Few would disagree that the cloud computing frenzy of the last year has put more, not less, pressure on the IT organization. Much of this focus has been on the public vs. private cloud debate, but what we are really witnessing here is the dawn of a new era in IT management.
For the last 30 years or so, since the earliest days of client-server computing, IT organizations have essentially run exactly the same way, desperately trying to keep their arms around an ever-growing environment. This includes growth in quantity and complexity of equipment, growth in applications, and growth in the level of significance to the business - and hence the demands from the business.
The IT organization's (wholly justified) need to retain control essentially came down to this simple maxim 'if we let you play with it, you'll break it - and you'll likely break other people's stuff too.' In practical terms, this led to a line in the sand, where the IT organization provisioned everything, and then handed limited control to those that actually used it. By ensuring users only had access to the machines running their own applications, or access as a mere user of those applications, all was well.
And for around 20 years, this was workable. But just as things started to creak, along came virtualization, which theoretically allowed you to do more with less, dramatically adding to reliability along the way. And to some extent it did, but in reality it was just delaying the inevitable a while longer.
Fast forward to today, and many enterprises are creaking again. The level of work on the already over-stretched IT organization is becoming intolerable. Machines (physical or virtual) take too long to provision and manage. The business loses agility and gets frustrated. The promised benefits of increased hardware utilization and lower costs haven't materialized.
And just when you thought things could not get any more complex, along comes cloud computing to 'save us all.' Elastic, fantastic, pay with your plastic, it's the answer to all our prayers, right? Not quite. What about those annoying little details like security and compliance? And who is going to manage all this? You guessed it - the IT organization, because nothing's changed, the cloud is just another layer of complexity.
But there is an answer. It's called the 'Virtual Enterprise,' and it's driven not by the necessary requirements of IT, but by business policy.