IBM would love to come into your data center and eradicate all forms of IT chaos.
All IT managers face IT chaos at one time or another. Even if you are one of the lucky ones relatively free from it at this time, then you can expect it to show up eventually. If IT chaos can be done away with, IT managers around the globe will be falling to their knees in thanksgiving; naturally, that means profit for IBM and all the other vendors that can solve these issues.
This chaos, as defined here, is usually the result of software, hardware and networking equipment acquired piecemeal, and subpar practices built up in an infrastructure over a number of years. Thanks to different eras and vendors, varying licenses, and changing standards and best practices, much of what goes into a data center simply doesn’t work together very harmoniously.
IBM says it will be all about integrating and simplifying complicated IT resources and components in 2009, so everything works together to ultimately help enterprises to profit. IBM certainly has always been about that; however, thanks to the skyrocketing use of virtualization software in 2008, we can expect the next 12 months to bring more complicated IT problems to solve than ever before.
The main issue that IT managers fear, more than any other, is loss of control of virtual machines. Once virtualization gets instituted in a system-and it’s being instituted every day somewhere in the world-then control of where these nonphysical servers are and how and what they are doing becomes nearly a full-time job for someone.
Also on the rise are hosted subscription-type services, thanks to the weak macroeconomy. These also must be accounted for and controlled at all times.
It’s not easy to monitor all these things on a 24/7 basis, because with servers up and down (and in and out), security patches and software upgrades frequently dogging administrators, and compliance measures causing constant pressure, there’s never a dull moment in the data center.
Our Source: IBM CIO Mark Hennessy
In an effort to find out what the world’s largest IT corporation intends to do about all this in the coming year, we sought out a key inside source for some insight.
Our source is CIO Mark Hennessy, an IBM lifer who has only been in his current job for a year and a half. His resume includes executive positions in marketing, corporate strategy, sales, global channel distribution, quality process and customer satisfaction.
Admittedly, this is not the usual ladder to a CIO position. As a result, Hennessy already has a pretty good handle on where he and the rest of his huge IT corporation will be headed in 2009 and beyond.
As IBM’s CIO, Hennessy is responsible for leading all of the huge corporation’s technology operations and strategic business initiatives. Since being appointed to this role in July 2007, IBM says, “[Hennessy] has focused on aligning IT and business strategy, instituted a balanced transformation governance model, and become a champion of skills and career development for IBM’s business transformation and information technology professionals.”
What are IBM’s customers asking for in 2009, besides lower costs, better performance and improved power usage?
“This global economy is driving lots of change,” Hennessy said. “Organizations are looking to be more efficient, but I also feel they are more focused on flexibility and agility, and being able to move quickly. I saw a CEO study from earlier this year, and one of the more interesting facts that came out of it was that 80 percent of them expect significant change in their business: It may be changing the business model they’re using, moving to growth markets, changing their go-to-market strategy, shifting their mix of revenue production, or something else.”
This all has to be facilitated by the CIO, Hennessy said.
“Frankly, it means that it’s a great time for CIOs to continue their transition from a focus on cost and efficiency alone [to focusing] also on how to drive growth and integration for their companies,” Hennessy said.
CIOs will still need to concentrate on cost-saving: centralization, virtualization, “sunsetting” of legacy applications, working with partners, dealing with global delivery networks, and so on, Hennessy said. “But at the same time, CIOs are prioritizing the money they’re spending to figure out how to be more flexible and agile. I talk to Fortune 500 CIOs quite frequently, and I often start the conversation by talking about aligning the IT strategy to the business strategy: how to do it, how to focus on process simplification, so we’re just not adding tools to ‘automate chaos.’ That’s something we don’t want to do, right?”
Automation is good; automation of chaos, bad
Hennessy said concentrating on process simplification “keeps you from automating chaos. … How do you apply concepts such as SOA (service-oriented architecture) and asset-reuse to drive speed and efficiency? How do you accelerate time-to-value by using agile methodology and outcome-based models? These are the kinds of things the CIOs I’ve talked with are focused on,” Hennessy said.
Since change in the data center happens so frequently on many fronts, the ability to deal with those changes in an automated fashion is paramount in keeping the IT system humming along with no disruptions.
IBM will be focusing its services and new products on automation in 2009.
IBM Uses Itself as a Test Subject
IBM will be focusing its Global Services first and foremost on these integration and simplification problems by using itself as an example.
“We’ve made some fundamental shifts in our IBM strategy in order to know how to provide value for our customers,” Hennessy said. “We remixed our businesses to move to higher-value spaces; we exited commodity businesses; we acquired over 60 companies to complement our scale and portfolio over the past five years.
“At the same time, we have been really driving global integration to participate in the growth markets and improve our productivity. As a result, IBM is a much higher-performing enterprise than it was a decade ago. Our business model is much more aligned with our clients’ needs and is generating better financial results,” Hennessy said.
But the IT strategy has had to be tightly aligned with the overall company strategy in order to attain this, Hennessy said. “We had some fundamental IT transformations we had to go through,” he said.
“For example, IBM decided to consolidate 128 CIO functions into one. We centralized 155 data centers into five strategic centers around the world. We decided we had to sunset over 10,000 legacy applications-we’ve gone from about 16,000 applications to under 5,000, and we still have a long way to go, but we’ve made some great progress there,” Hennessy said.
“We’ve optimized our global network of skills, we’ve driven 31 networks down to one, so we’ve done the fundamental IT transformation work, and we’ve gotten significant cost-savings out of it. Over the past five years with the revenue growth, employee growth and the acquisitions I talked about, our IT expenditure is still down about 26 percent.”
IBM absorbs this firsthand knowledge and experience about integration and takes it out to the marketplace, he said.
IBM Employees Use Social Networking Big-Time
“One of the real opportunities now for CIOs around the world is their ability to drive innovation for their companies,” Hennessy said.
“CIOs are positioned very well for this, because they see uniquely the organization end to end, they see how the processes are interlocked, how the applications and data flows, and at the same time, they’ve got access to some very cool networking and Web 2.0 social networking tools.”
People don’t realize that IBM is leading in the social networking space, from within the company, Hennessy said.
“We have over 15,000 blogs that are in place now; we have wikis that over half of our population use; we have online idea-generation forums-for example, ThinkPlace-[and] we use Jam technology to get input from all our employees around the world on real important topics to our senior executives,” Hennessy said.
IBM also has a Facebook-like social networking tool called Beehive that employees around the world as an in-house communication channel.
“We do have a lot of IBM employees around the world in different business units … so the use of these tools has been very important to us to develop relationships, to build collaboration, to talk about new ideas and innovation and take those ideas to the marketplace for IBM or for our clients,” Hennessy said.