By Jon Walsh
Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a Cloud Computing Redbooks Residency at IBM in Raleigh, North Carolina, in the office with the longest corridors I have ever seen. IBMers in Raleigh must be the fittest on the planet because it is a mile walk for a coffee.
As part of the experience we were invited to contribute to the IBM cloud blog, Thoughts on Cloud. My interest in cloud has been forming over the past three years. I am not technical but I have an interest in cloud as a concept and I have long thought that infrastructure for the enterprise is too complex and could be simplified, from a delivery perspective, to help realize benefits much more quickly.
When I discuss cloud with clients, certain questions arise. One of the main questions is; why would a large organization with a fully functioning IT infrastructure, that delivers services, and enables that business to compete in its chosen sector choose to introduce a disruptive technology like cloud?
I approach this question from a business perspective and to do this I put myself in the shoes of a Finance Director in a large business in UK, let’s call it GlobalCompany A. So as a Finance Director responsible for controlling spend and IT budgets across multiple lines of business, I hear about a major project in IT. They are looking to turn the UK data center into a “cloud” to leverage the flexibility this offers and give the business more agility in the marketplace. To be frank, first impressions of the project are that it sounds very expensive and a bit “woolly.”
So stepping out of character for a moment; the immediate reaction from IT departments in this type of scenario is to run everything themselves. The traditional IT department spends up to 75 percent of time and resources just keeping the lights on and fans turning in the data center. When this has always been your modus operandi the obvious path to take is to build and run the cloud “in-house.”
In my view, this way is presently the biggest barrier to wide scale cloud usage. The embattled IT managers and departments will no doubt be ready for a fight to keep as much of the infrastructure as possible under their control; they have been doing this for years and will take on all comers, as the battle to move to externally provided services intensifies.
The roll of IT professionals and service providers is to take up the challenge of educating the clients in that the true value is to take the best-of-breed services, delivered from the provider or platform that offers the biggest return on investment.
Cloud services for me are about several questions such as: will it improve what we do today, will we get a better service, will we become more agile as a business, will we be able to compete better in our chosen market and can we turn this project into real profits for our business and share holders. A reason for any of these questions could be a good place to begin the switch to cloud services; but, switching because it’s new or because it will preserve the data center to me are not good enough reasons. I believe IT professionals should be making moves to understand how cloud-based services can improve the performance of the business and try to move away from the “my data center is bigger than yours” mentality that I have witnessed in the past.
Meanwhile back in the office of GlobalCompany A , the team is starting to formulate ideas around the infrastructure, and IT has come up with a business plan and a strategy for moving to more cloud-based services for the future. Having looked at the current processes and operations, the CIO has worked out that on average the time from concept to deployment for a new application is 11 weeks. This generally involves many departments, including the CFO’s team, and often ends up in an application and hardware being deployed and managed in the data center for a single line of business. The CIO has always known this was wasteful but because the department bought the hardware and software, which was generally over capacity for the job, it needed to be deployed and managed in the data center.
Having done some calculations and taking view of the entire IT infrastructure, GlobalCompany A has come to the conclusion that by deploying a private cloud and taking some cloud-based services from best-of-breed external providers, the company can in fact take the time to deploy applications from 11 weeks to several days. Old inefficiencies can be taken out of the data center because the new cloud rapid-deployment architecture can be charged to departments by the hour with lines of business paying for the services they use rather than buying large chunks of infrastructure that are neither necessary nor productive.
The market today recognizes that by deploying cloud-based services, organizations are able to save up to 40 percent on traditional infrastructure deployment costs and up to 50 percent on operating costs. Organizations gain all of this savings while at the same time enabling their people to focus more on IT tasks that drive business improvements such as competitiveness, time to market and agility — all important things in today’s globally competitive markets.
It is my belief that the future will see more and more applications built specifically to be delivered from the cloud, with large parts of the enterprise infrastructure also being delivered from publically available clouds. This fundamentally changes the role of the traditional IT department into that of an integrator of technology and center of excellence for applications. I also believe this role pushes IT up the value chain within an organization and means that the CIOs of the world will have a larger stake in the future direction of business as a whole.
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