Huawei CIO Forum - swift talking about CIO futures

Profile picture for user mbanks By Martin Banks November 3, 2015
Last week's Huawei CIO Forum delivered ample demonstrations of the new tools coming along to automate more and more of the CIO's workload, but what does this all presages for the CIO role?

There are changes coming along for CIOs that could be immense and, not to put too fine a point on it, rather life changing for them.

The new technologies in and around both the cloud and networking are changing enterprise and operational structures, and forcing new organisational structures to appear. This much we know.

One of the key changes is that CIOs now need to merge the network and IT teams into a single entity because it is becoming impossible to clearly identify the division between them. This will certainly make managing the overall team much more efficient.

That is the view of Swift Liu, President of the Enterprise Networking Product Line at Huawei, speaking to diginomica at the company's CIO Forum held in Lisbon.

He suggests CIOs must also be looking to transfer all management functions to 'a single pane of glass', graphics-based management environment operating at a much higher level of abstraction and automation. This is where control at a much higher level of functionality will now be managed.

That does imply significant changes coming not just for the CIO but for IT staff as well, he explains:

The trend is towards taking all the low-level management tools from the CIO and IT. This is especially important now that IoT is coming into the picture as well.

The inevitable addition of the Internet of Things (IoT) into the broader IT mix will lead to some really complex collaboration environments, where the maximum level of automation of the processes is the only sensible answer. The bottom line is that, in most cases, humans will simply not be able to act fast enough, warns Liu:

It used to be typical that it would take the whole network team three months or so to make any major changes to systems. Now it has to be down to a couple of people and 25 minutes work.

This isue is already starting to be seen in the move towards DevOps, where auto-deployment, and automated operational management, of applications and services is now essential.

This means that CIOs are being challenged and pressurised to understand and accommodate the changes occurring round them in IT.

A good example is the move towards using mobility and WiFi as standard tools, which means an individual user's network is with them and available for their use at any time, anywhere. This creates significant new planning and management problems that are service quantity- as much as service quality-based.

That makes them a good target for automation, says Liu:

It is now necessary that one person can configure the whole wireless network as required.


In addition, CIOs have to get used to the fact that their businesses will have multiple clouds - there is no one cloud that binds them. Huawei for example has seven clouds just in the development environment, and each is optimised for different types of user requiring different types of services.

For example, some staff in Huawei development have the need to build large, production-equivalent test sites in the cloud, so having a specific cloud service configured for that type of workload makes a good deal of sense.

In fact, Liu sees creating and managing these cloud services - as a service aggregator - as one of the new directions the CIO role will start to assume.

That then brings with it a change in status for the CIO, as he or she will be responsible for providing all branches of the business with the core tools they will require. As the business becomes the IT resources it consumes, the person in charge of that will garner much more responsibility to themselves.

That has to mean a seat at the top table as an essential pre-requisite, counsels Liu:

It is often the case that CIOs report to the Chief Operating Officer, but that has to change. They now really must report directly to the CEO.

He even hints that Huawei will actively lobby customers to create this reporting structure, and might even choose to turn down business opportunities where such a reporting structure is adamantly resisted.

Huawei also now has teams that are organised on a 'solutions provision' model that stretch horizontally across the business, focussing on how to make a solution work well, regardless of the business unit that might require it. The idea is to put the resources into getting the functionality work as well as possible.

This change coming down the line for CIOs is an important one. It has its fair share of negativity, that is clear: the potential for staff 'rationalisation' is obviously present.

But this can be counter-balanced by the growing opportunity for the role to become the focal point for the creation and deployment of a wide range of new, colloborating services.

This will become even more prominent a role as the collaboration between business management services and IoT becomes more widespread. That will be inevitable in meeting future business goals, and will only be possible through increasing levels of automation when it comes to configuring networks and applications to deliver the best results in the shortest possible time.

My take

I remain intrigued by the underlying trend for all broadly based vendors in what might be termed the solutions-capable provider community, to feel they cannot/should not (delete as appropriate) talk about the wider issues facing their customers.

So Swift Liu's thoughts are valuable as a starting point. The changing role of the CIO is inevitable - the increasing levels of automation make that so. So it is up to them to either grab it and be proactive, or do the other thing. And it is now up to the vendors to openly run through the options.