The five minute CIO: Nigel Moulton, VCE

1 May 2015

Nigel Moulton, CTO for Europe, VCE

“The CIO is the at heart of digital transformation and executives are lining up rank and file behind the CIO to support the journey to make it happen,” said Nigel Moulton, chief technology officer for Europe at VCE.

Moulton is the EMEA CTO at VCE, the Virtualised Computing Environment Company. Moulton is responsible for the technology strategy of VCE in EMEA, working with counterparts globally to ensure that the benefits of Converged Infrastructure solutions are broadly understood by both customers and VCE business partners alike.

As a broad theme, Moulton shows how converged infrastructure drives greater efficiencies in the data centre, and demonstrates how organisations are able to move to business models that derive huge value from big data and analytics, delivering a better business outcome more accurately and more quickly.

Prior to joining VCE, Moulton was the EMEA CTO for Avaya.

Moulton has more than 25 years experience in the IT and telecommunications industry, having also had previous roles both with 3Com, DLink and Cisco Systems.

Cisco, EMC, Vmware and Intel were the original investors in VCE in 2009. How and why did this come about?

It came down to a view that the data centre and the infrastructure part of the data centre market was ripe for change. The reason being we were starting to see lines of business people getting increasingly frustrated with how IT would fail to make services and apps available quickly. A big reason for that was too much time bolting together bits of tin for different vendors. They were taking far too long.

VCE’s mission was very much one of providing infrastructure as an asset in data centres, building up cases around agility, time to market and systems we deploy.

If you look at all the various vendors, none of them have enough of the stack to make a difference, but put together are a strong combination.

In October of last year that was the end of the five-year joint venture. The investors came together and EMC put a clause that it could acquire 80pc of assets of the company. We effectively came under 80pc ownership and joined the EMC federation of companies, including Pivotal. Cisco retained a 10pc stake in the business and they also signed up for next five years of technology evolution and the other 10pc is Vmware.

We employ around 2,700 people globally and we had a revenue turnover of half a billion dollars in the last fiscal quarter. VCE is the fastest-growing part of the federation and roughly one third of our business is generated here in EMEA.

What are the main points of a typical CIO’s IT strategy in businesses today?

Digital transformation is a watchword for this year. Getting your digital house in order is a fair assessment for companies we talk to. Our part in that is there are a number of things your organisation needs to think about. If your company is in banking, don’t think of IT as an IT shop. Business is driven by applications. We are an enabler for that transformation. Don’t worry about spending time and effort, we can do it better and in a compressed timescale and deliver quickly. Focus on the things your organisation requires you to add value for. Through technologies like Vblock we are an enabler to help your organisation transform and focus on areas that, frankly, they should be focusing on.

In terms of managing IT budgets, what are your key thoughts on how CIOs/heads of technology should achieve their goals?

Outside of security and commerce, the one I would add is organisational transformation. This involves a look at the way your IT operations teams are structured. IT organisations tend to be siloed in nature. Cloud is not built that way. Cloud is the sum of a number of technologies working together. We help transform IT organisation to align with IT resources in the most efficient way. People who had a role get skilled up in that area, network people learn about storage and infrastructure, for example.

In terms of cost, IT budgets tend not to be increasing and organisations are spending too much on keeping lights on and not enough on innovation.

CIOs need to create a cloud team rather than a bunch of individuals responsible for individual areas. There is a fundamental transformation occurring in the structure and the people element of IT.

How complex is the infrastructure CIOs contend with today?

A lot of our customers have a desire to be a cloud-only type of organisation because they see Facebook and Amazon and they have a desire to look like that: agile, quick in the market, build it up and repurpose. That comes from agility in software. The amount of effort you spend figuring out the agility of software the greater proportion of the time and financial return than physically bolting bits of tin together.

Infrastructure has become a utility in an organisation, and you can turn it on and off as you require and the investments you make should now be in the areas that drive value for your business.

Simplicity, if done well, hides complexity. You remember what it used to be like to book an airline ticket? Today you just tap on a BA app on your phone and you have booked flights to New York. The simplicity of the app actually masks the complexity behind it.

In terms of user-having experience, IT should allow me to do the things I have to do – reliably, quickly and with panache and style, as opposed to 70 people in an airline queue.

Many companies are reinventing themselves through the apps on smartphones. You don’t own the hardware but you do own the experience. CIOs need to focus efforts on experience for those customers.

If you rely on infrastructure to drive results, that’s fantastic. But in the past CIOs and IT leaders spent time bolting it together. You can’t dictate hardware platforms but can dictate better experiences through software.

How much of your time is spent on deep technical issues compared to the management and business side?

I think it is fair to say that within VCE there is a split personality – one team focuses on relationship with Cisco, EMC and VMware and taking their tech and putting it together comprehensively. Definite internal facing. But in EMEA me and my colleagues in other regions spend 90pc of our time talking to C-level customers. We try to do one of two things: present a different angle or, sometimes, if you are going to the point where you want to quiz about trends on industry, we get involved in those conversations. For us it is 90pc of the time front-facing.

What are the big trends and challenges in your sector, and how do you plan to use IT to address them?

Digital transformation is front and centre on every CIO’s agenda. Some are trying to figure out what it means, some are putting digital platforms at the heart of what the company does and change the culture of the organisation to revolve around that rather than retrofit into things like they used to do in the past. For many organisations that is a journey, but the CIO is seen as a leader in that change. The key to digital transformation is to put technology at the heart of the business and the business revolves around that.

If you think putting a website up is digital transformation, it is not. Putting web at the heart of an organisation is.

The CIO is the at heart of that and executives are lining up rank and file behind the CIO to support the journey to make it happen.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years