Virtualization, Software-Defined Infrastructure and the Evolving Role of the CIO

Date:   Wednesday , July 08, 2015

Silicon India sat down for a brief chat with VMware\'s Shekar Ayyar on the revolutions in virtualization, software-defined infrastructure and the evolving role of today\'s CIOs. He is the Corporate Senior Vice President, Strategy and Development and the General Manager of the Telco NFV Group.

Q: Shekar, can you give us some insight into the rise of virtualization?

Shekar: Virtualization is a concept that VMware conceived, and nurtured from a revolutionary idea into a full-blown industry that has evolved dramatically over the past 15 years. The idea is to introduce a layer of abstraction that allows servers and computers to operate far more efficiently by operating and appearing as a number of separate securely isolated environments, instead of one, offering incredible operational efficiencies.

Over the last four to five years, bolstered by the growth of the cloud, virtualization has expanded throughout enterprise infrastructures and fostered an entire ecosystem of technology companies to support it. What was once simply server-compute virtualization now spans the entire data center to also encompass virtualization of storage and networking, as well as the management of the complete data center infrastructure. And it\'s not just the data center - virtualization has transformed customer infrastructures all the way to their mobile devices.

Today, virtualization provides an end-to-end fabric that opens up new opportunities for enterprises large and small, service providers across industries, and the entrepreneurs who are discovering new ways to apply this powerful technology to solve new problems.

Q: How is this related to the wave of software-defined architectures?

Shekar: As we\'ve seen, virtualization can create a more efficient and effective architecture that not only reduces lifetime cost-of-ownership but also drives speed and agility. In fact, virtualization provides the foundation for software-defined architectures and the software-defined data center, in particular.

We introduced this approach to enable customers to quickly and efficiently support application driven IT capacity requirements while leveraging their existing infrastructure investments. Bringing together compute, storage, networking virtualization and management offerings in a single software platform, companies can rapidly develop, automatically deliver and manage all applications, no matter where they reside - public, private or managed cloud.

As more enterprises embrace this architecture, there will be new usecases and new applications that IT can roll out easily without the need to purchase additional infrastructure hardware. And virtualization can be adopted by any enterprise, regardless of its size or stage.

Q: How can telco service providers benefit from such an approach?

Shekar: Telco service providers can leverage this new approach to virtualizing their network and cloudservices as well, through what\'s called a network functions virtualization (NFV) platform. This new architecture gives service providers the ability to support multiple network functions on a single unified platform. Faced with declining margins and the need to accelerate service innovation, NFV solutions will give service providers the ability to quickly make their core networks more agile and cost-effective, while also accelerating time-to-market for new and differentiated services. Service providers are beginning to transform themselves into next-generation cloud providers, building the operational expertise needed to succeed in the cloud era.

Q: Is there an opportunity for a start-up to play a role in this space or has it matured beyond their reach?

Shekar: Absolutely, there are many opportunities in areas like NFV and IoT (Internet of Things) just to mention a couple. In NFV, start-ups can create innovative network functions designed to operate with this efficient, new architecture in mind. This requires out of the box thinking in terms of chaining component services to create new ones. The growth of the IoT is creating the need to centrally manage billions of endpoints across networks around the world. This is also a space where entrepreneurs can accelerate the pace of innovation. However, start-ups need to take a focused approach to solving specific problems in these large new opportunity areas. Take the IoT or NFV, for example. It would be easy to get consumed trying to solve a myriad of problems, but a smart approach for a young company would be to solve very specific problems enhancing the adoption of new platforms.

Q: Switching gears, how do you see the role of CIOs changing?

Shekar: CIOs today are tasked with many things beyond their core responsibility for selecting, implementing and managing technology systems inside their organizations. They are increasingly being asked about cost and performance metrics, including how they would compare to their peers. I anticipate that CIOs will become broader business enablers than just technology enablers. They will need to access and use more powerful analytics with real-time insight into performance metrics of their application and infrastructure investments including their impact on customer experience, employee productivity and top and bottom line improvement.

In addition, CIOs are taking on more vertically-oriented roles. For example, in the telcospace, the role of CIOs and CTOs are becoming increasingly aligned as technology architectures can serve both internal users and customers. To that end, in telcos and network service providers CIOs and CTOs need to be more connected than ever before.

Finally, CIOs will play a greater role in shaping a technology company\'s product strategy. Our product teams leverage the expertise within the CIO organization to get informed on product improvement ideas as well as key white space areas.

Q: We live in rapidly changing times. How do individuals and companies stay on top of emerging trends and practices?

Shekar: The pace of change in technology continues to accelerate and what used to be static for a decade now changes by the year, month or even days. From the standpoint of companies that are consumers of technology, in today\'s world, it\'s hard to imagine that you could feel comfortable implementing something static and leaving it alone for any significant length of time. So how does an enterprise or a service provider decide what platform to deploy and ensure that it\'s future proof? A major consideration, for today\'s companies, is to understand the level of flexibility that\'s built in to their architectures. Software-defined infrastructure will give organizations the ability to update and innovate more quickly than ever before.

From the standpoint of entrepreneurs, the rapid pace of innovation is a definite opportunity for introducing new ideas. Learning about new technologies is a lot easier today than ever before. Information networks and social media have enabled a continuous stream of information flow - there is very little that isn\'t available online. The trick is to create something that can find address a market need with sufficient lead time and a timely solution.