When Andy Grove coined the term “strategic inflection points” back in the mid-90s, he was referring to a crossroads just like the one we in the IT industry face today.
Today’s inflection point is driven by a surge in connectivity, from YouTube, instant messaging, e-mail, RFID, overnight delivery and global businesses. We call it the “connected era”.
The connected era is the evolution of IT in the internet age. It is marked by four key drivers: an urgent need to simplify IT; the ability of companies to listen to customers; the willingness to understand emerging countries as the world’s second billion people come online; and an awareness of the impact escalating IT has on our planet.
IT was supposed to make our lives simpler and more efficient. And it did. But somewhere along the way, all this efficiency got complicated. The same systems that deliver so much are also expensive, difficult to operate and hard to maintain. Server sprawl is causing space constraints and power and cooling challenges.
CIOs are hard pressed to manage and secure data on notebooks carried by mobile workforces. And as the world generates nearly 988 exabytes of digital data – about 18 million times the information in all the books ever written – by 2010, customers will find themselves adding more machines, employing more staff and hiring more consultants to manage it all.
That model is no longer sustainable, not for businesses or for governments that are overwhelmed by the demand on their systems. We have to simplify IT.
Fortunately, technology itself can help. Virtualisation has become the most important tool for people who run large data centres with thousands of servers because it saves energy and makes these systems more manageable. Solutions that can be delivered from “the cloud” are also becoming more economically attractive.
And a great deal of service, support and maintenance can now be handled remotely, including upgrades, patches and 24-hour security monitoring. The notion that you need dozens of on-site consultants to maintain your IT system is going to become obsolete.
And as the next billion people come online over the next few years and infrastructure demands skyrocket, having a simple, easy-to-maintain IT infrastructure will be more important than ever before.
The IT industry will also have to better tailor its products for these next billion users, particularly in emerging and fast growing economies, and pay closer attention to how they prefer to learn about and purchase technology. At Dell we recently launched a notebook specifically designed for small and medium businesses in emerging economies.
We realised there would be no such thing as a “global” computer. Understanding the needs of these huge but distinct countries – and responding to them – will be a competitive advantage. Then there is the importance of “listening” in the connected era. The internet has been transformed into a platform on which customers can engage in conversations, share ideas and recommend products.
Tapping into the ideas of your customers is like having an open source R&D lab. It’s fascinating. Since February 2007, Dell has invited customers to share their ideas for improving our products and services at IdeaStorm.com.
The site has attracted more than 8,900 ideas and boasts 45 ideas in action. Listening to our customers has also helped us redefine our approach to the fourth driver in the connected era – Green. We have launched a new movement – the ReGeneration – a global community of people of all ages and backgrounds who care about the environment.
For us at Dell, being part of the ReGeneration means a commitment to being the greenest technology company on the planet. It also means creating servers that use 19 per cent less energy and a pledge to make our global operations carbon neutral.
And we’re making it easy for our customers to join us in our efforts, offering them options to offset the emissions associated with the power generated to run their systems, and inviting them to join us in the global ReGeneration movement.
If you want to understand the next era of IT, than you have to understand these four drivers of the connected era. I have been involved in IT all my life. But because we are now “connected” in unprecedented ways, I believe we’re entering the most exciting and most promising period in technology we have ever seen.
- Michael Dell is Chairman and CEO of Dell
Technology must help simplify IT