IT isn't going away, says Fox CIO

For 20th Century Fox, IT is 'more relevant' than ever

LAS VEGAS -- The next summer blockbuster out of 20th Century Fox might be called "The Incredible Shrinking Data Center."

The entertainment giant is taking about 9,000 square feet of data center space, spread in three data centers, and shrinking it down to two centers. It is consolidating infrastructure on blades and shifting some work to cloud services. Once completed, total data center space will be reduced to about 2,700 square feet.

It is accomplishing this in a number of ways. It is in the process of moving about 15,000 Exchange users to Microsoft Office 365 in an external cloud, which is reducing some internal server need. It is adopting for some of its services, moving away from a custom-built app. But most of its applications will remain internal, running in private clouds.

Fox IT is also modernizing its infrastructure, moving to dense blade servers and adopting Hewlett-Packard's cloud services and converged technology.

John Herbert, the Fox CIO and executive vice president, was at HP's big user conference here this week and talked about his technology decisions, but mostly he shared a vision about how he sees IT changing.

Some argue that IT departments won't exist in five years as technology decision makers spread out through the organization and contract directly with cloud service providers.

But Herbert, in an interview, does not see IT departments shrinking in importance, even as they simplify their IT infrastructure, standardize and move some services to public clouds.

"IT is more relevant today than we have ever been," said Herbert, adding that IT's importance grows as it frees itself from infrastructure management to concentrating on helping the business.

"I would much rather focus on business alignment and creating business value," Herbert said. "We're not focused on necessarily keeping an Exchange environment running internally," he said.

By shifting to private clouds, for instance, Herbert said Fox can quickly provision new services. Previously, a new service rollout might require ordering systems and installing them, a process that could take weeks.

Improving the infrastructure processes fits with the broader goal of building end-to-end services instead of a particular application, he said.

"We are completely changing how we're building applications from an architecture point of view," Herbert said.

That means, for instance, bringing together services that are involved in every aspect of digital content delivery, including customer digital preferences, management of customer orders, and visibility into digital inventory from either a technical or a language need.

Herbert believes this will improve the job experience for application developers, because "our clients are going to be much happier, so their job satisfaction should be much greater."

Fox will be running most of its operations from internal private clouds, and Herbert has no plans to do otherwise for its digital content. But HP is expansive in its view about the capabilities of its public cloud, and said it can run enterprise mission-critical applications and is "capable of running a company or government," said Pete Karolczak, HP's senior vice president of IT outsourcing, enterprise services, in a presentation.

When asked if he can imagine a future where the public cloud can meet all the needs of his business, Herbert, citing the rapid pace of change in just the past few years, said it's difficult to know "what the ultimate cloud solution will look like."

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Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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