The 6 Pillars of Modern IT

8 Feb 2017 by Technomics

We’re living in a fast-paced world, and businesses need the right tools to keep up. Unfortunately, not many businesses are considering whether their infrastructures are built to support today’s innovations. Join Insight CIO Mike Guggemos as he breaks down the six pillars all IT professionals should master when it comes to IT modernization.

Headshot of Mike Guggemos

Mike Guggemos

Cited by both Computerworld and CIO Magazine for his leadership skills, Mike works to focus the controlled chaos of corporate productivity toward the big bets of emerging technologies.

Episode 1 – The 6 Pillars of Modern IT

Published February 8, 2017


Announcer: You're listening to Technomics. Connecting you to insights on digital transformation and the marketplace, with your hosts: Robyn Itule and Jeremy Nelson. The hosts' opinions are their own. Enjoy the show!


Robyn Itule: Welcome everyone to Technomics, the third season. This season is all about infrastructure optimization.

Jeremy Nelson: A topic very close to my heart.

Robyn Itule: I know, thank goodness you are here because this is where I start to get majorly out of my depths so I'm going to need a lot of Jeremy Nelsonness over the next several episodes.

Jeremy Nelson: I am now a descriptive term. I like this.

Robyn Itule: We can turn anything into adjectives. And with us today to help us kick off this season and more than likely explain to me what it is to moderninze your infrastructure is our own CIO, Mike Guggemos. Mike thank you so much for being here.

Mike Guggemos: Very, happy to be here.

Robyn Itule: As we have discussed, I havbe been itching to get you in front of a microphone for a little while. So we have just the right timing on that now because good things come to those who wait. So let's dive in. Let's talk about modernizing infrastructure. Where do we start?

Mike Guggemos: It actually depends a great deal on your environment and how its build out. But for most people its key to keep in mind there are 6 pillars to your IT base. And its been that way for many, many years and it will stay that way for many, many ways into the future. And I'll go through them real quick and then go back to the basic of where you start. There's server compute, that's pillar number one. There's storage which is pillar number two. There's networking which is pillar number three. And then you have end-user devices aned user applications. And then wapping everything together is enterprise applications. And enterprise applications are anything that allows two or more things to work together or provide security or allows them to connect. So that can be from web all the way down to the _layers or what have you. You start by trying to figure out what it is you plan on doing first. In most cases, a company will immediatly jump to an application. They go look for how can I buy a piece of software that's going to solve all of my problems. Well there's two big issues with that. The primary one is they don't look at how that is going to impact their networking or how its going to impact their server or storage layers. And its really important again to step back for a moment and say, "What is it I intend to do?" And if its to increase your companies ability to interact with some type of data sets or anything along those lines, putting an appplication in is wonderful but if you don't optimize your networking at the core, you're going to break it and the experience is going to be broke.

Jeremy Nelson: And we've seen that iwth the migration of the cloud too right? As people get this perception of I'm going to take a couple of those pillars, an application, a compute, a storage and I'm going to send that out to the cloud and just like you mentioned, they forget about the network component and what used to be east west traffic now turns into north south traffic. And their infrastucture isn't really ready to support a migration to the cloud. So even though you're igrating a lot of those pillars to somebody elses responsibility, you may forget your own.

Mike Guggemos: Absolutely, it happens all the time. The other thing that people do is they'll move something up into the cloud and they'll complain that the cycle time is too long. It takes too long to get information because they'll have their data stores sitting on premise or on a device and they'll have all of their calculations out int he cloud. And they don't actually archtiect in advance. I feel like I am on NPR. I want ot get into a really mello voice.

Robyn Itule: Moving on then so six pillars. There are some things that change and some things that stay the same. Death, taxes, and the six pillars of IT. Good summation?

Mike Guggemos: Very good summation.

Jeremy Nelson: Obviously when you talk about that, I think one of the things you mentioned and as we look at the six pillars and we're kind of coming up through the enterprise ranks and getting into services. One of the things that I've seen even in my own way of thinking is those six pillars were very isolated domains right? That your networking team had thier network vision. Your server and compute team had their own vision. Storage had their own vision. And they all didn't necessarily tell the same story at the end of the day. So how do you see companies kind of breaking that mold and tranisitioning into that more holistic approach that you were talking about?

