Let the Third Time Be the Charm

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Understanding fundamental shifts in business and technology plays a key role in any organization’s move to the Third Platform.


As expectations and business models continue to evolve, so too must the CIO’s approach to IT. Most organizations have landed in a virtual pressure cooker of IT demands, with business units clamoring for services from an infinite number of locations and mission-critical workloads moving to numerous places—all with an ever-sharp focus on innovation and time to value. Today, more than ever, the CIO’s job is to contain that pressure cooker and avoid costly fragmentation while delivering on the urgent needs of the business. One way CIOs can alleviate the pressure is to transition to what IDC has coined the Third Platform.

The Third Platform is the next-generation compute platform characterized by a proliferation of always-connected smart mobile devices, coupled with the widespread usage of social networking and layered over a cloud-based server infrastructure supporting important new workloads such as big data analytics. Essentially, the Third Platform ties together the various disruptive technologies in favor today.

According to the CIO Survey, CIOs are on board with the Third Platform. They are plowing substantial portions of their IT spending into potentially disruptive technologies. For example, 61 percent of the respondents worldwide reported that they’re investing heavily in application modernization, and 64 percent said they’re putting big money into big data. Even the Internet of Things is drawing significant budget contributions from 49 percent of the global survey participants.

Of course, doing so successfully requires a solid strategy that caters to a few key fundamental changes.

First, today’s CIOs must understand that technology is now application-centric, not infrastructure-driven – a complete U-turn from what they practiced in the past. As a result, CIOs need to accept that they must reengineer all their applications over the next five years and build out an infrastructure based on APIs – effectively treating infrastructure “as an application,” not just as dumb capacity. This is a crucial component as organizations transition to the Third Platform, where applications are noticeably nimble and open, often acting more like services that can be deployed anywhere as needed. 

Second, it’s time for CIOs to change their mindset and to assume that their infrastructure is unreliable. Although we’ve spent a lot of time clustering, IP-load balancing and creating failovers to make it appear as if infrastructure never goes down, there are documentable benefits to this complete about-face. Specifically, IT organizations can reduce infrastructure costs by a factor of 10 when reconfiguring applications.

Third, there is a growing need to design for process automation. The historical approach that alerts a human to a task—even if outsourced to a low-wage country—is no longer financially viable. There is an opportunity to significantly eliminate manual tasks by redesigning every single infrastructure process. The end result is always improved quality and reduced costs.

Finally, making the transition to the Third Platform requires significant budget changes. After all, the end goal is a business model focused on flexibility with a dramatic move away from hardware infrastructure. Still, far too many of us spend a healthy percentage of our budgets on the past, so it’s really difficult to fund the shift. Even with funding, this type of change requires the type of multi-year, organizational intestinal fortitude that can be hard to manage on your own. The answer for most organizations is to strategically partner with a trusted supplier and to outsource components to agile models so CIOs can buy time and finance the transformation over a period of years.

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