Oh I See! Getting CIOs to view their jobs from a different angle

Jul 17 2012   6:38AM GMT

I saw a data center

Arun Gupta Arun Gupta Profile: Arun Gupta

Last week, one of the global IT biggies invited a bunch of CIOs to their R&D Center with the defined agenda being a discussion on future trends and movements in their technologies; the idea was to get some early traction with old and potential customers and field testing that helps fine tune a product. Apart from all this were the good old peer networking and some high spirits if you know what I mean. So I was enticed enough to join the group to give away a weekend in the name of learning and networking.

CIOs in captivity!
Like all such gatherings it was a good start with key leaders and guys oozing tech from their ears talking about new disruptive technologies are coming our way in the next 2-4 years. They held sway in the graveyard sessions post-lunch, with sleep overpowering only the infirm or the bored indifferent (which did not matter). Most cynical CIOs on the wrong side of forty acknowledged the prowess and the future opportunity. Good things don’t last and this one too didn’t.

After the first two sessions started the mundane, the irrelevant and the hard sell; data center density, cooling, and power consumption. Virtualization and private cloud are good, a higher virtualization ratio even better, but 20K VMs in a rack? Why do I need 20K virtual servers? The nail in the wall was when someone decided it’s a good idea to teach CIOs how to configure a VM and then move it across racks with no downtime. I am not sure if CIOs want to be doing that or enterprises want high cost CIOs to do that!

I mean does a CIO teach the technology architect the finer nuances of VM management? To rub salt into the wounds, they extended the session over the coffee break to cover private cloud extension to the public cloud. Now I am sure that my server admin would be kicked by this demo, none of the CIOs in the room were. They expressed their displeasure in no uncertain terms, some decided to leave the premises as soon as the break was declared closed. Patience too has its limits.

The point of culmination
The climax was waiting for the following day; a visit to the R&D facility! We all got into a bus, arrived at the big building, signed in with sobriety and were taken to the show. We entered a room with biometric authentication to be faced with rows and rows of racks with cables dangling from some. Proudly the scientist pointed to one of the racks and started talking about why it was different and the innovation that went into making the hardware inside and why we should immediately order it.

I could not remember the last time I had visited a data center (even my own); digging deep into memory it dawned that it was more than a decade back. I whispered to the CIO next to me and he too reminisced a long time back. A few others had been to their outsourced or co-located data centers when they had signed the deal. I wished my infrastructure head was present; maybe he would have appreciated the significance. To us, the CIOs, it was a lost experience, we did not share the enthusiasm.

Does or should the data center matter to the CIO? The vehement answer would be ‘yes’ from many. Then what about the cloud? Have you visited the Google or Amazon or Salesforce.com data center? Do you know when you buy SaaS where it is delivered from? I believe that we need to come out of this obsession; the vendors need to start defocussing the data center and start engaging on business outcomes. Yes, the data center makes the IT run, but to pick a line from Nicholas Carr, the data center does not matter anymore!

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