Mike Guggemos: You'll hear a lot of people talk about things such as Devops or integrated opperations, and these other bits and pieces. But at the core, theory is wonderful, but I'm going to back to actual practice. When I came to this company, the budgets for infrastructure teams were split. The networking team had their own budget, the server team had their own budget, the storage team had their own budget, they didn't talk to the application teams at all. And that was pretty typical. But still what you find in most organizations today. So the first thing that I did was collapse budgets. And it seems very simplistic, but people do what they are paid to do and programs run which are funded. And I mandated that every program from the application layer on down as well as the infrastructure layer on up had to include the other pieces of the pillars. So there was no discretionary budget for storage. There was a storage activity and it had to equate to what was occurring in the otehr five pillars. And its a very simplistic thing to do and you're going to find out its very difficult. because people can go in and articulate storage growth is 50% a year, 60% a year, 40% a year and trying to get a non-technical person to understand how that impacts the server environment and the networking environment are two differnt things. But the biggest thing is to go to the money and combine the budgets first. Let the teams work independently and then apply level of architecture forcing people to look across all six pillars.

Jeremy Nelson: And I think that requires a level of vision from the CIO level. Becacause obviously that is something that has to start at the top. That's not something that can bubble up from the bottom and come up. And so I think that requires someone with that level of vision and approach that to IT__.

Mike Guggemos: Yeah but that's the job. And quite canndidly, very few people do it to the level that they're supposed to. _ to finance quite a bit. And that's why you bring finance in from the start. they can be your single greatest advocate for what you're doing in an organization. Versus your single greatest advisary. And you talk to most CIOs and they'll tell you that their relationship with finance and marketing are their two most difficult relationships. Here I can say taht they're probably our two greatest relationships. Very, very tight relationship with marketing, very tight relationship with finance because we pull them into the decisions in advance versus trying to arguye these disparate Lego pieces and why we need to add storage, why we need to do something different for applications. We bring them into the discussion right up front. And again taht's my job, if I'm not going it I should prbably be replaced.

Jeremy Nelson:Yeah you're bringing people together. And I'm sure that Robyn particularly loves hearing that they've got a much bigger seat at the table as they look at infrastucture as a whole, making sure that we're meeting needs. We'll be back after a quick break.


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Robyn Itule: So what advice would you have let's say a new CIO, somebody who's stepping into a brand new role and they're looking at the first 90 days of their tenure. What would you tell hem to set the tone and set the course for unifying the six pillars and starting to set routes for some of those really important relationships.

Mike Guggemos: There are three things that have proven over time to be sucessful. The first one we talked about a little bit which is youa pproach it from a financial perspective. No programs are independent. IT rarely does something for the benefit of IT, its generally for the organization as a whole. So the budgeting perspective, what is the end result? And we use marketing as an example. You'll hear a great deal today that the budgets have shifted into marketing and other lines of business. Its a croc. I'll say it again, its a croc. The budgets have not shifted, what's happened is hshadow IT has become public and the reaons why is the expenses for cloud have gotten so large that they can no longer be hidden. What used to happen is these organizations would purchase a server, theyw ould purchase access points, they would purchase the applications, and they wouold run them underneath somebody's desk. Jeremy yes or no?

Jeremy Nelson: _run into customers where there was an entire closet full of servers that no one had ever deployed.

Mike Guggemos: Correct, and I have examples where people are running enterprise applications for marketing off of laptops. And they couldn't figure out why the application would quit worrking at six oclock at night and why it would never work on weekends. Its because somebody would close the laptop and then go home.

Jeremy Nelson: Steve shut down the servers.

Robyn Itule: Stop it.

Mike Guggemos: No its dead serious. So the first, yeah you're laughing. You otta be sitting there on a weekend when someone calls and wants to know what happened and you're like I don't know. So the first thing is..

Robyn Itule: Its like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Mike Guggemos: Correct. Or a geek in a marketing group.


