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Gartner: Inject digital intelligence into your IT architecture

To take on the Internet of Things, CIOs will need an IT architecture with built-in digital intelligence to keep up with changing market forces and create competitive advantage. The Data Mill reports.

At last year's Gartner Catalyst Conference, CIOs were encouraged to become the conductor of the enterprise, building the pathways that would enable convergence of trends such as cloud and big data and paving the way for innovation. This year, with the onset of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the growing volumes of streaming data, analysts said playing the role of conductor wasn't enough. If CIOs want to tap into the $1.9 trillion Gartner predicts IoT will generate in 2020, they're also going to need a "digitally intelligent IT architecture."

Drue Reeves, a Gartner analyst, described the new model during his opening keynote as an IT infrastructure that automatically scales, adapts to market forces and provides a competitive advantage. "That's what the business is looking to us for," said Reeves, recommending that CIOs focus on these three digital intelligence tactics:

  • A cloud- and mobile-first strategy;
  • Predictive and self-conducting systems;
  • The production of "fruitful intelligence."

Mobile- and cloud-first: Reeves recommends a mobile-first strategy for customer-facing applications -- greenfield or not -- because the mobile interface is where the customer expects to work or interact with the company. "If you're developing an application for the desktop, you're wasting time and resources," he said. And if you aren't placing significant emphasis on good design, you run the risk of creating a negative user experience. As Reeves pointed out, mobile apps are a dime a dozen; if one is clunky or difficult to manipulate, users will delete it and replace it with one of their own choosing.

Reeves also recommends a cloud-first strategy. While CIOs may be able to build systems to manage peak performance today, the growing interconnectivity of devices and the massive influx of data will soon make doing so prohibitively expensive, he said. Plus, systems need to be agile enough to handle demand spikes at a moment's notice. That's where the cloud comes into play. CIOs will need to decide what aspects of their infrastructure are cloud ready, what isn't and what they're willing to risk putting into the cloud, Reeves said. That may mean rethinking how infrastructure as a service, platform as a service and software as a service are utilized. They'll also have to consider the design of the application and whether it's worth retooling so it can scale out as well as up in the cloud.

Self-conducting and self-predicting: IoT will increase the attack surface and threats CIOs have to defend against. Self-conducting and self-predicting systems "can detect these threats and immunize us against them quickly and rapidly," Reeves said. The foundation of self-conducting, predictive systems -- and the "glue to the digital enterprise" -- are application program interfaces (APIs), he said. APIs offer a window into the business on the front end, create services on the back end, but it's the middle -- the control plane -- that can provide "automated resiliency" by spinning systems up and down to protect and serve the business.

Fruitful intelligence: "We cannot just throw statistics at executives," Reeves said. "They need the right answers to the right questions because that intelligence invokes action." The challenge for CIOs will be to "build big data systems that scale," especially as the size of the data reaches petabyte and even zettabyte status. He recommends invoking just enough master data management to "correlate" the necessary data, and growing beyond relational databases "so we can transact faster." The ultimate goal: To spend less money on good intelligence and take action on that intelligence faster than competitors, he said.

CISOs favor data-centric security controls

Bill Burns, the new chief information security officer (CISO) at Informatica, recently published research based on more than 100 interviews and surveys with CISOs to figure out what they're worried about, where gaps might exist in the marketplace and what they're planning going forward. In one question, he asked CISOs to prioritize security controls from a list he provided. Regardless of the enforcement point, they selected data-centric controls as the highest priority, which Burns admitted surprised him.

"I think this had to do with the notion that mobility, bring your own device, cloud basically means IT is giving control away of the management and the controls of these endpoints," he said. CISOs don't have authority over a mobile provider's 3G or 4G network; they also don't have "direct control of the infrastructure" when it comes to software as a service vendors such as Google Docs or Dropbox. "So you're sharing risk with these third parties," he said.

And use of third party products is only growing. When he was the director of information security at Netflix in 2013, employees were using applications from more than 1,500 SaaS vendors, a number he called "insane."

Say what?!?

"We launched a product in 2010 called JDLink that's now shipping on all of our big machines from factory; it's connected to our cloud and it's beaming information back about the machine -- what it's doing, the health of the machine. We have over 150,000 connected machines at this point giving us data back every day." -- Mano Mannoochahr, director of enterprise architecture, information management and computer security, John Deere

"When you talk about a service provider who is quadrupling, in Amazon's case, the number of services they provide over the last four years and they keeping cutting their prices aggressively -- 42 times in the last eight years -- those are compelling thoughts to CIOs and to the businesses." -- Bill Burns, CISO, Informatica

"We tend to forget that from the point we discover raw crude oil in the ground and pump it out to where it becomes refined so that we can use in our automobiles, quite a bit has to happen." -- Darin Stewart, analyst, Gartner

"The locomotive engineer of the future is really going to be a data analytics/IT person. He's going to be managing all of the algorithms, data streams and sensor technology on a train." -- Greg Petroff, chief experience officer and general manager of the UX Center of Excellence, GE Software

Welcome to The Data Mill, a weekly column devoted to all things data. Heard something newsy (or gossipy)? Email me or find me on Twitter at @TT_Nicole.

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Of the three, what do you think is the most important characteristic of Gartner's digitally intelligent IT architecture?