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The three IT questions CIOs should be able to answer . . . but probably can’t

The three IT questions CIOs should be able to answer . . . but probably can’t

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Kevin Brown, SVP, EcoStruxure Solutions, Secure Power Division, Schneider Electric, discusses how new disruptive technologies, hybrid and distributed IT architectures and the need for actionable data insights surrounding cybersecurity, energy efficiency and sustainability, is changing the role of the CIO – forcing them to adapt and utilise both new skillsets and tech to future-proof their businesses (and jobs).

The shift to the cloud brought many benefits and it has also added complexity to IT operations. For CIOs tasked with managing what has evolved into a sprawling hybrid IT architecture (whether at the Edge, in distributed sites and/or in the cloud in a centralised data centre), it’s hard to recall a more challenging time.

In an age when every Edge data centre and IT closet should be considered mission-critical, CIOs are in the spotlight. We are dependent on IT and every application is dependent on not just the data centre, but also on all the connection points. Most CIOs have resiliency of the systems at the top of their agendas and it’s fair to say that cybersecurity is a strong second. However, we also believe there is an emerging agenda item for CIOs: sustainability.

Resiliency, security and sustainability – a trifecta of responsibilities that could be keeping them up at night.

For the forward-looking CIO, it may be time to evaluate your infrastructure portfolio to ensure you have the capacity and availability to support these new requirements. And it is not just about IT but also about the physical infrastructure: the power and cooling equipment supporting the IT.

To borrow a saying from Jack Welch, it might be time to ‘Change before you have to’.

Distributed IT poses basic questions for CIOs

Question 1: How many server rooms, wiring closets and Edge sites do you have? In other words, exactly how much ‘distributed IT’ do you own?

It might be surprising, but most CIOs can’t answer this question definitively. This question sounds simple but with the proliferation of new installations and the legacy of old, answering is not easy for the savviest, most up-to-date CIO. It seems intuitively obvious: most CIOs would benefit from gaining greater insight into their physical infrastructure systems. Where are they located? Are they cybersecure? Are they in need of maintenance? Knowing the answer to these questions is the first step in starting to ensure that sprawling IT infrastructure is resilient and cybersecure.

Question 2: Who last accessed your IT rack and is the physical environment appropriate for equipment that is now considered mission-critical?

The large number of server room and wiring closet locations represents a potential attack surface for physical intrusion – perhaps not as significant as a full-blown cyberattack but a vulnerability nonetheless and one that must be taken into consideration. In many distributed IT locations, it is unlikely there is local, knowledgeable staff. For the CIO, the challenge is to implement systems that enable the same best practices in data centres as in these remote locations.

Question 3: How much energy is your IT consuming?

Sustainability of IT has begun to come to the forefront in recent years. Harvard Business Review reports that 99% of large company CEOs agree that sustainability issues are important to the success of their businesses and these concerns will extend, at some point, to the IT infrastructure.

Most CIOs in the future will be asked a simple question: what is the carbon footprint of your IT and what are you doing to reduce it? Having visibility into the energy consumption of your entire IT infrastructure is rising in importance.

Software is key to drive reliability, security and sustainability

These three questions are directed at CIOs but that doesn’t mean CIOs have to answer them alone, nor should they be expected to do so. Resources and experts are available. Developments in Data Center Infrastructure Management software (DCIM) have made it easier to manage remote IT sites and derive granular information into not only how they are performing, but the status of maintenance schedules and software and firmware updates, or early warning of possible malfunctions.

One more question

I want to add one final question that might not be so obvious: Are you prepared for the looming energy consumption dilemma at the edge of your network?

It’s easy to overlook the impending energy consumption dilemma if Edge/distributed computing is seen as only a few local Edge data centre installations. The impact of these local Edge deployments needs to be viewed at a greater scale because many businesses have hundreds or thousands of them. Based on our internal projections, by 2040, we see total energy consumption at 2,000 TWh with 60% coming from distributed sites and 40% from data centres. In other words, more than half the energy consumption of IT will be outside what we currently consider a ‘data centre’.

This is an area where Schneider Electric’s DCIM is helping. EcoStruxure IT and its state-of-the-art remote monitoring, management and modelling give operators system-wide visibility to proactively address issues and maintain uptime, leading to optimised efficiencies. Those efficiencies make data centre operations even more sustainable, which could be the key to your success.

At Schneider Electric, I’m excited to be driving our software business around these trends because it is our belief that to successfully manage your hybrid IT infrastructure, data-driven insights and 24×7 monitoring are a required part of the solution. On this front, we are working with clients to manage and simplify their evolving needs because reshaping their distributed IT infrastructure – not only for current business needs but for future needs as well – is a top priority.

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