One of the things that IT organizations need to have a better understanding of is what exactly is being provided to them in the way of a cloud computing service. While everybody is now using the same cloud computing terminology, not all cloud computing services are created equal.
As part of an effort to delineate not only how cloud computing works, but also how IT works, the Leading Edge Forum group within CSC has put together a report outlining the key steps IT organizations need to take to familiarize themselves with all the forms of cloud computing.
Beyond the obvious steps of trialing some services, CSC research fellow Doug Neal says the time has come to essentially create a new compact between business and IT that fundamentally should change the way IT operates within a business. Instead of trying to be dictators over all things IT, Neal argues that IT organizations need to quickly get used to the idea of being strategic advisors to their tech-savvy business colleagues.
That may mean, for example, allowing business units to contract cloud computing services with a couple of key caveats:
Neal isn't trying to scare business people into not using cloud computing services; he just thinks they need to be very clear about what's at stake. They also need to really understand what they are buying in terms of distinguishing between a simple provider of a hosted application and a cloud computing service that may be based on multi-tenancy or single-tenancy architectures. The latter services are likely to be more expensive, for example, but they also tend to provide higher levels of security and greater degrees of customization. Those considerations are likely to prove to be important down the road, so customers need to think long and hard about what the full lifecycle of any given application is likely going to be. For instance, an application in all probability is ultimately going to need to run in a hybrid mode across public and private cloud infrastructure. They also need to think about how vibrant the development culture is around a given platform if they plan on extending a particular application later on.
Businesses also need to become better educated about what applications to put in the cloud. Neal says a good rule of thumb is that anything that does not differentiate your company in the eyes of your customer, such as e-mail, is a good candidate for the cloud. At the same time, a legacy application with lots of custom business logic may not be worth rewriting simply to move it into the cloud. In either scenario, a trusted advisor needs to walk the business through the pros and cons of cloud computing.
Whether IT likes it or not, cloud computing is changing the relationship between the business and IT. Projects that once took a minimum of 90 days to complete can now be done in 90 minutes. IT managers need to get used to the idea of responding to changing business requirements in the same kind of time frames. All of that, notes Neal, serves to make IT a whole lot more exciting place to be if an IT manager can makes those mental adjustments. At the same time, cloud computing also makes IT a whole lot riskier place to be if they can't make those adjustments. The point is, says Neal, now is the time for IT people to define their relationship with the business, rather than waiting for the business to do it for them.