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Dave Hitz: I’m Dave Hitz and I’m here with ESG senior analyst, Mark Peters.  Over the course of the next three posts we’ll be talking about what’s going on in IT. What does it take for an IT organization to future-proof their environment?


Mark, good IT people are always worried about what they need to do to future-proof their environment.  That’s just part and parcel of what you do if you’re an IT person.


In the past few years it’s become especially important, given how trends are playing out.


Do you see things that way?


Mark Peters:   Yes, I do, Dave. 
I think it’s about planning.  That may sound too simple.  But we’re all good at thinking about growth in terms of capacity.  We’re good at thinking about the speed of our devices improving. 


But what we have to think about when we’re planning – and this gets to the future-ready aspect that you’re talking about – is about being able to change, being able to change fast, changing on the fly as business changes.


Dave, do you remember when IM came out, instant messaging?


Dave Hitz:    Yes.


Mark Peters:    I know that the Yahoo! IM team planned their maintenance between nine a.m. and five p.m., because, that was when the system wouldn’t be used much!  Now, in many businesses, they actually run on IM.  Things can change very fast.


The second point about this planning is to be future-ready.  It’s not just about the future happening to you as it evolves.  It’s about making it happen in the way that you want it to. 


In order to ‘do’ future-ready, you need to do ‘past-ready’ too, which means knowing where the heck you are now, understanding everything from utilization to power, to how many dedicated systems you’ve got.  How well are they used?  What are they producing for the business?


These are questions that, because they’re things that you’re already doing, you can answer.  And then you can talk about planning for the future.


Dave Hitz:    One of the things that’s so hard about planning for the future is you don’t know what’s going to happen.  Even though we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, there are a few statements you can make that are straight-forward.  For instance, there are going to be a lot more virtual servers out there.


It’s not clear how many of them will be VMware and how many of them will be (hyper-V) or Xen.  There are dynamics in there that are hard to predict exactly.  But it isn’t hard to predict there will be a lot more virtualization, a lot more apps will be running in virtualized environments.


If you take that as a starting point you can do quite a bit of planning, even if you don’t know anything else about how it will play out.


Mark Peters:    Yes, I completely agree.  What you’re really talking about is the essence of what we know will happen.  But there’s the second layer, subtleties and specifics that we don’t know.


Therefore, what you need is something that is going to be flexible as you go forward.  You know you need more virtual servers.  You know pretty well how to deal with that.  But somehow within this, you’ve got to keep some flexibility.


And what’s interesting about the whole notion of flexibility, when you’re talking about IT is, in many respects – and this goes exactly to what you were just saying – it’s not about IT itself.  It’s about business.  It’s about opportunities.  It’s about applications.
Dave Hitz:    If you go back to the early ‘80s, when the PC was first introduced, people were saying, the PC is going to change everything, and it’s going to have a radical impact on business.  And that was true.  No question about it.

People were also saying, this will lead to the paperless office.  I haven’t noticed paperless offices in my organization.  How’s yours doing?


Mark Peters:    Exactly.  Although, the nature of the paper changes, doesn’t it?  We all print things off.  If you’re old enough like I am, sometimes you need it on a piece of paper to take it in, because you still don’t take it from the screen properly.

But, no, we haven’t gone paperless at all.


Dave Hitz:    The nature of the paper has changed.  That is what I find so interesting.  We were completely wrong about so many details.  And yet, big picture, we knew what was going to happen, and it did.


When people predict how cloud computing will play out, and how virtualization will play out, I suspect that our guesses – yours and mine as industry watchers – are about as accurate as the paperless office, which is to say, completely wrong and completely right, at the same time.


Mark Peters:    Absolutely.


There is a very interesting aspect to this I think we, as IT practitioners, need to think about.  The way we organize people and the way they’re rewarded and paid.  It’s one of those things I don’t think gets enough attention.


Now, you and I can drone on all day about flexibility, and that’s absolutely vital.  But there has to be flexibility within the way that people are measured and rewarded as well.  Because the lack of that is one of the reasons we’ve grown up with so many distributed, dedicated systems.


Everyone likes world peace.  Everyone will check the box for that, but no one wants to go and fix it.  It’s exactly the same in IT.  Everyone will check the box for ‘let’s share everything and let’s integrate everything and consolidate everything’. Oh, yes, well, except for the stuff I do.  I’d like my own server, and my own storage and my own application, thank you very much, because that’s the way I get paid, because I get measured on whether Exchange is up that day, or whatever else it might be.


It’s very simple to start a conversation about the future and flexibility.  But you really need to stop and think about what that means and how you do something about it.



Stay tuned for Part 2 in the discussion series, which will cover the key issues in the quest to be future-ready.


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