Revolution, evolution or devolution?

Longform
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15 May 2014

There are many people in the computing world who believe that a new style of IT is emerging, one that is mixing more elements from more sources than ever before. HP has been peppering its events with the phrase ‘new style of IT’ for over a year now. In her keynote at HP Discover in June 2013, CEO Meg Whitman talked about the vendor helping customers make the transition to “the new style of IT”. She highlighted trends such as cloud, mobile, Big Data and mobility as its driving forces.

Although HP may have been one of the first vendors to articulate the trend, it’s not an isolated viewpoint. But it’s also clear that hybrid clouds, converged infrastructure, bring your own device (BYOD) and bring your own application (BYOA), are presenting organisations with significant headaches as they struggle to manage, control and regulate services, devices and supply.

The good news is that in this new world – assuming it actually exists – a trusted IT partner could be more important than ever before to allow organisations to navigate their own path to successful procurement and implementation. HP certainly seems to think so. CRN reported Sue Barsamian, senior vice president and general manager of worldwide indirect sales for HP’s Enterprise Group telling HP’s recent Global Partner Summit that “you don’t get to the new style of IT as a customer without the help of a partner”. Customers could not guide themselves through the world of hybrid IT, she added. making partners “more critical than ever”.

But are we really at the start of a new style of IT or is just more of the same old IT dressed up in new clothes? Unsurprisingly, it’s a question that elicits a variety of responses from people within the channel. Quite a few believe the times are definitely a-changin’ but others are inclined to think it’s all just part and parcel of IT’s normal evolution. Michael Conway, director at Renaissance, is one of those refusing to get carried away. “It’s the same old, same old, same old,” he says. “A lot of these things are marketing to try and juggle up something a little bit and make everybody think they need to be reinvesting in IT.”

He argues that although talk of new IT and new roles can be marketing speak, they can also scare people because they “suggest that everything they’ve invested in is wrong and needs to be thrown out and replaced. The technology business is great at saying to somebody everything is obsolete as soon as you buy it”.

He suggests that customers and businesses in Ireland “are not looking at new styles of IT but they’re looking at ways to run their business in the most effective way possible. They have people on the move, working from home, sitting in traffic, working from cafes. There are multiple devices all over the place linking in and linking out. The challenge and the opportunity is how to deliver some of that integration, usability and controllability.”

Structural changes
Some of those issues he talks about are what others lump under the banner of the new style of IT but Ian Butler, technical services director at Trilogy, is another who doesn’t think we’re on the cusp of a new style of IT. “There are some new elements to it,” he admits, “but it’s the same old equation.” Over the course of the last 30 or so years, the IT world has shifted from a centralised structure to a distributed one then back to a converged one. For companies like Trilogy, it’s important to maintain the role of trusted adviser that has always been there throughout its relationships with customers.

It’s true that trends such as BYOD are forcing customers to look at issues such as making certain types of information available to certain users and being able to manage and understand where all the various elements of the data are and how it’s being backed up, but the role of trusted advisers such as Trilogy is pretty much the same. “Corporates have always needed trusted advisers that are a little bit closer to new technology,” Butler says. “We need to adapt in terms of how we manage the data and what kind of services we offer to manage the data. We need to be able to tie it back to the business needs first of all, but economics always comes into it. Most things are driven by price.”

Kevin Bland, director of channel and alliances for Northern Europe at Citrix, describes the current situation as “a bit of redressing or amplification of something that’s already happened”. He approaches it from the structural changes within customer organisations as the role of IT director evolved into the IS (information systems) director which was more closely aligned to operations and then into CTO (chief technology officer) which was more “about enabling business and not just IT”. Underneath were the silos for areas such as networking, storage, compute that were headed up by people who specialised in a particular area. About two or three years ago, things started to change as “the art of the possible became more pervasive with virtualisation and BYOD, all of a sudden there was a layer missing between the CTO and the technology silos”.

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