Digital transformation will fundamentally affect all aspects of business and society, which makes it a key theme not only for business leaders and CIOs but also for governments. Over the past few years, several governments across Europe, as well as the European Union (EU) itself, have each developed their own respective initiative to address the opportunities and challenges that come with digital.
However, from the CIO’s perspective, these digital agendas often fail to meet the requirements that businesses encounter as part of their digital transformation projects. While the digital agendas emphasize infrastructure and regulatory initiatives such as broadband coverage and Net neutrality, CIOs and their business partners would also benefit also from a focus on “soft issues,” such as promoting an interdisciplinary approach in university education and driving digital innovation across industry sectors. We believe that:
Governments recognize the digital transformation of businesses and society . . . Governments across Europe, as well as the European Commission of the EU, have recognized the importance of digital transformation to their constituencies and citizens. Various digital agendas have been developed and rolled out over the past few years with great fanfare. But in the end, most digital agendas remain high-level discussion papers.
. . . but governments underestimate the magnitude of digital transformation. Most digital agendas lack any real insights about broader business requirements for being successful in the digital economy — let alone any technological insights. Digitization is treated like one of many initiatives rather than the overarching theme for business and society.
Customers value tailored offerings. And consumers are increasingly aware of what Forrester calls the “privacy-personalization paradox” — that is, the paradox between their desire for personalization and their desire to keep their data private. A 2013 survey by Populus for Sky IQ of 3,097 UK adults found that 51% believe it is useful for brands to know some information about them, and 53% trust brands to act responsibly with their data. The same survey reveals that 79% respondents are careful about the type of information they pass to organizations, 63% worry about how much personal data they have revealed online, 48% say that data privacy is an issue they think about, and 46% do not trust social networks with their personal data.
Boring as it may appear, the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), which just took place in Dubai under the auspices of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), matters to all Internet users globally. To us, the three most important questions that were discussed are:
Should national governments have greater influence over the global regulation of the Internet?
Should over-the-top providers (OTTs) like Google and business networks be governed by international telecom regulations?
Should the underlying business model of the Internet change from a free and neutral exchange of data to a “sender pays” model?
This week, the New York Times ran a series of articles about data center power use (and abuse) “Power, Pollution and the Internet” (http://nyti.ms/Ojd9BV) and “Data Barns in a Farm Town, Gobbling Power and Flexing Muscle” (http://nyti.ms/RQDb0a). Among the claims made in the articles were that data centers were “only using 6 to 12 % of the energy powering their servers to deliver useful computation. Like a lot of media broadsides, the reality is more complex than the dramatic claims made in these articles. Technically they are correct in claiming that of the electricity going to a server, only a very small fraction is used to perform useful work, but this dramatic claim is not a fair representation of the overall efficiency picture. The Times analysis fails to take into consideration that not all of the power in the data center goes to servers, so the claim of 6% efficiency of the servers is not representative of the real operational efficiency of the complete data center.
On the other hand, while I think the Times chooses drama over even-keeled reporting, the actual picture for even a well-run data center is not as good as its proponents would claim. Consider:
A new data center with a PUE of 1.2 (very efficient), with 83% of the power going to IT workloads.
Then assume that 60% of the remaining power goes to servers (storage and network get the rest), for a net of almost 50% of the power going into servers. If the servers are running at an average utilization of 10%, then only 10% of 50%, or 5% of the power is actually going to real IT processing. Of course, the real "IT number" is the server + plus storage + network, so depending on how you account for them, the IT usage could be as high as 38% (.83*.4 + .05).