To say cloud computing is a big trend today is an understatement. There’s not a company I talk to, small or large, that doesn’t have cloud on the mind. While much of the focus on cloud has been on lowering the cost of computing, some organizations I have interviewed recently have been focusing on understanding what cloud enables that traditional computing does not.
This is similar to the transition that enterprises went through when computing shifted from mainframes to client server applications. One of the first mainstream PC applications was a 3270 emulator, which made it much cheaper to deliver “green screens” to more users. However, over time client server allowed IT to deliver new applications to branch offices and other locations where mainframe connections couldn’t reach. All of a sudden, if you hadn’t moved to client server, your company was falling behind competitively.
This is where cloud sits today. The industry has focused on cost but leading organizations are finding ways to leverage the cloud to bring new functionality to the company, primarily around the areas of supporting mobility and “bring your own device” policies. While conventional wisdom today suggests that moving to cloud is risky, within a year or so, not moving to the cloud will be where the risk is, so the game is now afoot.
One of the biggest inhibitors I still see is that IT operations aren’t really optimized for cloud. Legacy IT departments are highly engrained in siloes, with storage, network and server operations all having their own, independent operations teams that go about doing their own thing with little thought about how it impacts the other groups. Historically, this has been OK because the infrastructure also lived in isolation. Sure, things popped up from time to time that required coordination, but IT could live with these siloes and make it work.
Cloud, on the other hand, requires much tighter integration of IT infrastructure. Virtual machine moves need to trigger network policy changes and storage movement. Cloud brings a certain level of agility and fluidity to IT that enables resources to migrate from one location to the other based on business need. However, the movement of IT resources must be a coordinated task driving the need for IT operations to not just be aligned but to be truly integrated.
I’ve interviewed a few companies that have done this well by rolling up IT operations under one owner or bringing in an overlay IT group to run the cloud while legacy IT does the old stuff. For those of you who find yourselves in the legacy IT camp, do what you can to start the educational process, as you don’t want to find yourself on the outside looking in on this current trend.
I do think the tools used to support IT need to evolve as well. Even those in organizations that have leveraged cloud successfully have told me that good cloud tools are still non-existent. Sure, there are some vendor-specific offerings, but there isn’t something like a vendor-neutral tool that allows single-click provisioning across storage, network and servers. The monitoring of cloud has improved some with many of the flow-based analytic tools now able to see across physical, virtual and cloud infrastructure, giving end-to-end visibility. But provisioning and ongoing operational support tools are areas that still need to evolve.
The time for cloud is now, but success depends on IT operations evolving to support the new computing paradigm.
Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice. Kerravala provides research and advice to the following constituents: End user IT and network managers, vendors of IT hardware, software and services and the financial community looking to invest in the companies that he covers.
Kerravala does research through a mix of end user and channel interviews, surveys of IT buyers, investor interviews as well as briefings from the IT vendor community. This gives Kerravala a 360 degree view of the technologies he covers from buyers of technology, investors, resellers and manufacturers.
Kerravala uses the traditional on line and email distribution channel for the research but heavily augments opinion and insight through social media including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Blogs. Kerravala is also heavily quoted in business press and the technology press and is a regular speaker at events such as Interop and Enterprise Connect.
Prior to ZK Research, Zeus Kerravala spent 10 years as an analyst at Yankee Group. He joined Yankee Group in March of 2001 as a Director and left Yankee Group as a Senior Vice President and Distinguished Research Fellow, the firms most senior research analyst. Before Yankee Group, Kerravala had a number of technical roles including a senior technical position at Greenwich Technology Partners (GTP) where he worked with Johna Til Johnson, the founder of Nemertes Research. Prior to GTP, Kerravala had numerous internal IT positions including VP of IT and Deputy CIO of Ferris, Baker Watts and Senior Project Manager at Alex. Brown and Sons, Incorporated.
Kerravala holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.