WESTCON IMAGINE 2014: Understanding the job makes IT departments relevant, says Kevin Bloch

Services brokering, applications for business, and predictive analytics key to opportunity

Cisco's Kevin Bloch.

Cisco's Kevin Bloch.

Cisco chief technology officer (CTO), Kevin Bloch, opened his presentation at Westcon Imagine 2014 with a quote borrowed (and rephrased) from Bill Gates: “Computing is essential to a modern economy, but computers and IT departments are not.”

While this paints a bleak picture for Australians in IT, Bloch said the trends in components of the ‘intelligent network’ – Cloud, mobility, consumerisation of IT, Big Data, and social – “show huge opportunities for IT leaderships”; he also cited a Westpac survey of chief executive officers (CEO) which states that most external forces in the next three years will have technology at their peak.

Chief information officers (CIOs) may be more important now than they have ever been, but CIOs of the past need to change their strategies.

Bloch said that achieving this means understanding the job to be done in a multi-million dollar shift which is putting IT networks under significant transitions that are driving changes.

Of particular note is the growing relevance of services brokering, aligned with the notion of ‘IT as a broker’, and triggered by the plummet in transaction costs across all industries on the back of the Internet.

Bloch claims it is important because the world is becoming one of many Clouds. Former example, Cisco launched its InterCloud to provide resellers and customers with choice by sitting between these parties and Cloud providers. Similarly, Westcon is brokering back-end services so resellers can consume more easily, while customers can utilise operate within multiple Cloud environments. But Bloch reminds IT departments that applications are for business, and that it is, and always has been about the application.

The shift lies in growing automation capabilities procured by software advancements.

“What Cisco is doing through Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) is setting policy to ensure technology doesn’t fail,” he said.

“We are setting policy for the workload because we are moving to a world of automation. We have to set policy for everything that runs that application workload; we do so in a piece of script and deliver it in the network.”

But while software (and the buzz around software-defined) is getting a lot of attention, Bloch said, “software might eat the world, but only so long as you have the right hardware underneath it.”

This blending of hardware and software is what made the late Steve Jobs famous and successful. Former Microsoft boss, Steve Ballmer, was even noted on record remarking that he regretted that Microsoft did not do software and hardware together sooner.

In this so-called world of automation, technology relies on data. While data analytics is an advent to which the IT industry is accustomed (albeit at different levels of maturity), Bloch said the next 10 years will centre on the use of predictive analytics for more intelligent decision-making and automation.

He claimed that capitalising on predictive analytics demands a shift on how IT departments think; while data is simple enough to be attained, it is through correlation that predictions are made.

Predicting the outcomes and behaviours of technology requires the Ensemble Principle; conclusions based on ‘what’ and not ‘why’ which average a series of results to identify the most probable.

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