CTOpinion

Resolved: Evolve or Face Extinction

Chris Wolf, VMware CTO, Americas, on how the virtualization industry will change in 2016.

When I was asked to return to Virtualization Review and once again write a column, I was naturally delighted. The start of this new column marks a homecoming for me. I've contributed to 1105 Media publications for nearly 15 years, published an article in the very first Virtualization Review magazine, and have been a devoted reader over that time as well. Virtualization Review is storied in its in-depth insight and fierce neutrality, and I promise to uphold that high bar.

The Journey of Transformation
2016 marks a transformative year in IT, with cloud, software-defined, and simpler more modular solutions creeping into many aspects of how we do our jobs. To consider the journey we're embarking on, think of your relationship with the typical desktop computer. Years ago you probably tinkered with a lot of the internals, while today you take what's inside at face value and just connect it using interfaces like USB and Ethernet to whatever is necessary to get the job done. We buy PCs and servers based on cost, SLA, and support relationships with preferred vendors with little regard for engineering decisions such as where Intel decided to put the processors on the motherboard.

IT infrastructure services are on a similar path. Looking forward to 2020, we will continue to care less and less about things like rack-level interconnects and optimizations between compute, network, storage and security. Instead, we'll rely more on converged, hyper-converged, and cloud offerings so long as open interfaces (for example, Cloud Foundry APIs or OpenStack APIs) provide integration flexibility and remove lock-in.

The reason for this inevitable transition is simple: over the next five years, highly agile, dynamic, programmatic network, storage, compute and security services will be "table stakes." Doing those things quickly won't differentiate businesses; they will just allow businesses to remain in the game. Even in the public sector, the speed at which constituents expect to access information continues to dramatically increase. In other words, no industry is immune to this change. The question that everyone in IT must ask is "If something doesn't provide a competitive business advantage, what's the point in building and maintaining our own custom solution?"

Future Investments
The start of a new year marks a great time to invest in the future. Software-defined networking and storage are real, and can bring the speed and agility of the public cloud to your private data centers, while also improving security in ways that were never possible in the physical world.

It's a great time to get these technologies in your labs so that you can expand your organization's knowledge and processes to fully operate software-defined solutions at scale. While over time, demand for skills such as connecting hypervisors to storage systems will erode, skilled integrators of multi-cloud and multi-platform services will continue to expand. Take on a small project that builds your experience in integrating a SaaS management service. Or work on a project that involves integrating management, network, data, or security services across multiple clouds, or between a cloud-hosted service and services in a private data center. Leading or participating in one of these projects will go along way toward keeping your skills at the leading edge of industry demands.

The Inevitability of Change
Our world is changing quickly, and that can be equally exhilarating and frightening. Connected cars running Google Android Auto are rolling off assembly lines right now, and they will dramatically reshape everything from our personal experience in cars to how enterprises manage applications and data.

Take this a step further and the Internet of Things (IoT) is proving that software will exist in nearly everything we touch on a daily basis. Attributes such as hardware independence (long a core tenet of virtualization) and hybridity are becoming implied in all facets of technology, to the point that they are simply assumed. The acceleration of innovation and an increasingly competitive world is forcing everyone in IT -- from the CIO on down -- to change their approach to their jobs over the next few years.

Evolution or Extinction?
We have no choice but to focus more on creating and integrating technology solutions that provide real value and differentiation, and focus less on approaches to problems "because we've always done it that way." My New Year's resolution is simple: I resolve to evolve. My career depends on it. How about you?

About the Author

Chris Wolf is VMware's CTO, Global Field and Industry.

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