IT after the Flood

Cloud computing darkens the sky. Rain shall fail. A flood shall rage. And IT as we know it shall be wiped from the earth.

No, I don’t see that happening. Despite the apparent fears of many in IT, I don’t see cloud computing—even the end-game of cloud computing—eliminating corporate IT departments or even rendering them unrecognizable. Perhaps I lack imagination. Perhaps I’ve spent my entire career working in or for IT and cannot see beyond the box. (Maybe, I’d have laughed at Noah.)

But as I see it, the cloud does not change the objectives of IT: innovation, reliability, and cost control.

  • Innovation means making the most of technology to drive business results. It demands knowledge of the business. And it demands knowledge of technology, whether in a corporate data center or in the cloud. And that technology, even after it moves to the cloud (perhaps more so after it moves to the cloud), will continue to evolve. Somebody needs to follow that change and educate the business on its potential impact.
  • Reliability means keeping the lights on, making it all work, meeting the SLAs, and keeping it all secure. Users will still demand reliability in a cloud world.
  • Cost control means doing all this at the lowest cost, an imperative that just never goes out of fashion.

The roles through which IT achieves these objectives shall evolve but not disappear.

  • Infrastructure/Operations. These jobs around networking, storage, and server administration will change the most. And it’s likely that IT departments will need fewer of these folks. (Indeed, these jobs may have declined anyway due to virtualization, better management tools, and data center standardization.) Operations stall go from maintaining on-premise infrastructure to monitoring cloud vendors to assure that SLAs are met. Somebody will need to keep the cloud honest.
  • Security. Again, this role shall transform but not go away. Security experts within IT will be needed to formulate the organization’s security requirements, assure that SLAs meet those requirements, and confirm that cloud vendors live up to the security clauses of SLAs.
  • Development. The role and need for developers will change the least, just the platform to which developers deploy.  While SaaS shall take over the role of packaged applications, organizations will still need in-house programming to customize SaaS applications and to build applications on PaaS that meet the unique requirements of the business.
  • Support. Organizations may hand over more support functions to cloud vendors, but I suspect many will keep support in-house. Businesses will operate using unique combinations of custom applications in the cloud and customized SaaS applications, the support of which would be best provided by somebody familiar with the business and its unique set of cloud applications. And the same could be said of IT training.
  • Business Analysis. This function shall become ever more important as the cloud quickens the pace of innovation. Business analysts will map the needs of the business to the capabilities of the cloud.

IT departments will need to improve on certain skills for success in the cloud. Managing vendors through negotiations, contracts, and lock-in avoidance will become ever more important. Keeping up with the business and its strategy will become as important as knowing the technology. But the best of IT departments have always prized these skills.

So that’s my prediction. Don’t bet any money on it. And let me know what I’m missing.

Other Resources

Steve Cassidy thinks it’s about time IT departments had the ‘cloud talk’
http://www.itpro.co.uk/627706/cloud-computing-and-the-it-department

IT’s cloud resistance is starting to annoy businesses
http://www.infoworld.com/d/cloud-computing/its-cloud-resistance-starting-annoy-businesses-383?page=0,1&source=IFWNLE_nlt_standard_2011-04-22

The end of the IT department – is it in the cloud?
http://www.computerweekly.com/Articles/2008/07/28/230894/The-end-of-the-IT-department-160is-it-in-the-cloud.htm

Cloud computing brings IT and business closer
http://www.cbronline.com/news/cloud_computing_brings_it_and_business_closer_281009

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I’m a solution engineer for Shape Security, an awesome web security startup in Mountain View that defends some of the worlds largest web sites from bot attacks. I see this blog as a learning tool. It gives me a chance to collect my thoughts on topics of interest and to share with others. If you see a mistake or think I’m on the wrong track, please let me know. I appreciate comments. See my LinkedIn profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/jamesdowney and follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/james_downey.

Posted in Cloud Computing

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