CIOs Uncensored: Corporate IT Will Disappear

And the CIO will become "an IT executive who knows how to buy IT as a service."

John Soat, Contributor

September 7, 2007

3 Min Read

It's like a dream job for an IT executive," says John DeBenedette, "because we're filling a tremendous gap, filling a vacuum in terms of the need to streamline this paper-intensive function." DeBenedette is the VP of technology for a company called Inttra; the paper-intensive function is scheduling ocean-bound containerized cargo shipments.

Inttra is a consortium created by six of the leading international shippers: CMA CGM, Hamburg Süd, Hapag-Lloyd, Maersk Line, Mediterranean Shipping, and P&O Nedlloyd (now owned by Maersk). Launched in 2001, it's an e-commerce platform for companies looking to ship freight by sea.

"These are the common, simple transactions it takes to move a container," says DeBenedette, such as looking up schedules, booking a vessel, submitting shipping instructions, and generating bills of lading. Inttra also provides the ability to track and trace shipments and to create multicarrier shipping reports. But it doesn't deal with the myriad of import-export laws. "We're part of the e-commerce food chain that streamlines that stuff and makes it easier, but we're not directly interfacing with governments on the regulatory side," he says.

For DeBenedette, who's been with Inttra practically from the beginning, it's been exciting to watch the company double its business every year for the past five years, so that now it represents "10% of the world's cargo that moves in containers," or about 200,000 containers a week. From an IT perspective, though, it's also been something of a challenge in terms of capacity, scalability, and performance. "You can imagine what a roller-coaster ride that's been," he says.

Inttra is headquartered in Parsippany, N.J., and its primary data center is in the northern part of the state (the company also runs a "warm" redundant site in an unidentified location). Inttra hosts its Oracle transaction database on IBM P-Series servers running AIX, along with 40 Tbytes of virtualized storage on an IBM storage area network. Forty percent of its data center capacity--the part that handles most of the Web site duties--is on Intel-compatible servers using Linux.

With the architecture and performance issues under control, DeBenedette's priority is generating products and getting them out as quickly as possible. For instance, last January Inttra launched, a way for shippers to search global sailing schedules. Developed in four months, the project revamped a proprietary product into a free banner-ad-supported service. "We completely overhauled the user interface to make it easy and very fast," he says.

DeBenedette believes strongly in the online service model, and what it means for the future of corporate IT--mainly, that it's disappearing and will be supplanted by service providers. "There will be an IT industry and IT firms that will hire IT skills," he says (Inttra included, of course). But for the typical corporation, "the IT skill set will go the way of the dodo," he predicts.

Inttra outsources almost all its corporate apps--HR, accounting, e-mail management. "We resist like the plague any app we would take in-house," DeBenedette says. "I'd rather worry about service levels being maintained for our customers than in-house service levels." As for the CIO of the future, DeBenedette predicts that person will be "an IT executive who knows how to buy IT as a service."

Better hone your negotiating skills. One place to start is at our new blog, CIOs Uncensored, or negotiate with [email protected] or 516-562-5326.

To find out more about John Soat, please visit his page.

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