Mike Guggemos: See I kept my hands off the table. So the key thing is approach it from a financial perspective and holistic. What are you really trying to achieve so when marketing goes out with some kind of application theree is something they needt o do. And underneath that, the CIO has to be the accountable one to start until you build the muscle in the organization to do this repeatedly. But the CIO has to step back and say "Okay, how does this impact networking, how does it impact storage, how does it impact server?How are the end users going to connect to it? Is it going to have to have dual factor authentication? Is it? Is it? Is it?" That has to be done and someone has to take ownership for it. The second thing is to get outof your office. One of the greatest pieces of advice was given to me from Patty Morrison [assumed] who's the CIO for Cardinal Health, former manager of mine and someone I respect immensily. And it was you have to go see what people are doing. It seems so straightforward, but for technical people that's pretty difficult. So align your finances out front. Two get out of your office _ and see what people are actually consume and use the servies that your provide, both inside and outside of your orgnaization. And the third thing is don't take yourself too serious. A lot of people when they first come in they get that senior executvive title and they get the office and they get all these pieces that go with it. And pretty soon, they start to think that they're actually important. Their decisions are, their views are, the words that they use are, but they themselves as most people would know are pretty easy to replace. So if you isolate yourself in a tower of importance, your team will not tlak to you. They won't share with you the furstrations they're having with their peer organizations. The peer organizations won't talk to you, they'll isolate you and shut you out. And it turns very adversarial quickly. And new people have rougly 90 days to 120 days to establish that openness. So get out of your office right away. Go see the finance department right away. Go see how people use the technology. And the third piece is be really open to criticism. Don't isolate yourself, don't get too embraced with the title.

Robyn Itule: Yeah interdependence. I think any project you're trying to lead that cocreation is essential to get the right feedback. And then follow up, be open to the feedback. Great directives for somebody to step into a role. So kinda flip the coin here and what would you say that you would like to receive as a CIO coming in from the rest of the organization? How could those people who have a vested interest with IT come to you _ early on?

Mike Guggemos: I'll go back to a tright saying, bring solutions. The funny peice for me is in every promotional opportunity I've ever had, I was already doing the job before I took the job. Aside from the shift, I took the job as the CIO. Whether it was manfacturing, engineering and sales, HR, _ in all those functions. People whine a lot. they complain a lot, particularly between the functions. And they like it. I think they like the fact they can say [scoff] the server is slow. Or [skoff] it takes forever to downlowad. Because it allows them a position the next time they have to go fight for resources or something else, they can blame it on a different function. I don't know if my smile is conveying or not. So the big thing is, come with a solution. Say hey look, we've run into these issues, here's a suggestion I have. And even if its a crazy suggestion and it'll never work, you open the door to a dialogue. And again I'll go back to real experiences that I've had, immediatyly people try to position. Its just human nature. And the one that will come up and open that door in advance about here's the way we could do someting differently, I let my guard down. And it actually rturns into a dialogue to do something positive. At the core, all this technology junk is just technology. Its the people that make it work and it works for people. If you're not dealing with things at that human layer, it will ultimatly blow up in your face.

Robyn Itule: You gotta take care of that human opperating system.

Jeremy Nelson: Oh man.

Mike Guggemos: Yes.

Jeremy Nelson: That was deep.

Robyn Itule: I may show up somewhere else. We'll see. So as businesses are talkign about modernizing their infrasctucture, where are the areas where they are having to put most of their focus? Like what is the dominant legacy situation that needs to be resolved in order to make important business advancements.

Mike Guggemos: There's two quick aspects and I'll put the out prior to that. Relative to the position, across the six pillars. So I actually broke them down, I don't have someone who owns the six pillars. Several layers in the organization you'll find them. But at the top leve, all of our operations all six of those, well five out of the six anyways, are run by one senior leader. And then the architectural pieces, the security pieces, the forward looking pieces, report directly to me as the senior _ leader. And I did that intentionally to break those bonds of the individual pillars. I actually do practice what I preach. Even to the financial layers and the _ layers. On the legacy side there's normally tow things. And this is where being arm in arm with finance is so important. Once an acid is depreciated, so if you buy something with a cycle life of four years, year five is argubally pretty cheap on a spreadsheet. It means it free. In reality, its very expensive. So going through and cleaning up that environement past the systems that are useful life, its counterintuitive. It appears as if its going to cost you a great deal of money because the asssets are "free." You could call them a sweated asset. The reality is they consume resources. They're difficult if not impossible to patch. And the patch and currency is important when you move to cloud or you start accessing things from mobile devices. One of the things that most people are familiar with recently is browsers. So if browsers aren't kept up to the proper version, people actually won't access your websites. And its not actually the browser that's the issue, its the website that's being accessed. And it goes both ways _ with these legacy things that are the most problematic are actually the network and the application that allows you to connect to network at the other end. And that's the currency with your browser versioning, your currency with the software applications layer and down, and then how much that network can actually handle. And then in the coming years here, we're actually moving to a new WiFi technology as well as to new 5G on the larger WAN activities which are going to fundementally change what you may and may not do from a networkign persepctive. Jeremy you're nodding your head, you seem excited.

