Friday, April 05, 2013
The stated theme of Cloud Connect may have been cloud as a platform, but the unofficial theme became the necessary transformation of the IT function. And while there were two dubious quotes from the conference on Wednesday, a quote from Thursday perfectly summed up this new theme: “Virtualization is a technology; cloud computing is a business model.” Viewing cloud computing as a technology leads to the impression that it can be bought and implemented into an existing business flow. Adopting the trend as a business model implies more significant change.
The discussion around IT transformation has been taking place for a while, but the intensity of the discussion this week would indicate that many companies aren’t taking steps in the right direction yet. The prevailing opinion is that the IT function needs to enable self-service provisioning, which many equate to building a private cloud. This isn’t necessarily the only conclusion though – a true services model would completely abstract the details from the end-user, so IT could run any type of hybrid solution behind the user interface.
If IT groups haven’t been taking the right steps up to this point, the challenge is only growing. This was apparent in Thursday’s software-defined network (SDN) session. The notion of SDN is maturing along with or slightly behind the overall cloud market. So users that may be familiar enough with virtual machines to spin up their own systems are still not likely to understand the intricacies of provisioning a virtual network. With the right technical skills, these details can be presented to the end-user in a simple fashion.
Just as cloud computing is a discipline requiring a mix of technical and business skills, the transformation of IT will touch both of these areas as well. In a session on managing mobile data at Cloud Connect, systems were described on a continuum between secure and compliant and convenient. Some IT departments are aiming to be extremely convenient, but planning for every contingency in this scenario is prohibitive. Instead, the aim should be somewhere in the middle, ensuring that the average employee who is trying to abide by company policy will not be overly frustrated. For rogue employees who demand the most convenience, enforceable policies must be in place, which requires an understanding between IT and every line of business.
The transformation of IT will not necessarily be one-size-fits-all. The most drastic change, which tends to grab the majority of the spotlight, will be among large enterprises that have already maximized currently available IT systems for efficiency and productivity. For small- to medium-sized businesses, cloud computing offers a chance to reach this optimal level of operation. Change will still be necessary, but there will be more opportunity to modify existing models rather than build something completely new. Regardless, this modification will still require a new way of thinking, and it will be important to remember that it is only a matter of time before the new model will be necessary to stay competitive.