphones—143 million people in the United States now own smartphones, according to comScore, more than double the 63 million measured in December 2010. Mobility, whether in consumers’ hands or connected to workplace end points via “bring your own device” (BYOD), is changing the way users interact with technology. It’s also altering their expectations. As a song from the 1960s might have put it: They want the world, and they want it now.

The upshot is there has never been a more challenging time for IT. For those organizations properly positioned, this means there’s never been a better opportunity to leverage this disruption to accelerate their value of their businesses.

Importantly, there’s consensus that this isn’t a round of technology for technology’s sake. Most C-level executives see real revenue behind these IT innovations. Indeed, according to a McKinsey survey, 66% percent believe these new drivers of digital business can boost operating profits by 2015, and more than one-third of those surveyed predict that increase will be at least 10 percent.

So how do enterprises get from here to there? I call this our collective “disruption dilemma.” It’s never trivial to make significant changes. But what I’m suggesting is less about swapping out systems and apps, and more about revising the foundational ideas upon which IT operates. Ultimately, that’s how we transform IT into a powerful business accelerator.

Specifically, IT must move from an anticipatory stance to one that’s highly responsive. That’s what I mean when I say that IT must move at the speed of opportunity. Critically, this ability to rapidly field new functionality comes with the caveat that it’s not about IT at all. It’s about supporting your company’s business, so that it can apply technology as a competitive differentiator and take advantage of market changes at lightning speed.

Examples include innovating in CX to improve engagement with customers; applying cutting-edge analysis to business performance, and feeding this information into future planning; harnessing Big Data for competitive advantage; and leveraging cloud computing and mobile to change the way we work.

However, past performance is no guarantee of future results. Another way of framing this is, if you think there are lots of changes afoot today, you ain’t seen nothing yet. So accelerating IT to move at the speed of opportunity means that enterprises can’t just capitalize on today’s big data momentum. They must also be ready to respond to tomorrow’s unforeseen next big thing. This, in turn, surfaces the other major change in enterprise thinking that’s required. This is the mandate to future-proof your IT.

A good way to contrast and to summarize both imperatives is as follows. Responding at the speed of opportunity can be stated most simply as: no more 18-month projects. The nuanced version is that it requires moving from a posture where your enterprise’s main imperatives are integration and operation to one where innovating and orchestrating—in service of accelerating your organization’s business—are the prime drivers.

Future proofing is easier to describe. It’s about positioning your enterprise for responsiveness, so that you’re never caught leaning back on your heels. Future proofing means aligning strategy, organization, process, and technology.

Revving the Engine

Interestingly, accelerating IT to move at the speed of opportunity and future-proofing both begin with the same four steps: Simplify, standardize, centralize, and automate. These are things all enterprises are already well aware of, and most are already knee-deep in doing. It’s not rocket science. However, success hinges upon execution. (Or, if you prefer, the devil is in the details.)

Successful future proofing is realized by segueing one’s IT architecture from the legacy, siloed past to the flexibility available today.

Unlike what some would have end users believe, cloud does not entail a step-function discontinuity with current multimillion-dollar IT investments. They’re a natural step, which can be additive to and cooperative with your enterprise’s existing palette of capabilities.

I like to say that savvy enterprises are on a journey to cloud computing. Most will evolve their current IT infrastructure to become more cloudlike: to become better internal service providers to their lines of business, to provide greater agility and responsiveness to business needs, to deliver a higher quality of service in terms of latency and availability, and lower costs and higher utilization. This evolution will take time. In many cases, the technical building blocks for cloud computing are available in advance of enterprise readiness, so we think that enterprises will evolve at different rates.

Most data centers still have dedicated silos, where each application runs on its own middleware, database, servers, and storage. Each silo is sized for peak load, so there’s inherently a lot of excess capacity built in. Each silo is also different, leading to complexity and high costs to manage.

The first step that many enterprises are taking is to move from siloed environments to ones that are consolidated and virtualized.  The trend toward virtual environments with shared services, dynamic provisioning, and standardized configurations or appliances is very strong right now.  Probably 80 percent to 90 percent of the companies I talk with are currently amid some form of consolidation. However, they may only be consolidating 20 percent to 30 percent of their data center, so there’s more to be done on this front.

Once consolidation has taken hold, enterprises can evolve to a self-service private cloud with automated scaling (called policy-based resource management on the chart) and chargeback. Not every application benefits from self-service and elastic scalability. Enterprises are figuring out which ones do, and they’re moving those first. Some organizations are not ready to implement full self-service, since that requires new policies and processes to be defined, and they may prefer allocation to pay-per-use chargeback models.  There may be other challenges, including gaining cross-organizational support, creating the business case and funding model, and various cultural issues.

Simultaneously, public clouds are evolving today. This landscape comprises numerous service providers and traditional ISVs, all of which are variously morphing to deliver SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS offerings. There are hundreds of players, and adoption is proceeding at a rapid pace. But these providers are most often very specialized and isolated, and it’s difficult for customers to change providers.

Ultimately, as you can see in the final column of the IT architecture roadmap chart, our evolution will take us to hybrid clouds. Here, a single application can span both private and public clouds and be managed in a federated manner. For this to happen, there need to be standards for interoperability and portability, and there needs to be technology to support such interoperability.  We believe this hybrid model is the likely path for most of our customers.

Behind the Curtain

When we talk about cloud, hardware usually isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But of course the computing cycles are executed somewhere, even if the box isn’t sitting in the next room. This is where engineered systems come in. They’re a key part of Oracle’s overall strategy as well as its cloud computing strategy. We consider Oracle’s engineered systems to be the ideal building blocks for private and public PaaS.

Oracle Exadata, Oracle Exalogic, and the T4 SPARC SuperCluster are just a few examples of Oracle’s engineered systems. They comprise hardware and software specifically designed to work together to deliver extreme performance, security, and manageability. Oracle Exadata is a database machine, and Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud is a machine optimized for Java execution in the middle tier.  Both are based on Intel x86 processors. Oracle SuperCluster is a new engineered system based on the SPARC T4 processor and Solaris, and can optionally run the Exadata storage software and Exalogic software.

All of these engineered systems provide an order of magnitude improvement in performance and efficiency, making them ideal target platforms for mixed workload database and middle tier consolidation. They offer rapid deployment since they are pre-integrated and pre-configured by Oracle.  They also offer lower total cost of ownership (TCO), because they can reduce the overall hardware and complexity of your environment.

Call to Action

I don’t want to be a “meteorologist CIO”—someone who talks about tomorrow’s IT, but doesn’t do anything about it. Earlier, I talked about future-proofing your IT organization so that it’s ready to embrace the current challenges we’ve discussed, as well as any upcoming curve balls.

So let me close with six quick, prescriptive points about how you can move your IT team away from a legacy integration and operation focus and reposition them with a forward-pointed innovation and orchestration mentality

  • Lead the Social Revolution: Drive the Social-Enabled Enterprise.
  • Be wary of mobile as master to be served; always put the user first.
  • Unleash Your Company’s Intelligence: Create an Enterprise-Wide Opportunity Chain.
  • Embrace the Engagement Economy: Merge the Back Office and Front Office into the Customer Office.
  • Upgrade “Cloud Strategy” to “Business Transformation Enabled by the Cloud.”
  • Transform Big Data into Big Insights, Big Vision, and Big Opportunities.






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