Jeremy Nelson: I am, like you said networking is where I slide in really easy. And that's what we're seeing a lot with our customers again. _ more cloud as we're getting more of those refresh cycles. We've even got some situations where some new CIOs have come in and inhereted some again very legacy environments where the very first place that they're having to start is right at the network core because its infrastructure thats upwards eight, ten years old. And it just isnt capabale supporting a modern _ anymore.

Mike Guggemos: But from a finance perspective, its free.

Jeremy Nelson: Its free. Exactly, except for when that Smartnet renual comes in.

Robyn Itule: So the browser versioning is something that resonates with me from a marketing persepctive. Because we're always thinking what can we do to enhance the user expereince with the website and what does the user's story look like and what are the warm fuzzies that I get when I go to But what is our strategy around that because you want to be neither too early or too late in applying those upgrades.

Mike Guggemos: Its a constant fight. Anyway that tells you otherwise is crazy. The key thing that we do again is partner with marketing and take if from a marketing lead approach. Marketing drives the currency on the decisions and underneath ebcause how we connect with our client base and with our partners and even our intneral outcome of how our information which comes from our marketing teams. So if marketing comes up and taps on the door and says hey look, we''re going to do a fundemental change right now that's going to remove our ability to use whatever flavors of browsers whether that's Internet Explorer, or Google Chrome, or Firefox, we'll talk to them and we'll find a way to mitigate for that period of time, but ultimately we are going to shift. So that's radically different from ten years ago. Ten years ago, those pillars were important because there was no way to adequatly to cross between them. There was no large sacel ability for anybody to access information at any time. Today, mobile devices have fundementally flipped. How people access information and how they communicate and that really is for our organization anyways, an outcome of how we interact with our marketing teams.

Robyn Itule: So a few of the other topics that we're going to be addressing in this season of Technomics include real time business, branch infrastructure, hybrid cloud, and intelligent networking. Do any of those really factor into your roadmap for where we hope to go?

Mike Guggemos: Most definitely, we're already very much into the hybrid cloud internally for our internal utilization and how we connect out. And I'll give some numbers to represent that. When I started we were roughly 19% virtualized. Today, in effect, we're 100% virtualized. We had two cloud-based applications when I started, today 40% of the applications we run as a company are in the cloud. And we actually have an environment and infrastructure, ke word infrastructure, that enables us to move things back and forth as the market demands. The reality is hybrid, the architecture is ahead of where the functionality is in the market today. So you can build out your environments, and you should to scale out to public cloud to private, external hosted cloud, as well as your internal operations. There's nothing stopping you if an organization wanted to do that today. And that ties into the intelligent networking as well as the hybrid cloud layers as a whole. So yes.

Robyn Itule: A very big yes, that is a huge undertaking that will ultimately,

Jeremy Nelson: More like a been there done that thing, yes.

Robyn Itule: Yeah.

Mike Guggemos: We've done it, we did it about two years ago.

Robyn Itule: Bought the t-shirt, in fact its probably a Project Go t-shirt or a Project One t-shirt.

Mike Guggemos: I have the satin tour jacket for those old enough to know. The key thing is you can build in advance and we've done it. Most organnztions out there with foresight are tkaing the time to revamp from the networking layer on up. Particularly with the advances in defined software and capabilities. And even if you have an old mixed legacy data center, whethere its on your premise or somebody elses, there is nothing that will stop you from artecturing to change that. Even if it takes three or four years via titration. In other words, you cancel things. You retire them and move them out. there's nothing stopping someone from putting that artecture in place today and executing to it. As a matter of fact, they're doing a disservice to their organization if they don't.

Robyn Itule: Don't go away, we have some more on Technomics coming at you in just a minute.


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Robyn Itule: Its interesting to hear you say that the infrastructure for hybrid cloud is actually ahead of its time is what I'm hearing.

