CIO Symmetry


July 22, 2011  2:12 PM

A green data center starts with a bucket of white paint

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Every CIO knows that sometimes the littlest changes can make a big impact on the bottom line.

For instance, recently former President Bill Clinton suggested that one of the fastest ways you can save on cooling costs for your data center starts by looking up: What color is your roof? If it’s like most buildings in the U.S., chances are the roof is covered in some kind of dark material, maybe even old-fashioned black tar paper. Cheap black roofs were fine half a century ago, when a muggy, hot day was just a nuisance for the employees, but today, our network servers are not as heat-tolerant as our co-workers and require stringent data center cooling. While the way we’ve thought about what’s in our office has changed, chances are that your roof is still much as it was half a century ago.

Clinton suggests that it’s time for a change from the top down — literally. An easy, carbon-friendly change on your facility can significantly reduce cooling costs.

[Black roofs] absorb huge amounts of heat when it’s hot. And they require more air conditioning to cool the rooms. Every black roof in New York should be white; every roof in Chicago should be white; every roof in Little Rock should be white. Every flat, tar-surface roof anywhere! In most of these places you could recover the cost of the paint and the labor in a week. It’s the quickest, cheapest thing you can do.

It’s a lesson in the scientific term albedo. In nature, fresh snow has the highest ability to reflect sunlight, while dark soil absorbs the most, so you simply make your roof look less like soil and more like snow. Simple, right? Well, one would think. The western approach into San Jose’s Mineta and Las Vegas’ McCarran airports has demonstrated that a fair number of arid-based companies already practice this method of greener cooling management, but the approaches into Chicago O’Hare and Los Angeles LAX airports show a sea of black tar paper.

This isn’t breaking news. During the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, U.S. Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu claimed that making all of the country’s roofs and pavement white would offset 44 billion tons of CO2. That’s as carbon-friendly as taking all of the planet’s cars off the road for 11 years.

Being kind to the earth is a lofty and admirable goal, but building a green data center is sometimes difficult to sell back to the business. While many carbon-friendly green IT initiatives cost more than traditional “gas hog” technologies, Secretary Chu predicted that a white roof would save 10% to 15% on cooling a single building, while Clinton suggests that it’s actually closer to 20%.

Given that IT tends to be the single largest consumer of energy in an organization, this is an excellent opportunity for you to lead positive change for your organization that affects the entire business as well as the cooling of your data center.

Besides, a bucket of white paint is cheap and if these estimates are correct, it would pay for itself over Labor Day weekend alone. It seems silly not to grab a roller and get painting.

July 19, 2011  5:38 PM

Phone hacking scandal reveals lack of corporate culture

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

If you could have heard News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch testify before Parliament on Tuesday, you might have almost felt sorry for him.

Or you might have said, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

If anything was revealed in Murdoch’s and his son James’ testimony about the British press phone hacking scandal, it’s that a corporate culture existed that enabled the illegal activity — ranging from invasion of privacy to blackmail.

When questioned by the Parliamentary committee, Murdoch exposed himself — with one-word answers and “I don’t knows” — as a corporate head that had no control of what was going on (yes, he may have had some in actuality, but for the sake of argument).

That lack of control, this corporate culture of unaccountability, has cost him — not to mention his stockholders — dearly. Already some of his employees have been convicted; others are being arrested as of press time. He was forced to fire longtime lieutenants. He had to close the News of the World tabloid and pull out of a lucrative deal to acquire a large satellite broadcasting company.

None of which may be as bad as the damage to the reputation of his media empire. Enemies of Murdoch’s media properties — and there are many — are dancing in the streets right now.

The lesson for the rest of us is accountability. We have written quite a bit this year about how the culture of innovation, IT business alignment and risk management starts at the top, from the CEO, and must be inculcated down through the mail room. That goes for any culture that is driving the business, in this case, a culture of professional ethics that did not exist or was merely given lip service.

Murdoch said that he can’t keep tabs on each one of his thousands of employees. True, no one can. But that’s why corporate culture is so important. It places the controls for success in the hands of each and every person in the company. If they do their jobs, the company wins.


July 18, 2011  4:00 PM

IPad Bluetooth keyboards, iPad’s own keyboard vulnerable to hackers

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Were you on vacation and unplugged last week? While you’re planning your shopping list for the week, you might want to add an iPad Bluetooth keyboard and a 20-foot touch-screen wall. Here’s what you missed around the Web last week.

