Be an IT architect : mixed art and skills

Interview with Chris Brandon, Technical Lead, Data Centre Transformation for exigo. With 17 years as vendors and resellers, he gives us his vision of data center, IT architecture and how you can bring businesses requirements and market drivers together.

Interview with Chris Brandon, Technical Lead, Data Centre Transformation for exigo. With 17 years as vendor and reseller, he gives us his vision of data center, IT architecture and how you can bring businesses requirements and market drivers together.

  • Can you make a point on your 1 year at exigo?

I had an excellent 1st year at exigo. I led projects for two different banks, a telco, and a technology company. I appreciate the richness of the Luxembourgish culture which brings together people from many nations working together to solve complex problems in innovative ways. I also found the strength to be an independent advisor. I have 17 years of experience working for Vendors and Resellers. I know the IT and Financial Services markets well, but with no reliance of hardware or software revenue, customers trust your opinion and experience more.

  • With 18 years experience in IT, how do you see the role of data center architect and IT in general?

The data center and their technologies have changed so much over the years. Businesses requirements and market drivers are also always changing. It is my job to bring these two together – to help a customer understand their business requirements, translate that into technology solutions options, evaluate which option is best for them, and then help them plan and implement that solution most efficiently. You have to do that while also making sure the people, process, and compliance are all in line too. It’s about solving complex business problems with complex IT solutions and making it all looks simple.

  • The business, compliance and security are increasingly complex, how can you stay an expert for this as domain?

I read a lot. I do certification tests and coursse when I can. I am fortunate to have a really good network of experts that I call for help if I need to learn something quickly. But most of all, I listen. The customers know their requirements and their business better than I ever will. I am good at gathering those requirements, compiling them in an orderly fashion, and I constantly check a solution against that to make sure I am delivering what they need and want.

  • You are redoing the infrastructure of a Luxembourg-based operator, what needs to be rethought, what are the challenges?

In a service provider business, the only way to be successful is to decrease costs while assuring quality service. You might think they are opposing requirements, but the challenge is to make them work together. This means keeping things as simple as possible, automating anything that is repetitive or high risk, testing everything (twice or 3 times), and having really clear and well documented processes and procedures. Discipline is the most difficult but the most important part about making such a solution work. That involves not only delivering a world class and innovative technical solution, but also helping drive the business change to get the most out of it. That is the fun part.

  • Is an architect in IT close to a traditional architect? Do you have to think outside environment (the market), interior (needs), ensure a solid foundation, to make it work and protect what you built?

Some of my friends are “real” architects who build huge buildings and whole communities in the UK. We often talk about it, and surprisingly the thought process, structure, and problems are almost identical. The technical components are very different, but a customer wants to build something that makes business sense, that will last, and they can depend on. They want it done on time with a huge number of component parts coming together at the right time. My architect friends help me to think differently about problems, and I help them to focus more on their customers – but bringing it all together it is as much an art as it is a skill.

  • When you work for a project like this redesign, what part of the team work with you?

I like to work with the whole team upfront to make sure we understand the business requirements, and everyone understands the process. Then we scope the project into detailed phases, and each phase engages the people who need to be involved in that piece of work. In design phase, I am often working with business and IT people. In the infrastructure build/test process I usually work with just IT and Operations team. In migration and go-live phase we are mostly working with the business again. Then in the end, I get everyone back together to review the process, lessons learned, and any next steps. You need everyone involved at the right time to succeed.