Cloud Evolution Set to Change Fundamental IT Rules
When midsized businesses talk about moving to the cloud or adopting cloud services, they're typically focused on the immediate benefits such a move offers: lowered data storage costs, increased agility, and a ready-made backup solution. But what many companies don't realize is that increasingly rapid cloud evolution doesn't just pave the way for streamlined delivery of IT services; it may actually change the way IT departments work at a fundamental level.
IT budget spending distributions show the cloud's increasing clout. An article at Channelnomics discusses recent findings that one-third of enterprise level IT budgets are spent on cloud computing, and within the next year, the average enterprise IT department will see their budget increase by another 16 percent. Since enterprise businesses have always been on the front line of cloud computing, it's expected that these numbers will quickly trickle down to both midsize and small IT departments within the next few years.
It's also worth noting that big players like Microsoft and Google are taking aim at "personal clouds" by offering in-home streaming solutions for music and video and eventually things like electricity and heat control. These companies hope to blur the line between work and personal cloud computing and in turn make their version of the cloud ubiquitous. But aside from the fact that IT admins will soon need to know how to fix streaming television and movie issues for employees who expect their cloud to be accessible 24/7, the real sea-change of this cloud evolution may alter the role of IT at a basic level.
A recent blog post by Irving Wladawsky-Berger, a 37-year veteran of tech giant IBM, talks about the transition from the current technology model to that of the cloud. Wladawsky-Berger argues that cloud computing "truly represents a major transformation in the way all institutions, from the smallest to the largest, will leverage information technology." What's more, he says that the way in which IT departments are organized and run will have to change as the infrastructure underlying them shifts.
Wladawsky-Berger references a Nicholas Carr book, The Big Switch, in which Carr compares the trend toward cloud computing with the evolution of power plants in the 19th century. Before power plants and their underlying electrical grid, most businesses produced their own power, just as businesses today have their own data storage or infrastructure. When reliable, cheap electric power became readily available, companies began to switch, slowly at first, but with increasing confidence as the network proved itself. This pattern, says Carr, is duplicated with cloud computing.
The shift to an "ubiquitous" cloud, according to Wladawsky-Berger, means that IT departments must adopt a more disciplined and highly engineered model and "must embrace a more standardized, process oriented, industrialized management approach."
Although this cloud evolution isn't by any means complete, the seeds have been planted for a major change, and it's up to IT departments to not only consolidate fractured services within a business but become innovators rather than simply problem solvers in order to make the most out of emerging cloud technologies.
Transitioning to the "age of the cloud" is something Wladawsky-Berger and others believe is inevitable, and where a company will stand once that transition is complete will depend largely on how they manage, support, and adapt their IT services.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Become a fan of the program on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.