If you’re avoiding iPad Bluetooth keyboards for fear that hackers will nab your keystrokes, you might want to look over your shoulder. Hackers are also using a new app that can visually pick up on the glowing iPad keyboard as you hit the keys.

We all envy those corporate leaders who seem to pull it off without seeming stressed. Seth Godin says the secret is in not worrying about anything. Yeah, it’s just that simple.

Don’t you wish that all of your conference rooms came with a 20-foot touch-screen wall? Heck, bet you could get them as long as the CEO got one in his office first. The kids at the University of Illinois at Chicago get all the coolest toys!

The next time you hear grumbling about the speed of your Ethernet, remind the complainer that back in your day, 10 Mbps was smoking fast. Check out this history of Ethernet for a little perspective on just how far we have come.

In 2008, there were more things connected to the Internet than people on the Earth. This cool infographic takes that statistic and runs with it, starting with a story about cows. Nifty!

Did you miss Cisco Live last week? CIO Scott Lowe has the inside track on what happened in Vegas.

The art of software engineering is totally different than the art of software engineering management, writes Mark Shuttleworth. He details considerations for managing your techies.


July 15, 2011  4:02 PM

The secret behind successfully balancing work and life on vacation

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Confession: I have taken a conference call while walking to dinner down Bourbon Street. I have also been pulled into a meeting while driving my parents over the Golden Gate Bridge and had to pull off at the rest stop to participate in an hour-long argument over which font should be used for a dashboard header. I’ve also submitted reports via my smartphone while waiting to board a plane at O’Hare.

It’s tough to go on vacation when you leave your head in the office.

My old boss used to check his email while brushing his teeth every morning and actually scheduled a monthly operations meeting with our CEO to occur three hours after he was to wake up from having a major operation (he canceled it when he realized that it was probably not the best scenario for success). Sometimes he and I would have IM conversations about PowerPoint decks well after midnight during the week. Needless to say, when he went on vacation, the only difference for his team was that his calls came from his cell phone instead of his office line.

While the IT role of the future trends to be more connected, is it healthy? When I asked a CIO how he was balancing work and life, he replied sarcastically, “What’s work/life balance?” We are always connected, so we’re always on. With increased mobility and desktop virtualization options, you can now log into your office computer and tweak the quarterly numbers from seat 35A somewhere above Nebraska. And while it would be a tough sell to get any of us to ignore unlimited connectivity during a normal week, a vacation should involve actually being on vacation.

Labor Day weekend is fast approaching. Consider making an effort toward balancing work and life.

Here’s how to work on balancing your life on vacation: Start weaning your team and partners from their constant contact by letting them know that you will be out of reach during a given time period, whether it’s because you’re planning the family trip to Disneyland or you just want to have a lazy weekend barbecue. Then make it difficult to perform work during that time period — difficult for others to connect with you and difficult for yourself to “just check email.” Close the laptop and leave it at the office. Most hotels have connectivity and a business center, and you know that if you really really needed something, you can get online somewhere — but it will prevent you from checking your email (and checking out of your vacation headspace).

And here’s the hardest part of balancing work and life while on vacation: Leave your cell phone behind. Give the phone number of a third party to one trusted person in the office, telling them that they can only call you in the direst of emergencies. If your co-workers have the ability to get you on the line by dialing 10 digits, chances are that they will, but if they had to call your admin to get the number and then talk to your husband or wife first — or if you’re really committed to balancing work and life, the front desk at the hotel — they’ll probably find someone else to answer their question or solve their problem.

And if that last thought causes you to get a little queasy, that’s exactly why you need to cut the cord while you’re on vacation.


July 12, 2011  4:10 PM

What chief information officers have in common with Kevin Bacon

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

What does a chief information officer have in common with Kevin Bacon? Mathematics.

The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon Game has been around for a while. It proves that all of us are more intertwined with society than we give ourselves credit for. My brother-in-law used to work for Robert Rubin at Goldman Sachs, and Robert Rubin was President Clinton’s Treasury secretary. So I’m only three degrees away from Bubba.

Anyway, now we are all Nth degrees away from any person or topic, in the world of Wikipedia.

Web geeks have discovered that in about 99% of the cases, any term in Wikipedia will eventually lead to the topic philosophy. It follows that a term can be connected to any other term. The common root term of chief information officer and Kevin Bacon is mathematics.

Want to find out more? Try out xefer’s tool for yourself.


July 11, 2011  11:27 AM

Will Google social media be the fastest growing network in history?

