September 16, 2009

It's 7:15 a.m. on the corner of 46th Street and Vanderbilt. As a crowd of bleary-eyed, drab-suited New Yorkers trudge by on their way to work, one figure stands out. She's wearing a bright orange suit and radiating kilowatts of positive energy channeled from somewhere, possibly her chance encounter with Robert Redford at Brooklyn Academy of Music the night before. "He's very shy, someone told me to go right up to him and talk to him," says Madge M. Meyer, executive vice president, IT Global Infrastructure Services, State Street. "He was so nice. He told me he lived in Westport, CT, near where I used to live, for 24 years. I never knew he was there."

While Robert Redford is arguably more interesting, our topic for today is managing IT complexity, which Meyer, who manages a team of 950 technologists around the world, knows a lot about.

WS&T: Are you interested in cloud computing?

Meyer: Yes. Although we're not quite ready for the public cloud — security is a challenge every day for the shared cloud services — we're building a private cloud behind our secure firewall.

WS&T: What is your cloud beyond a virtualization or grid environment?

Meyer: It's shared servers and storage and capacity on demand — when you need it, it's there. End users don't have to worry about provisioning their server or storage. The beauty of the cloud is the just-in-time nature of it, which provides speed to market. People don't have to worry about what vendor or hardware they want, they can just ask for a service. We're starting small, with PC provisioning, and plan to use cloud in many other areas " that's our strategic direction.

WS&T: How do you provide scalability, if say 100 new employees are working on a new project and request compute and storage capacity?

Meyer: We virtualize the whole environment, so you can put more hardware on it without impacting the system and it's not disruptive. We also purchase hardware on an on-demand basis from our vendors.

WS&T: Can users just click on how much server and storage space they want — is it that simple?

Meyer: Yes. They just need to get a user ID. People don't have to worry about the hardware and software, it's all taken care of behind the scenes.

WS&T: What is State Street's "zero footprint" and how have you achieved it?

Meyer: The phrase, which we trademarked, is "Zero Footprint, Maximum Impact." When State Street moved business processing to India, Poland, and other countries, rather than build a local data center for applications that require very high response times, we kept data in regional hubs [in the U.S., Europe and Asia Pacific] and deliver it through wide area network accelerator technology, which shortens latency and makes you feel like you're sitting right next to the data center. The remote locations are equipped with desktops connected to network accelerators.

WS&T: How important are the wide area network and accelerator to this concept?

Meyer: You can talk about high performance on Wall Street (as Meyer did at a show on Monday), however, if you don't have a solid foundation starting with a high availability network, you can't achieve it. Our network is dual vendor, dual loop and redundant. During recent earthquakes in the Asia Pacific region, our network was up. Our customers called and said, "how did you do that?" Our wide area network is what I call a super highway, the foundation for our high performance.

WS&T: Can you describe your follow-the-sun IT model?

Meyer: You have to create consistent processes across the global organization. We started this initiative in 2001 when I joined State Street. If we do business with a customer, regardless of whether they're in Japan, the U.K., Germany, Boston or anywhere in the world, they get the same treatment, the same service level. How do we do that? We have one process, one set of tools (networks, middleware, security, etc.), one set of IT management software, we train everyone the same way. We use ITIL [Information Technology Infrastructure Library] so that everyone speaks the same language.' Then when help desk people in the U.S. go home, you can move their work to Asia Pacific, then to Europe. For example, when everybody accesses the same incident and problem database, they can see the same incident and continue working on it 24 hours a day until it's resolved. You don't miss any time when people are sleeping. Our response time is much quicker.

WS&T: It's interesting to picture people in different countries speaking different languages working together so that someone in China can pick up where someone in Boston left off.

Meyer: The morale here is unbelievably upbeat. The senior managers can all now add to their resumes that they're global. Their teams provide coverage for other regions. Sometimes one country has a heavy load, for instance in the U.K. we just moved our data center and office building. State Street's team did it flawlessly, without any significant problem, although it's a complex environment. We had a worldwide team helping the small U.K. tech team.