Mike Guggemos: Yeah so you go back to the last series of releases from Microsoft on their server OS'es. They were pre-enabled for hybridization. So we're going back several years now, this is nothing new. What's happened is the hype cycle has caught up to it. And for folks who ahve been building up on Linix based servers or Unix or other things, its actually been a capability for decades and a lot of people are thrown by that. I won't really jump into the comparison to mainfraim which a lot of people will use for cloud. But the capapcity to burst, and the capacity to shift workloads. The capacity to do what hybrid is for has beeen around for a very, very long time. What has changed is the ability to consume it. Mobile devices, and the screens on our devices that we use today are driving what is occurring within the data centers. Forget about using Sales Force or __ or Oracle or whatever. If you take a look at what you probably use your devices for the most, people that are honest, they're Instagramming, they're Snapchatting, they're sending photos, they're Facebooking, they're doing things that have some type of content. The vibrant displays that you have that are, I mean hi-def is now in the past, we're at 4k. Other things are on the verge of coming out. And what that means is that an incredible amount of information has to be compressed and fit in to make that a great viewing experience. So software providers Microsoft, Oracle, all these others are going out and rewriting their software to push in more colors, to push in more content, so that it looks good on the screen. Otherwise its like looking at an analog TV presentation on a 4k or a high-def _. Its fuzzy and it makes your head hurt. And the mobile devices, most people know what their pixilation is, in other words the vibrancy of the screen, the definition of the screen, most people know what their cameras are, most people have them set to the highest setting. What they don't know is all that junk clogs up every piece of networking that exists. And as people are snapchatting and doing this and doing that, it delays the ability to do business transactions, even if you have quality of service built into your networks. QoS is how you know what traffic gets passed back and forth. The reason why I call all this stuff out is people look and they go in the data center and they look at the applications that are used for business, but the reality is what's driving the business architectures is what people use when nobody else is watching. And the pictures, the quality of the pictures, the videos, all of these other things, that's where people will declare their quality of experience in dealing with your network, dealing with your website, all these other things. So if you're very graphically intense, awesome. But its a crappy experience. If you have a great deal of options on your web, that's aweseome. Except its a crappy experience. Did I say crappy? I think I did, four times now.

Robyn Itule: I'm totally fine with that.

Mike Guggemos: So really looking at how people are using their non-work related applications has to be taken into account when you're building up these infrastructures. That is the only big shift that has occured, technologically again you could go back. All of the Windows server OS'es for the last four years have been enabled for hybrid cloud right from the get go. And Linix and Unix, they've been doing it for decades. Jeremy?

Jeremy Nelson: No I absolutely agree, and its fun to listen to.

Mike Guggemos: You need to get out more.

Jeremy Nelson: I really do. But that's actually, when I get out, I'm talking to my customers about this and its really fun. And you mentioned earlier about getting out and seeing what other people are doing. Like you said, its not really the technology that's holding people back anymore, its the ability to get out from the day-to-day and to start looking at what's down the road a little bit. Because all these options and all this technology is available. You just need to have and rise above what's bad about today to get you to the better tomorrow.

Mike Guggemos: Yeah a lot of people go for best in breed stuff. And if you have unlimited budget and unlimited resources its wonderful. We're starting to see a shift now in the marketplace coming back to, good enough in the portfolio. In other words, if you have a big partner like Microsoft, or SAP, or Oracle, most companies now will default to products that they provide within their portfolios versus the best in the gartner quadrent. And the reason why there are all these integration points and the prioritization of the traffic and all these other things that come to bear, because it will kill you. But the only way you can really know that is by being out ther and using it, and seeing how it works and what works and what doesn't work. It actually is very cool. And by the way, I need to get out more too because I get excited by this stuff.

Robyn Itule: Yeah integration points are such a big focus for us as you well know, you want everything integrated in marketing to tell the whole story. I think one of the most exciting things about any piece of this converation is its so oriented to what's possible. What's possible with the customer experience, what's possible for your business productivity, what's possible when you do optimize your infrastructure, and what's possible when you really dedicate yourself to operational excellence. So that's one of the things I think we really need be talking about here. Its just like what's just ahead on the horizon, what do we need to keep our eyes on, what releases are headed out there? 5G certainly being the big one. All of the points that you encapsulated in that conversation around its how you're using that screen. That's the demands of our users. That's the demands of our clients and their customers. So focusing on those end points, its the only instinct. We're going to wrap up this episode. That really ended up being as much about leadership as it did about infrastructure modernizations, so thank you for all of that. Mike, we really appreciate all of your thoughts and energy and time with us today so thank you for joining us on Technomics.

Mike Guggemos: Thank you very much for having me.

Robyn Itule: Thanks for listening to Technomics. If you want to find more episodes, you can download the podcasts from iTunes, Google, or your favorite podcast provider. And, for more stories on intelligent technology, visit