Simplification of the Emerging IT Landscape - A Myth or Reality?

Dr. Bjarne Berg, ‎CIO, Comerit
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Dr. Bjarne Berg, ‎CIO, Comerit

Common Impediments Endured by CIOs 

To keep pace with the evolving technological transition across various industries, many IT leaders and CIOs today are looking for new ways to preserve their valuable operational data securely. Hence they are increasingly migrating to in-memory database (such as SAP HANA, Oracle Exadata, Hadoop, Netezza etc.), from their traditional disk based databases for better operational efficiency. Over the years, what I have noticed is that CIOs find replacing hardware or migrating to a new database comparatively effortless. However, the licensing cost has become a major hindrance while doing so. The licensing cost for in-memory databases right now is way beyond what normal customers expect. 

I also think replacing software is not enough for this drastic transition. CIOs today need an integrated solution with a trained professional team that can simplify the entire process—from purchasing point to migrating to the new database management system. I would also like to see CIOs integrate advanced forecasting tool for predictive analytics as part of this migration plan. Unfortunately, today mostly insurance companies and banks are the only companies that have been able to successfully deploy such advanced tools within their systems. But, that will change in the next 3-5 years. 

 Consequences of Data Migration to an In-memory Platform 

 While working with several Fortune 200 companies, we have found they’re always concerned about having data gaps in their enterprise data warehouse. Due to constant mergers and acquisitions and growing database sizes, they need to migrate their data in the new in-memory data warehouse. The problem they face while moving large amount of data is the performance issue. As the database grows and gets slower, CIOs are unable to build interactive reports and mobile dashboards 

Another problem they have is determining the appropriate analytics. It is said that growing technological advancement and flexibility brings in operational complexity. For instance, even 4-5 years ago tasks such as building enterprise data warehouses, migration of dashboards, and data analytics report making were handled by the IT department. Now the emergence of BI Self-service has reduced management’s dependency on IT professional by enabling them to produce the analytic reports by themselves. Although it has simplified the entire data analytics system for non-tech-savvy users, the enterprises are still often unable to fully utilize the tool capabilities due to their lack of knowledge and training. What we see is a increasing gap between what tools can do and what organizations are prepared to take advantage of. 

 So What Can Be Done? 

 I think in this evolving business world, proper analytical training should be given to the aspiring entrepreneurs in the business school. It helps them perform business and address technical issues in real time without any difficulty.  Additionally, most companies have realized dash boarding, score carding, and predictive analytic and data visualization as some of the emerging trends to follow. So many third party vendors have simplified the process of performing these tasks within their solutions.  

Moreover, the databases that companies still using are mostly traditional. It is slowing down the performance of warehouses; for instance a traditional RDBMS can’t efficiently manage the operational data volume, which are essential. Hence, despite of the costing issue, many enterprises are migrating to the in-memory databases, which often are 900 to 1800 times faster. 

 Changing Arena in the IT Landscape 

 In terms of big data, we often work on leveraging the terabyte EDWs to take advantage of much higher in-memory database speeds for mobile dashboards. I can also see a generational shift is taking place in the present IT arena. The next generation tech-savvy CIOs are comfortable in working with graphs, pictures/images, and data visualizations. They don’t need to verify all the numbers. They trust the computers, and graphs. It is making the process to operational efficiency less time consuming and much easier. 

 Also today, in the age of BI self-service, CIOs are concentrating on the simplicity and standardization of their platform. They are more concerned in making the user interface easy-to-navigate.  For example, think of the way Steve Jobs has revolutionized IT landscape.. He changed the concept of complex multiple-functioning systems to single applications. He developed a bunch of small apps with a focused area of functionality instead of complex larger applications. So I think this new mindset is also increasingly changing the system deployment approach within organizations. 

 How the Changing IT Atmosphere is Reshaping CIO’s Role 

 There are lots of disruptions in IT every day. In order to manage this and keep up, I created an internal lab team in my organization that tests all the new technologies which can be deployed into our products before suggesting it to our customers. I don’t want to experiment with our customers systems. That can affect the business profitability and our reputation. 

While working closely with our lab team we first focus in the platform enablement. In this stage, we build the infrastructure, and fix the back-end servers for software before navigating with business requirements. For instance, when we worked with one of U.S.’ largest pharmaceutical company, we first installed a 60 terabyte data ware house, and migrated all their data into in-memory database. Currently, it is the biggest in-memory database in the world. So we migrated their system to an in-memory platform, and now they are capable of rolling out dashboards, data visualization, and BI self-service. In short, we did all the platform upgrades and  

Fixes to  back-end systems. So, while we spent 6-9 months behind the scenes with all the infrastructures in-place, they can now concentrateon creating mobile applications for businessusers. Building slow performing mobile apps are simply not acceptable anymore. It is therefore important to fix the backend systems before attempting to rollout these mobile apps. 

 Role of Data Security in IT and Business 

Today it has become extremely important to maintain the data security. It includes security of internal systems, process lifecycle, and personnel information. ACIO or CSO should engage specialized people to monitor information safely. So as an internal part of our security models, we have tied up with a global risk compliance company, a GRC group. They are responsible for security of all of our facility, personnel data, and also the systems and server— providing a complete security model. 

We also see that many of our customers are concentrating on building multiple level information security. They therefore also look at encrypting their databases in addition to application level security. Thankfully, most in-memory database vendors provide this capability. 

 A Vision for the Future 

 For the years ahead, I think within 10-15 years we are going to get much more system flexibility. Tools are going to be less IT driven, and much more end-user centric with the help of BI self-service. From the perspective of driving the IT space, I think the next-gen CIOs will more rely more on graphics, images and visualizations instead of working with list reports. It is the same trends as will occur in most user communities as systems becomes faster, more reliable and much more interactive.  However, before these new capabilities can be deployed, CIOs need to have a clear understanding of what foundational system changes are needed before they can support this. For many, it is the migration away from traditional RDBMS to an in-memory database platform. 

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