The enterprise must change if it is to take advantage of all the benefits that cloud and mobile technologies have to offer. This is nothing new, of course, as the enterprise has been changing to meet new challenges and opportunities since its inception.
But confronting challenges is always easier in hindsight, which leaves us non-time travelers in a quandary: What does the cloud future hold, and how can we best prepare for it?
According to the rising cadre of startups looking to capitalize on burgeoning cloud infrastructure, the biggest thing holding the enterprise back is their legacy infrastructure and the continued reliance on the old guard vendors who created it. SolidFire’s Jeremiah Dooley, for example, claims leading platform providers are trying to delay the inevitable switch to the cloud as much as possible in order to prevent others from encroaching upon their territory. This may benefit their revenue streams, but it keeps the enterprise in the slow lane when it comes to provisioning services and driving operational efficiency. The message here is simple: The cloud is not the problem; static legacy infrastructure is.
Striking the right balance between public, private and hybrid infrastructure will also be a challenge. While there are those who say that all data will shift to the public cloud, CenturyLink’s Jared Wray notes that the decision logically falls to the needs of the application. Core business functions, naturally, are best left on the private cloud due to security and risk management concerns. But the public cloud will be the first to offer the most innovative services, for the time being at least, so this is where you will likely find your social media, file sharing and other functions.
Clearly, though, enterprise infrastructure will have to keep up with the times if it hopes to remain relevant. At HP’s recent Vertica Big Data conference, a number of large enterprise honchos were on hand to describe their shifting strategies in the face of larger data loads. Philips, for example, is ditching its customized divisional environments in favor of a more integrated hybrid approach that stresses standards-based hardware and software. Blue Cross/Blue Shield is swapping out dozens of data warehouses for a single Hadoop repository that delivers higher performance at lower storage and licensing costs.
Meanwhile, end users are already gearing up to throw even more challenges at the enterprise. Many organizations just starting to deal with the BYOD phenomenon aren’t even considering how the next step in this evolutionary process, Wear Your Own Device (WYOD), will impact IT infrastructure. But as Ipswitch’s Ennio Carboni points out, these devices will affect everything from security and corporate data policies to both wired and wireless infrastructure. A key point to consider is the fact that wearables aren’t likely to replace existing mobile devices but add to them, meaning the enterprise will have to cope with an even greater array of client solutions and the data they generate.
Change, of course, is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be anticipated and prepared for. Traditionally, the enterprise has been the driver of technology that eventually winds up in the hands of consumers, but in the last decade or so we’ve seen that paradigm flipped on its head. These days, users are calling the shots, and woe to the enterprise that fails to keep pace.
This doesn’t mean the enterprise has no say in the technology that impacts its infrastructure. But it does mean that IT needs to take a good, hard look at what users want and then tailor its data environments in that direction – or risk losing control of its data assets altogether.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.