One of the clear advantages of writing a blog is that I can easily move back and forth between interesting topics.
The people who read me regularly tell me that they enjoy the zigs and zags, but -- for the occasional reader -- the resulting topic salad doesn't lend itself to easily summarized and digested thoughts, presented in a linear fashion.
So, with this post, I thought I'd take some time to pick a few of my favorite regular themes, summarize the key thoughts, and link back to the various supporting blog posts.
If you find this sort of summary interesting or useful, please let me know, and I'll make a point to do it regularly.
And, if you're looking for some nourishing brain food during the lazy days of summer, you might find some of this interesing :)
So, let's begin, shall we?
Fundamental Shifts In The Economy -- And The IT Industry
I've always thought that context is important. When so many shifts are going on simultaneously in our IT industry, it's worth more than a few moments to contemplate the big picture.
I believe the most fundamental relevant shift for my readers is the transformation to an "information economy", one where the underlying business model is based on extracting and delivering value through vast amounts of information and focused knowledge workers with deep expertise.
In "A Tale Of Two Economies", I present my case for how our current economic malaise might actually be a transition from one model to the next; and -- of course -- some thoughts on how IT leaders might think about this state of affairs.
The evidence for this transition seems to be everywhere, but it's also useful to look at the case for an information economy in summarized form. Every year, EMC sponsors IDC to survey the state of the "digital universe". This year's study went much further than past years in measuring information (and server) growth in multiple dimensions -- if you're interested in big pictures, you might want to read my personal summary of the report and its implications.
Many IT leaders are beginning to realize that -- going forward -- they'll ultimately responsible for managing the organization's information portfolio, making them -- in effect -- the "CFO of Information". Indeed, in the information economy, one can make a strong argument that the value of information itself ought to be on the balance sheet.
A few IT leaders have embraced this new role with a passion. In "What's In A Name?", I share just one example of a new IT leader who's used the power of naming to reflect their new mandate.
Doing IT In New Ways: Cloud and IT-As-A-Service
I know, you're probably bored to tears around the whole cloud discussion. "Cloud fatigue" has set in for so many people. I'm certainly empathetic, but the realit is that it's here, it's real, and it's perhaps the most significant impact *ever* to hit our industry.
At its simplest, a cloud has three core attributes: it's built differently (pools of dynamic resources vs. static allocations), it's operated differently (as an end-to-end service vs. silos of technology, er, cylinders of excellence) and it's consumed differently (convenient for your end users, convenient for IT).
If IT capability is built differently, operated differently and consumed differently, I consider it a "cloud".
If an IT organization at reasonable scale adopts this model internally, I call it a "private cloud". If a service provider offers IT services to IT organizations, I tend to call it a "public cloud", or -- more accurately -- external IT services. And when organizations figure out how to intelligently use a mix of both, well, that's a "hybrid cloud".
But the exact terminology and precise definitions really aren't all that important any more.
For example, I would challenge anyone to offer a useful and complete definition of "internet".
Hard to precisely define, but we all use it -- and the changes it has wrought are signficant indeed.
Once you move beyond the annoying and distracting semantical debates, the reality is becoming clear: IT organizations realize that they have to become internal service providers, and start to emulate the models of external service providers, which -- in effect -- can be seen as their new competitors.
For an end-to-end view on these changes -- and what they might mean to all of us -- I'd suggest "The Great Transformation".
Leading The Structural Change of IT
For IT leaders in an enterprise setting, the "cloud" is nothing less than redefining the very nature of what internal IT organizations do.
While some might debate the need to do so, there are more than enough IT professionals who realize that structural change is afoot, and are quite serious in being leaders vs. managers.
I have been fortunate in that I not only get great exposure to what other peeope are doing (the good, the bad and the ugly) but what our own EMC IT organization has achieved and learned in this process. Indeed, when I meet with IT leaders, this is now the #1 topic by far -- leading the transformation of IT.
It all starts with making the case -- internally and externally -- for investing in change. In "Helping To Create The Case For Cloud", I share a methodology that EMC is using with success.
But at the end of the day, IT organizations are nothing more than people trying to get their job done. How they're organized, their roles and skills is where the meat is.
Surprise: the key to cloud and IT-as-a-service is an organizational change, and less a technological one.
This is appears to be the intellectual nugget so many IT leaders are trying to get their heads wrapped around. Fortunately, there are now clear patterns we can now document.
In "Organizing From Silos To Services", I present EMC IT as a case study for what happens when IT thinks of itself as a service provider vs. the source of technology expertise. That post was actually an update from a previous one, "The Evolving IT Infrastructure Organization" which serves as background.
New organizations and new roles means new skills -- an area that EMC is investing in heavily. While many roles change, a few key ones end up being strategically important. In "Considering The Cloud Architects", I discuss one key role in some depth.
Even academia realizes that change is in the air. In "Yes, You Now Can Get Your Degree In Cloud. Really." I talk about one early partnership we've established along these lines, with more to come.
But, at the end of the day, sometimes the biggest struggle is just finding a place to start :)
New External IT Consumption Models -- The Rise Of Service Providers
If you look at other non-IT industries (e.g. manufacturing, logistics, etc.) you'll see a mature and cleanly disaggregated model where various entities provide specialized services to each other, creating -- in effect -- an end-to-end value chain.
