Automate, and get out of the way. That's the IT philosophy of Ashwin Ballal, CIO of semiconductor company KLA-Tencor. Ballal is a firm believer in the employee-liable model for enterprise technology. "All our mobile devices are personally owned," he says. "So, when iPad came out, I stuck with the same policy. If someone wants to buy an iPad, we told [that person] we would support it."
This year, though, Ballal ended up bucking his own trend. When the company reached a record sales milestone earlier this year, the decision was made to reward each one of its 5,400 employees around the world with a WiFi-capable iPad as a thank-you gift.
The deployment was completed in two-and-a-half weeks.
"We found a company that does mobile-platform management," explains Ballal, who worked with vendor MobileIron on the project. "We were able to automate self-provisioning over-the-air for all 5400 employees. Once the employee took delivery of an iPad, he or should could go to an external drive, provision the device over the air and connect to our network."
The key was keeping things simple when it came to developing the provisioning documentation that accompanied each device. "The mandate from me was that this would be written at a third- or fourth-grade level," says Ballal. "On the first version of documentation that came in, the number of redlines were immense. I said, 'It has to be no more than a page,' and I got a document that was 10 pages long." Eventually, after several revisions, the document was ready to be sent to the field.
Over the long term, Ballal's goals are to get IT out of the business of purchasing and supporting laptops and other devices.
"With our mobile phones and now with iPad we've seen that people like to take ownership of their hardware and IT support. Forget about time and cost savings, the focus is on 'How do we get our employees more productive? How do I relinquish power and control and give users what they want?'"
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is going to be the future, according to Ballal. "I'll give you a mechanism through which you can register your devices so that it's secure for my environment, and you'll be able to access what you need from anywhere in the world," he says. He adds that, when employees are productive, IT can be measured on revenue-per-employee or profit-per-employee.
Right now, desktop virtualization and a private cloud are helping to enable his vision. "The future as I see it, five years from now, is that we want to get out of the data center business and have a zero footprint on campus," says Ballal. "We're trying to get a private cloud that can be pushed to public cloud at some point in the future, and also be started on a managed service basis and migrated when the time is right."
In addition to offering a nice perk to KLA-Tencor employees, the company-wide iPad deployment was also a proving ground for Ballal's vision of the future of enterprise IT. "It's all about speed," says Ballal. "I haven't heard of an IT project that takes two-and-a-half weeks from inception to rollout. It was to demonstrate that this is possible: IT can automate and get out of the way."