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

The world is a busy place, and last week was no exception. We saw the last public launch of NASA’s shuttle program, witnessed tremendous buzz in the wide scramble for adoption of Google’s social media project Google+ and a whole lot of candles on IBM’s birthday cake. Here’s the five-minute lowdown on what you missed around the Web last week.

When Cisco killed the Flip video camera, it was a reminder to the industry that the age of specialization is dead and the multitasker is king. However, David Pogue points out that, while Swiss Army knife gizmos can certainly do it all, it doesn’t mean it’s smart to do everything with them.

Start practicing those stories for the grandkids about how you remember a time before Google social media or free cloud hosting, because we smell a trend: Amazon has upped the ante by giving users of its Cloud Drive and Cloud Player access to unlimited music storage space for Amazon MP3s.

Sometimes, the success of a new IT project is a function of timing versus demand, says Vladimir Mazek.

Last week was the final launch of the NASA space shuttle program. Does that mean the next space walk is going to be taken by a space tourist? Are you ready to be the first CIO in space?

Idealab founder Bill Gross predicted that Google+ social media adoption will go from zero to 100,000,000 users faster than any other service in history. We tend to agree. Too bad Andy Warhol didn’t live to comment on the fact that our 15 minutes of fame might come via a social media network.

With so many major companies taking the hit, why has IBM weathered so many financial storms? Kevin Kelly muses on IBM’s 100th birthday.


July 8, 2011  2:45 PM

Can the new Google social network overtake Facebook?

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Facebook and Google have been at war for years. They want your eyes on their sites, and they’ll do anything toward that goal.

You’ve undoubtedly heard about the potential new heir to the Facebook throne, Google+ (G+). The new Google social network started quietly accepting new users two weeks ago but now early adopters are rushing to join G+ in levels that have exceeded Google’s capacity, causing it to flick on and off invitation and registration capability as it tries to contend with the huge demand.

That sound you hear? That’s the beginning of the huge exodus of Facebook users over to G+.

Once you’re inside G+, you might notice that Google Wave and Google Buzz were prototypes — or perhaps beta releases — for a more robust, integrated Google social network. Aesthetically, the G+ system is very clean and pure, as though the GUI were designed by a Swedish furniture maker. There are some analogs to Facebook’s design — for instance, instead of a “Like” you push the Google +1 button — but G+ has the benefits of slick new toys like Hangouts, which integrates a video chat room component for entire Circles as you’ve defined it. Of course, if you’re already using Gmail, G+ knows who you’re conversing with via email and will helpfully make suggestions to populate your Circles. Similarly, G+ is expected to integrate the sharing feature in Google Reader to automatically share to your G+ network. The organic relationship with its own applications gives the Google social network a huge advantage over Facebook.

The general interaction with my social network is already very robust and — forgive the generalization — seems a bit more intellectual and witty than Facebook. Perhaps this dinner-party atmosphere is due to self-selection in this first month. The kinds of people who are interested in jumping on trends are at the G+ party, while the more Luddite social media participants are still playing Mafia Wars on Facebook. Or maybe the discourse has been more interesting because there are fewer distractions: There are no creepy surveys (at least, not yet) or announcements about one’s Farmville status. Or maybe everyone is just still experimenting with the GUI.

The G+ circles are a tad confusing at first, but when you realize that it’s just like the Facebook friend groups out in the open, it becomes more organic. Mark Zuckerburg seems to feel threatened by this approach and took a dig at G+ circles earlier this week.

So why the rush to adopt? Perhaps it’s the allure of a clean slate: a chance to undo the bad decisions made on Facebook.  Did you “Facebook friend” (yes, it’s a verb now) your teenage sweetheart on a whim and now are subjected to numerous status updates on their insane political stance? Instead of forcing the issue, you have a chance to simply avoid connecting with that person in a whole new environment. It’s a bit like the teenage movies where a nerd switches to a new school and gets a whole new identity: the promise of a perfect social network.

G+ does not yet have capacity for Business Pages, and while it does not actively ban businesses from signing up for the system, it does warn that businesses may have to create new profiles and rebuild their Circles when Google+ for Businesses is implemented. However, this should serve as a good reminder to check those social media strategies and update them to include the Google social network technologies and schema.

Just the same, you should check it out for your personal use. If G+ overtakes Facebook as the social media network of dominance — and the general feel of the first two weeks indicates that it will — late adopters will have to spend a lot of time playing catch up.


July 5, 2011  1:34 PM

Hacking activities mean security risk is everybody’s business

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

The LulzSec hacker group recently announced it was backing off its spree of network break-ins — but only after making off with gigabytes of sensitive documents from large private- and public-sector organizations. Meanwhile, other groups continue on with their hacking activities. Security vendor RSA is still picking itself up from having its token technology hacked earlier this year.

