When it comes to cloud computing, the issue is not so much the technology, but rather the readiness of the IT organization. Most IT organizations in larger enterprises are still pretty much split between server, networking and storage domains that rarely move in lockstep with one another. Cloud computing essentially consolidates those functions in a way that automates much of the management of those functions. That increased level of automation, however, can be problematic in organizations where IT professionals are highly specialized. If an IT professional, for example, is an expert on enterprise networking, the shift to cloud computing is going to require that person to learn more about the management of storage and servers.
Unless those people get that additional level of training, new cloud computing systems that organizations are currently pilot testing will essentially become just another stack of infrastructure that needs to be managed alongside legacy equipment. If that winds up being the case, the IT organizations wind up being less agile, which basically defeats the purpose of investing in cloud computing in the first place.
Unfortunately, IT organizations in this economic climate are notoriously reluctant to invest in IT training. If anything, they often expect vendors to train their people for free in return for upgrading to the new systems. Vendors, of course, resist that additional cost. But in a buyers’ market, most vendors will take the long view on the sale and cave in on training.
That said, despite all the hype, cloud computing in the enterprise is not quite ready for prime time, particularly when it comes to networking and storage. It may be easy to provision a server, but it can still take weeks to provision networks and storage. Vendors such as Hewlett-Packard are rushing to fill that gap with a new software-defined network (SDN) offering that is based on the emerging OpenFlow standard — the latest of which is a set of switches and controllers that was added to HP’s SDN lineup this week.
According to Saar Gillai, chief technology officer for HP Networking, these are obviously challenging times when it comes to making big investments in IT infrastructure. But once networking, servers and storage are more tightly integrated across a programmable data center environment, the lower costs associated with managing those environments should offset the cost of acquiring new cloud systems.
In the meantime, IT organizations should begin reorganizing their IT staffs with a special emphasis on cross-pollinating skill sets. That may make some IT professionals a little uncomfortable. But the fact remains that there’s not much point to investing in cloud computing systems that no one really knows how to optimally manage.
It’s hard to say what needs to come first, the training or the systems. Unfortunately, like most things related to IT, it looks like most of the training is going to be of the on-the-job variety.