My argument here is very simple -- why wouldn't the IT industry evolve around similar lines? The answer: there's no good reason -- we're just a bit late to this party.
In "The Evolving Enterprise SP Supply Chain", I do my best to sketch out the evolving model from a service provider's perspective. Even if you're on the enterprise IT side, the model -- and its structural elements -- will likely find its way into enterprise IT thinking over the next few years.
And, yes, there's a mad rush in the industry to stand up an entirely new generation of IT services and make them available to traditional consumers of enterprise IT.
I've only had a time to highlight a few of these newer service providers in some detail here, here, here and here. These are not your cheap-and-cheerful commodity service providers, they provide high-quality IT services that meet or exceed what many IT organizations can do themselves.
EMC (along with VMware, Cisco and VCE) is investing heavily in their success. We would like our customers to live in a world where there are many attractive (and compatible!) service provider options to choose from. And we'll likely see far more of these very important SPs in the future.
In a few cases, external service providers can play a fascinating role in accelerating transitions within IT organizations themselves. In "The Role Of Service Providers In Breaking The Stockholm Syndrome", I present my case for this important emerging function.
IT Leaders In Action
Many months ago, I made my case that this industry transition would inevitably demand new leadership skills from IT leaders, in "Will Challenging Times Demand New IT Leadership Skills?".
I also get a chance to see these very leadership skills in action. In my daily travels, I get to meet many so many progressive IT leaders from around the world. Occasionally, I get enough cycles to write their stories for the benefit of all. It's something I'd like to do more of in the future.
As a small sample, please consider these profiles from Greg Buoncontri, Josh Sigel, Paul English and Michael Keithley -- as well as EMC's own CIO, Sanjay Mirchandani. There are many more such stories to be told; I just hope I get more time to tell them in the future.
Moving Beyond Cloud -- IT As A Strategic Value Generator
Our thinking is that -- at some point -- IT moves beyond the current transformation to an IT-as-a-service model, and assumes a new role as an entirely new source of new value creation. This view is not theoretical; I meet more than a few organizations that are already in this world; more will inevitably follow.
Indeed, big data isn't strictly about making money and doing things more efficiently, many of us believe big data has the potential to change the world we live in.
They key actor in this new model is the data scientist, a often-underappreciated but incredibly strategic player in this new world. EMC is investing heavily in understanding their needs, and building environments tailored to their unique requirements. Indeed, the bet over time is that more and more organizations will invest in "big data proficiency".
But big data is but just one target for the next wave of IT value generation, albeit the most fascinating one from where I sit. On a broader note, there's been a notable shift in the importance of knowledge professionals -- an increasingly mobile and demanding caste of people who are turning out to be the new value generators in the information economy.
In "Behold The New User", I do my best to describe a different way of looking at this opportunity.
And in "Why Applications Are Like Fish And Data Is Like Wine" I try and share how we -- as knowledge workers -- look at these two topics from a decidedly non-IT perspective.
I suppose there's one more topic along these lines that's worth mentioning -- more and more examples where IT isn't just there to support the business, it becomes the business. And I'm guessing this phenomenon becomes more frequent.
A Few Thorny Problems Remain
As we move forward in the discussion, we encounter entirely new problem we weren't expecting to find. Rather than paper over them, I think it's better to clearly state that, yes, it's a problem, and, no, we're not sure we have a good answer yet, but we're working on it.
One interesting challenge is how IT is financed at an aggregate level. Like any other aggregate expense, the CFO keeps a watchful eye on things, and reserves the right to move the number up or down depending on circumstances.
However, in a cloud-like variable consumption model, that presents some interesting challenges indeed.
More concerning, though, is the inevitable result of a shift to digital value -- it becomes an attractive target for the bad guys at a level we've never seen before. Yes, we're investing in new technologies and methodologies to combat the new threat, but there are no simple solutions at present.
Yes, I Talk About Storage
Storage has been a multi-decade fascination for me -- simply because it's the repository of digital value. No other technology can retain and retrieve information. In the information economy, that makes the topic pretty important, I'd argue.
And that's not entirely because I work for EMC, either :)
There's just so much to talk about here that I'm forced to just skim the topic: from the advent of flash to scale-out approaches to object storage to entirely new management models -- the world of storage is changing perhaps faster than other parts of the IT landscape. Indeed, in the near future, we can start to think about distance very differently, thanks to some very promising newer storage tech.
If you agree that IT is becoming a service, then storage -- as part of IT -- becomes delivered through a services-oriented model before. For the storage crowd, this is a big shift in thinking. And since storage touches so much of the IT landscape, how you might want to think about your storage strategy is definitely up for a fresh look :)
Whew! Are You Tired Yet? I Am ...
As I page back through the last six months or so of posts, there's still a lot that didn't make it to this summary.
I suppose, in some sense, that's a good problem to have.
My role at EMC gives me a somewhat rare and privileged view the IT industry from multiple angles: technology, competition, customers, partners, service providers, and probably more.
And the scary part?
There's so much more to talk about :)