Business Insights Newsletter Article | May 2012
The CIO as Business Hero

When I was a kid, my father worked for a data-processing service bureau. The company had mainframe computers and a small army of programmers, and it flourished by providing computing services to companies that couldn’t afford an IBM 360 of their own. That business died years ago—decades, actually.—What didn’t die, of course, was the need for IT services. It just moved indoors, as it were, becoming a department in the businesses that had once been Dad’s clients. Before long, every business, even mom-and-pop operations, had a desktop PC. In midsize businesses, there were soon a multitude of PCs (the fulfillment, or nearly so, of Bill Gate’s vision of a computer on every desk) and numerous servers, too, and the IT department became an indispensable part of the operation—and so it is today, even more so.

But what exactly is the role of IT in today’s midsize business? And by extension, what is the role of the CIO? Is IT a cost center, a necessary expense that tracks receivables, routes email, and, above all, keeps all the hardware and software up and running? Or is it a vital strategic asset—a profit center—that leads the way in using information systems to maximize the company’s productivity, sales, and profits?

All too often, CIOs in midsize firms find their domain pigeonholed in the first category. They are viewed essentially as technicians whose job is to keep the systems functioning, as reliably and inexpensively as possible. To be sure, those are important and daunting responsibilities. But most CIOs long to be more than high-level technocrats. They want to use their understanding of information systems to partner with the other C-level executives in strategically leading the business.

The question, then, is how to handle the necessary “technician’s duties”—namely keeping the IT systems running smoothly and cost effectively—while finding the time and resources to engage in high-level, strategic thinking? If that’s the dilemma you’re facing, you need to think seriously about the advantages of establishing a private cloud that is managed through a unified suite of software.

With a private cloud, you get the goodness of the public cloud—including resource pooling, self-service portals, elasticity, and pay-by-use—while using resources that are dedicated solely to your organization. Thus you have the advantages of public cloud computing with greater security, control, and customization that comes from dedicated resources.

Better yet, when you put the whole shebang together using Windows Server with Hyper-V and Microsoft System Center, you get enterprise-class virtualization, end-to-end service management, and deep insight into applications, allowing you to focus more attention on delivering business value and less on “keeping the lights on.” What’s more, now is a perfect time to plan your move to the private cloud, because Microsoft System Server 2012 is now available and Windows Server 8 is nearing release.

System Center 2012 combines eight different products into one harmonious suite, giving you the infrastructure that can run applications in today’s connected-device environment. System Center 2012 really focuses on your apps, enabling you to have the scalability and flexibility to run your business applications across PCs, tablets, smartphones, embedded devices—the entire gamut of connected gadgets. System Center 2012 also works across hybrid clouds, holistically managing both your private cloud and public cloud, if you have one. Moreover, System center 2012 also manages different virtualization platforms—including VMware, Citrix XenServer, and, naturally, Windows Server Hyper-V —in one consistent view.

With a Microsoft private cloud solution running system Center 2012, you’ll be able to build automated workflows for such standard processes as incident management, problem management, change management, and release management. You’ll also get a self-service infrastructure that allocates resources to business units and enables application owners to request and consume capacity. Dashboards and reports let you efficiently monitor application health and diagnose problems, while service templates allow for standardized provisioning of applications services to the cloud. By unifying and automating these myriad processes, System Center 2012 frees you from routine system management chores, letting you spend more time thinking strategically.

But don’t just take my word for it. Look what System Center 2012 has done for T. Rowe Price. This global investment management firm decided to move to a private cloud because it offered them the agility to meet their burgeoning IT needs and service their clients. According to Vice President Peter Daniels, System Center 2012 has given T. Rowe Price a new way to manage both their technology and their operating model, freeing the IT staff from the repetitive administrative tasks and allowing them to explore strategic business uses of information. It has also given T. Rowe Price a sustainable IT model to keep pace with the company’s growth of about 25 percent a year.

What’s that you say? You’re not a global enterprise like T. Rowe Price? Well, then, let’s see what System Center 2012 did for Kroll Factual Data, a company with 300 employees. What Kroll Factual Data lacks in numbers of employees it makes up for in volume of data processing needs. As a leading provider of independent verification services to financial institutions, property management firms, and other businesses, Kroll Factual Data serves more than 25,000 customers and handles more than 300,000 transactions a day. To ensure high availability of its network infrastructure, Kroll Factual Data needs the ability to expand its datacenter capacity at a moment’s notice.

The company adopted Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V and System Center Virtual Manager 2008 a few years ago, and they jumped at the chance to take part in the early adopter program for System Center 2012. They’ve been very pleased with the simplified provisioning and management capabilities of System Center 2012, especially the ability to provision bare metal machines—servers that do not have an operating system installed—for use in a virtualized cluster. They also appreciate System Center 2012’s capacity to optimize host clusters to support improved application performance and reduced power consumption. In addition, administrators can also configure automated distribution of updates to clustered hosts to minimize service disruptions to virtual machines.

Not only does System Center 2012 give Kroll Factual Data the scalability they need today, it provides them with an accelerated path to the public cloud. With System Center 2012, Kroll’s IT team can start applying cloud principles in its operations to gain greater resource flexibility and efficiency—while gradually transitioning its applications for delivery in a cloud environment.

So there you have: regardless of company size, if your business is pursuing virtualization and cloud computing, you really must consider the value of a private cloud solution from Microsoft. It’s efficient, cost effective, and, best of all, it will give you the time to be the strategic business leader you were meant be.

Learn more about Microsoft System Center 2012 and Windows Server 8.