IT leadership about balancing freedom and control: VMware CEO

Pat Gelsinger has said that with the proliferation of cloud, the biggest challenge for IT leaders is providing business leaders the freedom to choose what tech they use, while maintaining control.

Half of all enterprise workloads, about 300 million, will exist on the public cloud by 2030, VMware's CEO Pat Gelsinger said on Thursday at vForum Sydney.

He also dismissed the idea that cloud, with the efficiencies it brings, will decrease the size of the IT market.

Gelsinger believes cloud technology will scale the IT market -- there will be greater opportunities for enterprises to invest in and exploit IT.

At vForum, he recalled the time he was the chief architect and design manager for the Intel 80486 or i486 microprocessor, which was more than three times faster than its predecessor 80386.

Following the invention of the i486, marketers said that faster microprocessors would decrease the size of the microprocessor market.

"Is that what happened? Absolutely not. It expanded the market, because we made computing more accessible and cost effective," said Gelsinger. "We believe that's exactly what will happen with the cloud."

Gelsinger added that IT is busting out of traditional constraints thanks to shadow IT.

"Every business and every aspect of the business is [looking at how] they can be differentiated with IT. This is good news for all of you because it means every piece of the business needs the skills and the capabilities that you have," Gelsinger said.

Communicating a similar sentiment, John Roberts, former VP and analyst at Gartner Australasia, told ZDNet in October that IT shouldn't be considered a separate entity and that IT leaders need to work in partnership with all business unit leaders within a company.

"Digitalisation embraces every part of the organisation. A challenge [within organisations] is categorising what is and what is not [within the domain of] IT. But there is technology in every budget. What we need is a collaborative approach -- we need to be able to say: 'How can we manage all of this IT spend without duplication, redundancy, and waste?'," Roberts said.

"When a department outside IT has a technology project, then the IT department may well provide resources into that project. For example, the project might need someone with security knowledge or someone who's a database expert. The project will also need input from the [relevant department] leaders so that [outcomes of the project] are in line with the needs of the department."

Gelsinger said the bad news is that IT has become increasingly complex, with different technologies penetrating across an organisation. An organisation might be using a variety of cloud services, SaaS applications, devices, and operating systems; and 90 percent of the time, the IT department is responsible for making sure everything is working at the employee end and secure at the enterprise end.

"In a world where you didn't write the application, you don't manage the device or control the device, and you don't run the network or the datacentre that it's running on, you're still in charge," Gelsinger said. "Ain't it great to be part of IT?"

According to a study published by Microsoft on Thursday, on average 370 apps are in use per organisation in Australia, compared to 340 in the broader Asia-Pacific region. As such, Australian IT leaders are looking for simplicity when it comes to managing cloud solutions.

"In the past, hardware and infrastructure has really been the centre of the customer's universe. After they move to the cloud, the apps and the workloads really take centre stage," said Mike Heald, hybrid cloud product manager at Microsoft Australia.

Yesterday, specialist recruiter Robert Half published its Cybersecurity - Defending Your Future report, which found that more than one in three Australian CIOs consider lack of employee knowledge and skills around data security to be the most significant security risk their organisations will face in the next five years, in light of the increasing use of bring your own device (BYOD) practices.

According to Telsyte, 84 percent of Australian organisations have at least one system in place to allow their staff to be mobile workers, whether it's providing a secure VPN system or supporting BYOD and bring your own apps (BYOA).

BYOD has presented the added internal cybersecurity risk of data theft and loss to Australian workplaces. Robert Half's report claims 77 percent of Australian CIOs allow their employees to access corporate data on their personal devices; however, risk consulting firm Protiviti claims that basic controls may no longer be effective on mobile devices.

One in four CIOs in Australia think their non-IT senior management don't have enough knowledge about information security exposures, indicating a lack of awareness across the business about IT security risks.

IT workers are not at risk of becoming irrelevant; rather, they are faced with the fundamental challenge of balancing freedom and control, Gelsinger said. The question is whether IT leaders should provide business units the freedom to choose which technologies to adopt or whether IT leaders should take control and choose what's secure and most capable of meeting business requirements.

"The business wants the freedom to choose whichever tool they want and you're responsible to make sure it's secure and properly managed," Gelsinger said.

"This is what VMware is focused on -- bringing the two worlds together to enable the freedom to choose the right tool for the assignment and the control to make sure it meets the business' needs."

In August, VMware unveiled its Cross-Cloud Architecture, which Gelsinger said enables customers to run, manage, connect, and secure their applications across any cloud environment using a common operating capability.

Last month, VMware partnered with Amazon Web Services to create a new hybrid cloud service, and in February struck a similar deal with IBM.

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