IT shops will become consultants instead of tech managers, says EMC's CIO

There is a sense of urgency around deploying private cloud infrastructures, says Mirchandani

As with their user forum last year, EMC's Forum Boston 2012 on Friday emphasized cloud infrastructure technology, big data and business intelligence products.

This year, however, EMC made it clear to its customers that there should be a sense of urgency about deploying IT as a service via a cloud infrastructure, a sentiment not supported by everyone at the conference.

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During a keynote speech, EMC CIO Sanjay Mirchandani said cloud computing and big data is experiencing uptake faster than any past technology.

Mirchandani cited a recent Gartner survey that showed 78% of companies plan to pursue a private cloud strategy by 2014, while another 17% indicated they might pursue a cloud strategy and 5% said they would not.

"And cloud computing transforms us -- IT," Mirchandani said. "We become more consultative as opposed to classic IT management."

David St. Laurent, director of technical services at Fallon Community Health Plan, was in EMC's user audience during Mirchandani's speech. While St. Laurent's infrastructure is 80% virtualized, he said IT as a service is still only a concept, and migrating legacy applications to a private cloud is no small task.

He said vendors have a bad habit of deploying technology and then expecting users to just adopt it whether they're ready or not because it's the next greatest thing.

"That's how I feel about virtual environments and Citrix. They're moving faster than companies can keep up with," St. Laurent said. "They should take a step back and see what end users' needs are, what their legacy apps are and work with the provider to bring everything up on one platform."

Over the past eight years, EMC has been deploying its own internal cloud infrastructure, which started in 2004 with a four-year server virtualization and consolidation project that standardized on x86 hardware. Mirchandani said that, like most IT shops, prior to the virtualization effort , EMC's internal business units appeared to be using 100% of their IT resources all the time. However, the actual utilization rates were far worse than they appeared.

"We also eliminated 100 million pounds of CO2 emissions," he added.

The second phase of the cloud project took place from 2009 to 2011. This phase involved updating applications, specifically taking business apps, such as those used in sales and marketing, and hosting them on a single platform via VMware's vSphere cloud computing OS and EMC's own vBlock converged infrastructure platform. Today, the company is hosting 75% of its business apps in the private cloud, he said.

Additionally, EMC's 8,000 servers are 90% virtualized, and 95% of its mission critical apps run partially or fully on virtual machines, he said.

The project saved EMC $112 million on capital expenditures and an additional $66 million on operational expenses, Mirchandani said.

"Performance is blazing," Mirchandini said, adding that the private cloud has five times more scalability over the previous architecture. As a result, the company retired 65 legacy applications, moving from 450 point-to-point interfaces down to 125.

The third and last phase of the cloud project, currently underway, is to deploy IT as a service, meaning new services are automated and placed into a catalog from which business units can choose.

Critical to rolling out IT as a service is creating a baseline and then benchmarking advancements as the project moves forward. This step helps the IT group know what progress it has made and to understand the savings that result from those advancements.

While EMC hasn't completed its IT-as-a-service project, Mirchandani can already see how it will reduce costs and management overhead. If a business unit wants a new app, an additional server or more storage capacity, it simply chooses it from the service catalog.

"IT almost plays a passive role rather than an active role in this," Mirchandani said. "The moment you expose the cost of services, the business will ask what's the most cost efficient. IT becomes a broker of services, not necessarily the author of all services. This phase allows business to build the widgets they want off that factory floor [the cloud service]."

There are three requirements for an IT-as-a-service model to be successful, he said. Companies need:

  • A petabyte-scalable storage infrastructure that is also compatible with MapReduce technology, for processing huge volumes of data, such as Hadoop;
  • A unified analytics platform that functions as a data warehouse and where data scientists can collaborate;
  • And a staff of data scientists in each business unit to measure progress and provide analytics information.

"If you've done the first two phases right, building the factory floor [per se], this is the natural transition of how your customers want to go," Mirchandani said.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

This story, "IT shops will become consultants instead of tech managers, says EMC's CIO" was originally published by Computerworld.

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