No one, it seems, is immune from security risk these days. But don’t take my word for it.

Howard Stringer, the CEO of Sony, whose PlayStation Network was down for weeks this spring after a breach, recently told Newsweek, “How can I sit here and tell you there will be no further vulnerabilities? We’re dealing with it. Now it’s a known hazard. Everybody is being hacked now.”

Not very encouraging, is it?

Security is no longer the domain of CISOs but also CEOs, who must take responsibility for security risk and how it affects corporate assets, the bottom line and the company’s reputation.

Like the cultures of innovation sponsored by so many of the CIOs whom we have spoken to this year, security risk culture must start at the top. “Dealing with it” just doesn’t cut it anymore.


July 1, 2011  2:35 PM

What IT/business alignment has in common with the TSA

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

I’ve been thinking a lot about Harman CIO Michael Ali’s discussion of IT/business alignment. We spend of lot of energy in IT worrying about how to align with the business, while our users are figuring out ways to circumvent IT completely. New initiatives are exciting within the organization, but users tend to view changes by what they can’t do instead of what they can, which is hampering IT/business alignment at its very core.

Then I had a flash of inspiration on the problem of IT/business alignment (bear with me): I travel a lot, both for business and pleasure, and like George Clooney in “Up in the Air” I have the security check down to a streamlined dance of removing my bag of liquids and my laptop from my bag and taking off my jacket and my shoes practically in the same motion. I used to be really grumpy about the TSA’s various regulations, but now I am just resigned to it as part of flying. I knew my spirit was officially broken when I had to choose between being photographed by the backscatter machines and being frisked by a TSA agent. (How bad has it gotten when walking around in your stocking feet at a public place is the least silly part of a process?)

IT is in danger of becoming the TSA of the organization.

If you were to measure the company’s general feel for IT outside of the department, would the employees be excited about what you’re accomplishing, or would they grumble about the firewall or how IT’s BYOD policies won’t let them legally use their iPads on the network or the fact that their laptop’s processer dates back to the Cold War? At my last company, I still remember the shock and awe when IT finally gave its blessing on a company-wide IM protocol. Instead of being excited about having new technology to play with, there was a huge rumor going around that the IT department was giving us IM to be able to spy on our conversations. Ridiculous, but true.

Crazy paranoia aside, think about how IT is perceived by the people who work in production or marketing or human resources. Do those people believe — really believe — that IT is enabling their productivity, or do they grudgingly feel like IT is holding them up when they’re late for a deadline and demanding that all of their liquids be placed in a quart-sized Ziploc bag? Think about how employee suggestions are considered: Is the first instinct to say “No,” or do you embrace IT innovation from everywhere in the company?

“All of the data suggests that midmarket companies will lead the economic recovery, and all of our data shows that those companies that leverage and exploit IT will be at the head of the pack,” said Andy Monshaw, general manager of IBM global small and medium-sized business division.

So forget about IT/business alignment, and worry about IT’s serious image problem. It could have an actual and measurable effect on your company’s bottom line.


June 28, 2011  5:35 PM

Even the Geek Doctor couldn’t save Google Health

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

My first thought when I heard that Google Health is shutting down is, “what’s the Geek Doctor going to do?” My second thought was shock.

Dr. John Halamka, aka the “Geek Doctor,” has been one of Google Health’s biggest boosters since the passage of the Recovery Act and the HITECH Act in 2009. He has touted the use of personal health record (PHR) services as a key piece of the coming digital landscape in health care. He made PHRs a standard part of his frequent presentations on the status of meaningful use requirements, even going as far as showing his own personal Google Health record.

All of which makes it more surprising when Google announced the “retirement” of its health record service as of Jan. 1, 2012. This is from the company where beta projects live forever.

John Moore of Chilmark Research, who predicted the demise of Google Health more than a year ago, posted an interesting recap of its downfall this week, while Microsoft officials are giving kudos to Google for its efforts and using the opportunity to sell Microsoft HealthVault to consumers.

But that is the problem — consumers. Google’s issues were more about the PHR model than their service, which was considered very user-friendly. Doctors and patients haven’t bought into the concept. When you consider issues of privacy and security, ownership of and access to the records, and integration with payer, provider and health information exchange systems, PHRs have come to resemble the quagmire that is the health care industry in general.

PHRs’ time may come, but they might have to wait until the transition to the digital hospital is complete – and that may take decades.


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