Is Cloud relevant for IT?


This article appeared first in the CloudSource blog in November 2011

As I was preparing my thoughts for this new blog, I ran into a thought-provoking article titled “Cloud has ‘no relevance’ say three-quarters of IT managers.” A report published by risk consultancy Protiviti, who interviewed 100 UK IT managers, state that 74 percent thought that cloud computing had no relevance to their business.

Obviously at first glance, this is quite a surprise to someone who spends his time discussing cloud with customers. The report says that companies most likely to be using cloud-related services are larger companies and companies operating in the services sector. This is actually counterintuitive and in straight contradiction with results of many other studies pointing to SMB as the main cloud adopters.

So, why this discrepancy, and is cloud really irrelevant for IT? I believe the difficulty starts with the word “cloud” itself. So, let’s go back to basics and look at the NiST cloud definition: “Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”

This definition actually covers two vastly different models:

  • Cloud as an evolution of the datacenter, where combining virtualization, automation, standardization and self-provisioning, users can get access to a series of services (formally known as applications) that are loosely coupled together through common data environments. Very often this results in the implementation of (hosted) private clouds.
  • Cloud as a new business model, in which users consume services from a variety of (external) sources without care of the underlying infrastructure. The pay-per-use model (actually mostly a misnomer) is essentially associated with this model. This is typically where public cloud services are consumed.

So, why would IT find cloud irrelevant?

The first model is definitely relevant for IT professionals, but many will tell you they are on the way (translate this to they do virtualization mainly) and just see this as an evolution of what they have been doing for the last several years. So, they do not think of this work as moving to cloud.

The second one scares them. Not only because it could cost them their job all together (why do you still need an IT department?), but also because it makes management, security and compliance complex to operate. So many are in denial mode. They forget however that increasingly IT literate business users bypass IT all together and consume such services from external sources. It’s interesting to see the astonishment of many IT professionals when talking about “Shadow IT.”

Most IT departments of larger enterprises are trying out cloud computing, either by experimenting with public cloud services such as Amazon Web Services, Google Apps, Microsoft Azure, or by implementing a small private cloud focused on the provision of development and test environments to the application developers in IT.  They are looking at gaining a clear understanding of what the implications are of migrating to a cloud model (seen for most as the first one). Some, under intense cost pressure from the business, have migrated e-mail and a couple other commoditized services to the cloud, often not realizing the implications (compliance, legal and others) of doing this.

However, in my experience, only a couple larger enterprises have gone further and understood the true potential of cloud to address new business needs, to provide new services to their customers and to increase responsiveness, agility and flexibility. I realize I’m throwing a lot at you here. Keep with me, over the next blog entries I will spend more time discussing each of those statements. They deserve it.

Transformation is coming

Actually, is cloud relevant to IT? Who cares? What is important is that IT is at the verge of a fundamental transformation that will affect all of us. As IT becomes increasingly relevant to the core of the business, its delivery, its management and its operations will transform drastically. Whether we call this cloud, IT-as–a-Service, Everything-as-a-Service or use any other word, it does not matter. What matters is that we need to prepare ourselves for the transformation to come.

So, I’m making a couple strong comments here, do you agree with me? Do you see this also in your business? Let’s start the dialogue.

Tell me what is going through your mind.

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