If you’re a CIO, you don’t want to get a reputation as being Dr. No. It can have consequences for your organization. And if you’re a line of business leader, be careful what you ask for too.

Speaking to attendees at infrastructure vendor EMC Corp.’s annual EMC Forum event in Toronto on Tuesday, former EMC CIO Frank Hauck said when he ran a line of business for EMC, he was one of the biggest complainers about the responsiveness of the IT department to business needs.

So when it came time to replace the CIO, they figured since he had such strong ideas about how IT should be ran, they gave him the job. And he quickly learned the impact the previous CIO’s reputation for saying no had on the organization.

“I literally had 52 satellite IT organizations I had to begin pulling back on day one,” said Hauck. “Because the last guy just wasn’t being responsive to the business.”

It’s a situation no CIO wants to face. Yet, at the same time, IT has to maintain a degree of control. IT requires a new kind of architecture and infrastructure, which was the focus of this year’s EMC Forum. Hauck is now president of the VCE Alliance, a company founded by EMC, Cisco Systems and VMware to build Vblock systems using EMC storage, Cisco servers and networking and VMware virtualization technology in one system.

The goal, said Hauck, is to make IT easier to run, so the organization can be more responsive to line of business needs.

“These things are as close to bulletproof as I’ve ever seen,” said Hauck. “We’re blurring the lines between servers, storage and networking technology, so you don’t need different teams to run each. One can step up and do it. With less people dedicated to infrastructure, we’re trying to drive simplicity.”

It will allow IT organizations to build a more responsive organization. According to a survey of EMC Forum attendees across North America, 57 per cent of respondents believe big data will be a key factor in determining winners and losers in their industry. Some 24 per cent have already achieved a competitive advantage with big data, but 26 per cent have no current big data plans.

“People believe big data can help them, but they don’t believe that the tools they’re using today can give them the results they want,” said Michael Sharun, managing director of EMC Canada. “Tools today are looking in the rearview mirror.”

EMC’s current CIO, Vic Bhagat, said EMC’s focus is on becoming a partner of choice for big data, cloud computing, and trust. Because, he said, big data and the cloud mean nothing if you can’t trust the environment.

With trust for the data in place, there’s a lot of data available that’s not being used today. Bhagat notes that one Boeing 777 flight from Los Angeles to New York generates 30TB of sensor data, but only 500GB is used today. The rest is discarded, because they don’t know what to do with it.

Much of that data relates to the General Electric engines. The biggest loss of income for an airline is an aircraft on the ground, or AOG. With the engines regularly having to go in for overhaul, engines are a key cause of AOG.

“It takes 90 days to overhaul an engine,” said Bhagat. “Imagine if you could use that sensor data and predictive analytics to say you don’t need to overhaul the engine yet. That’s how you change the game.”

The trick though, said Sharun, is that big data needs to be acted on immediately, and that’s the role IT needs to play – enabling that rapid and predictive analysis.

“It can’t chug along, do a report for a month, and provide an answer,” said Sharun. “People are looking for an instantaneous response.”

There is a lot of interest in big data in the enterprise said Eric Ng, vice-president of sales with Scalar, a Toronto-based solution provider and EMC partner. And while the solution can be complicated, Ng said the motivation is simple.

“Throughout human history, information has been key to anyone’s success, and the more relevant information you can get on any topic you’re questioning that can only help you make a more educated decision,” said Ng. “It’s just human nature to know the more information you have, the better decision you’ll be able to make.”

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