CIOs discuss ‘Mission Critical Computing’ at Leaders’ Luncheon

“From an engineering perspective, a Unisys perspective and a data perspective, this really is a spectacular time to be in the industry.”

“From an engineering perspective, a Unisys perspective and a data perspective, this really is a spectacular time to be in the industry.”

That was the underlying message from Steve Thompson, Vice President, ClearPath Engineering, Unisys, when addressing the industry at the CIO Leaders’ Luncheon in Auckland yesterday.

Speaking to a full audience of key decision makers, Thompson believes as the acceleration of technology continues to quicken, the onus is on businesses to absorb innovation and overcome the challenges that this brings.

“This is more than just bringing technology to your data centres,” he said. “It’s about changing what people do and how they do it.

“For some in the room today, this will be a very natural and evolutionary progression, but for others it will provide great change for you and your organisation.”

Drawing on 30 years of Unisys experience, working in Continuation Engineering supporting customers, Thompson discussed the major forces that have converged to change the scope of what constitutes mission critical systems, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and cloud.

Steve Thompson of Unisys describes the key components of the modern data centre and the new approach to cybersecurity.
Steve Thompson of Unisys describes the key components of the modern data centre and the new approach to cybersecurity.

Related: In pictures: CIO Leaders' Luncheon on 'Mission critical ICT in the era of digital and diverse platforms'

As businesses begin to settle into this new digital era, Thompson says customer expectations are changing to become more mobile with 24-hour access and a multitude of choice.

With Unisys systems providing the backbone of many businesses and financial, transportation, communications, and social infrastructures around the world, Thompson accepts that everybody has different definitions of mission critical systems based on their business.

“But whether that be financial, transportation or banking industries, the scope of mission critical personnel has now expanded,” he added.

“When you think about hybrid enterprises, and shifting parts of your business to the cloud, it is an incredibly thought provoking subject.

“Take smartphone technology for example, it’s an everyday use and is very real, it’s coming your way and you’ll have to decide through your business model how you’re going to take this new technology and provide value to your organisation and your customers.”

Alluding to a mission critical mindset, Thompson says that, “all the way down to the engineering model”, disruptive trends are impacting the industry.

“Technology such as big data analytics is not something I’m developing tomorrow, or something I’m developing today, I’ve already developed it,” he explained.

“So how do businesses digest this? Different industries will digest this in different timeframes but the key is to take advantage and understand how to leverage this in a secure fashion, a fashion that goes well beyond the data centre.”

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Drawing on cross-sector experience, Thompson demonstrated how organisations can ensure their infrastructure, operations and people meet new and constantly shifting requirements in this increasingly competitive and digital business environment.

“We’re seeing an established standard within the industry, one that is going to change how you process your data and how you store your data,” he said. “Look into the future and imagine how your business is going to change within the next two, five and ten years - it’s difficult to understand what your business will look like.”

Read more: The pillars of mission-critical ICT

The concept of this, added Thompson, is protection - “something that allows you to adapt and change.”

“Define your applications, move your applications around in your data centre and have a standardised infrastructure,” he advised.

As the ecosystem of cloud management tools continues to grow, Thompson believes such a tool allows organisations to move applications around to suit specific business needs - providing a level of certainty which can be capitalised on.

“The industry is moving towards a more cost effective and standardised environment,” he added. “It’s about developing an architecture around standardisation that allows you to move things around in a very evolutionary and seamless way.”

Internet of Things…

Read more: Mission critical ICT in the era of digital and diverse platforms

Stating while the Internet of Things is “coming our way”, Thompson, who flew in from the US to attend the CIO Luncheon, admits defining how this applies to individual business requirements is a different conversation.

“We’re seeing continuous streams of data coming our way from a variety of sources but how do you aggregate this big data behind the Internet of Things?” he asked.

As people, organisations and technology continue to expand the scope of what is possible, Thompson believes the time has come to view data as an enterprise asset, calling on businesses to extract value out of existing data to create added value to the company.

But what does this mean? “It means the data centre is going to have to change,” Thompson claimed. “Businesses are already thinking about this as people show up with different devices and technologies.

“In general, businesses are going to see the cost benefit of moving tech off premise, along with the risks associated with that.

“But businesses are going to ask the data centre to solve these problems, the data centre is going to have to figure that out and provide a solution which will be a lot more cost effective.”

Deane Johns of the NZ Association of Credit Unions; Murray Mitchell of NZ Fire Service; and Steve Thompson of Unisys are the featured speakers at the CIO Leaders’ Luncheon in Auckland and Wellington.

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