IT has to regain control from business users, conference told

IT departments need to wrestle back power from management to show their importance, two vendor officials have told a conference of information technology professionals.

How they do it depends on a mix of technology money and leadership, speakers from Cisco Systems Inc. and IBM told the iTech Conference in Toronto on Thursday.

Lines of business don’t feel IT can keep up with the demands of business, so they’re bypassing and buying solutions from public clouds, Damian Serjeant, vice-president and general manager of Cisco Canada’s data centre practice.

“IT is losing control.”

Crowd at iTech Toronto 2014's trade show. (ITWC photo)
Crowd at iTech Toronto 2014’s trade show. (ITWC photo)

One of the problems is that 73 per cent of IT spending goes to keeping the lights on — including 29 per cent of that for salaries —so there’s little money for innovation.

Cisco’s answer is to automate the data centre through what it calls its application-centric infrastructure model, which allows organizations to leverage cloud computing by attaching security, storage, networking and other policies attached to applications. Money saved can go to new projects.

In an interview Serjeant said Cisco faced the same problem: It would take weeks for lines of business to get a virtual machine configured. Eventually it overhauled its IT systems to create its new model.

“IT needs to regain control again,” he said. “You can’t afford to have lines of business going to directly to public cloud without ensuring you’re enforcing policies.”

He acknowledged that in addition to an infrastructure overhaul the CEO has to get into the fray and order senior managers not to allow so-called shaddow IT to creep into the organization. Still, he said “IT has to be the change agent and drive processes around that”

One way is for IT to get its act together itself. He said he doesn’t know how many times he’s had to broker meetings between storage and networking teams who have never talked to each other about their needs and priorities.

“This is a cultural change.,” he said. “You need a champion within the (organization) — in storage, in networking, in server . And they become your champion team to really change the game and knock the silos down.”

In his session Kyle Foster, IBM Canada’s general manager of server solutions, said smart organizations are abandoning the old philosophy where IT used to align with the strategies of business.

With technology changing rapidly thanks to cloud computing, analytics and social business, organizations have to leverage technology to drive new business opportinities.
“They can penetrate new markets, access new customers. they can dramatically transpform their business,” he said in an inteview. “So the roles have been reversed. — we can start with technology as the enabler and drive business strategy that exploits that.

Asked if most Canadian IT departments think and work that way, he said “it’s in its infancy.”

In his presentation Foster talked about the advantages of using IBM’s Power system servers in Linux environments over x86 servers.

The Toronto iTech IT Infrastructure and Cloud conference was the second this week (there was one in Ottawa on Wednesday). There will be one in Calgary on Oct. 8 and in Vancouver Oct. 9.
Speakers included experts from Micrsosoft, Veem, Peer 1 Hosting, Commvault, Suse Linux, Seccuris, Scale Computing, CompTIA, Caspio and others or topics from virtualizing the data centre to building a cloud.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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