Modernizing your IT infrastructure requires unique blend of team skills

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CIO Pieces of the Puzzle

Creating a modernized infrastructure in today's fast-changing world is one of the biggest challenges facing IT leaders, according to Michael Morton, CTO of Dell Boomi, a cloud-based integration solution and a business unit of Dell Inc. In this interview he explains why and how CIOs should meet that challenge.

The Enterprisers Project (TEP): What are the biggest challenges CIOs face in modernizing infrastructure?

Morton: The number and types of challenges CIOs face today are seemingly more numerous than ever. You will commonly hear that these challenges are budget, keeping pace with the required rate of change, establishing priorities, hiring talent, and so on. Which are all true.

But what likely is one of the most significant challenges is building the teams that can execute on the company's modernization infrastructure vision. IT in general is now so expansive and changing so fast that it is nearly impossible for any one person to possess the knowledge necessary to define and execute on infrastructure evolution projects. So not only do CIOs need to deeply understand their existing corporate IT environment and processes, they now need to understand all the available technology choices that will help them deliver.

That's why it will be more important than ever to build a talented team with an aggregated wealth of experience and knowledge, to not only help a CIO execute, but also help define a business transformation vision and road map. When you have the right team, many of the common challenges can be overcome.

TEP: In many cases, modernizing infrastructure means moving some or all of it to the cloud. How can CIOs know when a cloud deployment is better than an on-premises one?

Morton: A hybrid environment strategy will be the norm for a very long time, and probably forever for large enterprises. So this means that a strategy of asking 'to move or not-to move?' will be a continuous state for some time. Also, cloud infrastructures and solutions are still evolving, so what one may not migrate or move to the cloud today, one may next year. So let's take the perspective of what you would likely not move to the cloud.

One of your most valuable and protected IT assets is your data. It is likely that you will continue to keep this asset on-premises. Instead you will leverage a cloud master data management solution, for example, to keep your master data valid. Additionally, you may adopt a strategy to make available transformed subsets of this data to customers and/or other cloud applications via an integration Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS), but it's likely you wouldn't move all of your data into cloud storage.

Another consideration is certain types of workloads. Now, cloud applications and cloud infrastructures are getting better all the time, but there has been plenty of investment in on-premises environments that are specifically tuned for certain mission-critical workloads. So you will want to take careful consideration before moving these types of workloads to a cloud environment.

TEP: What advice would you give CIOs about modernizing infrastructure?

Morton: Just how we started this conversation, I have to emphasize again the importance of the skills of your team, and their involvement in building the vision and roadmap to generate a sense of ownership. Look as far forward as you can. Anticipate what your future applications and workloads will be and where you want them hosted. Don't despair over a plan to evolve the infrastructure that has served you well for years. It has likely generated your most valuable IT asset: Data. Use a cloud technology, like an iPaaS, to integrate this data with new data sources and/or make your data wisely available to new applications such as mobile. Innovate and mine your data for new business value as part of your infrastructure modernization strategy.

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Michael Morton is the CTO of Dell Boomi, where he is responsible for product innovation. Michael joined Dell Boomi in 2013 after an impressive and successful career with IBM, where he became and IBM Master Inventor and worked directly with Fortune 100 Companies. He has been innovating and producing a wide-range of enterprise IT solutions for over 20 years. This includes being a founding developer of IBM WebSphere Application Server, as well as providing architecture leadership on the IBM InfoSphere data integration and IBM Tivoli systems management family of products. Michael’s broad experience coupled with his deep understanding of the complexities and challenges enterprise customers face when modernizing and attempting to remain competitive in the their industry rounds out his superb qualifications for the Chief Technology Officer position. Michael earned his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science degree at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and his Masters of Science in Computer Science degree at State University of New York at Binghamton.

Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and columnist for Inc.com. She is co-author of "The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don't Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive," as well as several other books. She lives in Snohomish, Washington.

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