Tower, tower, come in tower

It is hard to put your finger on any one thing that sums up developments in the world of IT this year, but a speaker at one of Network World's recent IT Roadmap conferences had an interesting analogy that seems apt.

It used to be, he said, that IT would design the plane, build the plane, determine where the plane needed to go and then fly it there. Today, running IT is more akin to being in the control tower coordinating all the planes, and you don't even own and operate each of the birds.

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Based on our conversations with IT practitioners, that seems about right. More than ever, IT today is about service delivery. And while the industry has talked about the need to shift the focus to services for a long time, anecdotally it seems 2011 was a turning point of sorts, driven in part by the consumerization of IT and in part by the realization that cloud is real.

When you don't own the end point, which more and more shops had to concede this year, it begins to force you to think of IT as a service. And with cloud momentum building, you might as well start down that path because it maps nicely to a future where your IT services will be from a mix of on-premise resources and others hosted in the cloud.

Mark Templeton, CEO of Citrix Systems, summed it up nicely in his keynote at Interop in May when he said the new IT is about aggregating and owning services. "We need an end-to-end model for stitching stuff together to deliver these services." It shouldn't matter if the services are delivered from your data center or a cloud provider's, or if they are consumed at a company desktop or an iPad in someone's home.

The technologies we have at our disposal to deliver those services grew increasingly rich and versatile this year, powered in the main by advances in virtualization. And the more we virtualize -- everything from servers to desktops, applications, storage and the network -- the more we have to rethink the basic tenets of the data center, which this year gave rise to lots of discussion about network and compute fabrics.

Which ultimately, of course, raises questions about how best to organize IT to optimize these increasingly intertwined disciplines, a key consideration for 2012.

It just keeps getting more interesting.

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