Intel CIO Kim Stevenson, who has been at the helm for a little more than a year, said OpenStack is the most useful cloud architecture for avoiding lock-in, outlined how the chip giant is using big data techniques, and talked capacity planning for her company.
Stevenson, formerly the vice president of global operations and services at Intel, has a dual role at the company. First, she's in charge of the IT operations for Intel globally and has the usual CIO headaches. And second, Stevenson is the guinea-pig-in-chief for Intel's products.
Intel's IT group is typically the "first implementer" for new hardware and software, said Stevenson. In other words, Intel eats its own dog food and gives product people honest feedback on what needs to happen. Stevenson quipped that the conversations from an IT customer perspective don't always go well.
Here are a few key highlights from a breakfast conversation in New York:
Big data. One area where Intel is the first implementer is on its Hadoop distribution. Like other large enterprises, Stevenson's group is looking toward big data and analytics to boost revenue, improve time to market and cut costs. Here are Stevenson's biggest takeaways on using big data internally.
The cloud approach. Stevenson's architecture is cloud heavy---for some things. Other areas such as product design and manufacturing data will never see the cloud or come anywhere near it.
Here's how the cloud fits in with Intel's key areas: Office applications, silicon design and manufacturing.
Beyond design and manufacturing, though, Stevenson requires that an application request has to prove why it needs physical resources. In other words, applications need to be virtualized or they won't get capacity.
Capacity planning. Stevenson said the goal of Intel is to have 15 days of capacity on hand. This 15 day rule means that if the typical usage occurs within Intel with the usual new requests, the company will be out of compute in 15 days. For Stevenson, compute capacity is her inventory. The 15-day capacity cushion is based on memory mostly since that's the first to go when resources are being taxed. Compute and storage are also watched. Stevenson acknowledges that the 15-day capacity best practice may not work for all companies and could even be shorter. "Some companies may have to convince the CFO that having 15 days of excess capacity sitting around is a good idea," said Stevenson. "We didn't have to convince our CFO of that."
Playing the cloud provider game. Stevenson said Intel has gone with OpenStack, a cloud architecture that's gaining momentum. Why? Intel uses multiple cloud providers working under a master services agreement and wants to hop between them to maximize performance and costs. "We use several cloud providers mostly in the U.S.," she said. "We've had no issues with SLAs, but we're only bursting. We're careful with what workloads we use in the public cloud." OpenStack enables Intel to use multiple providers and avoid lock-in, said Stevenson.
About those cloud brokers. I asked Stevenson what she thought of cloud brokers---companies that would manage providers to maximize savings. "Cloud brokers are transitory. That dog doesn't hunt as an independent business model," she said. Ultimately, the ability to hop between cloud providers will be built into an infrastructure like OpenStack and automated.
Women in IT. Finally, Stevenson talked a bit about women in IT and was asked about Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, which drew some fire over what the Facebook operating chief had to say. Stevenson said the book was largely on target and added that Sandberg had good advice for anyone in business not just women. Her main takeaway on women in IT is that they have to understand the communication differences in a male dominated industry. In other words, know how to navigate the subcultures such as sports chatter and international differences. Also use good context at the start of a business problem to navigate functional and relational communication styles.