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The Cloud: Changing How IT Delivers Services
It's end-user control or chaos
by Mark Shavlik, President & CEO, Shavlik Technologies
Need a pair of shoes? Or an airline ticket? Or a book? Or 100 servers? No problem. Go online to instantaneously (nearly) fulfill your needs. Instant gratification may be the single greatest driver in the revolution fuelled by virtualization and delivering software and services from the Cloud. Today, more and more vendors like ourselves are launching new services and feeding this desire. Businesses are only beginning to understand the impact.
Some obvious advantages are driving Cloud-based development -- eliminating the expense and endless cycle of procurement and upgrading a long list of IT solutions, and the never-ending fight for priority with IT to move an innovation forward. The Cloud provides a world in which the end-users have complete control over their client-server and Web-based computing solutions -- allowing them to choose what they use, where they use it and where they get solutions from. The Cloud is the culmination of a 25-year end-user computing revolution that began with the introduction of the PC. Each phase of this revolution has created terrific efficiency gains and cost reductions for businesses in rapid fashion, moving from the mainframe to the PC, from the PC to client/server, to the Web and now to the Cloud.
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As these services develop, people aren't just accessing functionality or resources, they are discovering others looking for the same kinds of things, comparing notes on how to leverage tools and programs, and collaborating on how to improve the functionality within their services. In short, IT services are developing a user-driven social networking side to them. The carefully thought-out IT strategy and procurement plan is increasingly becoming obsolete, long before companies can roll it out -- as the many-year battle between the end-user and IT comes to a close.
Because virtualization enables Cloud computing, users can simply select the type of IT service they want without scoping hardware and maintenance needs, and they can focus on solving the business problem. For example, human resources (HR) can bypass internal IT involvement and own the entire process as it rolls out employee review software.
Does this mean the IT department is becoming obsolete? Not necessarily. IT should immediately look at providing its services in a more Cloud-like fashion, however. With virtualization, IT can provision machines and applications more quickly and migrate services to match the ebb and flow of user requirements and bandwidth capacity. The IT department is ideally placed in the business to understand these workloads and workflows, and can translate end-user "need" into a delivery architecture that offers more immediacy and control for their internal and external customers. The results are smarter use of existing infrastructure and solutions for scaling the delivery of functionality that can be viable and, for particular situations, a more desirable alternative to the proliferating external offerings. IT, therefore, has the opportunity to lead and control the inevitable migration to Cloud-like delivery by:
- Evaluating the Cloud and determining where it can be part of your business strategy.
- Assessing private Cloud vs. service provision and hybrid delivery options.
- Setting and communicating policies and processes for current service procurement.
- Defining acceptable terms of service for security and data handling, and considering migration in and out of service providers systems.
- Evaluating Cloud providers -- Are they sound financially? Do they have sufficient infrastructure to support your business? What are their security credentials?
- Monitoring service level agreements (SLAs) -- for performance, secure delivery, reliability.
- Ensuring the backup strategy and provision -- Who gets the call when an outage occurs? What happens if you have to bring services or applications back in house?
Without IT, the inevitable migration to Cloud-based computing will be chaotic without parameters, and it will cost businesses the advantage they look to gain. The first step for IT begins with diagnostics, understanding the following:
- Your virtual and physical assets.
- What users are doing.
- Which software runs on every image, whether offline or online.
- The current compliance with policy, configuration and security baselines.
- The capacity and usage rates of the underlying host, and much more.
With virtualization, many imperatives in asset management are changing, and the most current tools to assess this kind of information are fast becoming available from the Cloud. Users who previously required licenses from disparate on-premise products are now able to pick and choose and combine functionality that best suits them. And as mentioned already, they can join and learn from a community of other IT professionals who face the same challenges.
Shavlik Technologies recently launched IT.Shavlik.com to not only give IT administrators a new option for accessing our management and security tools, but also to help customers leverage the collective intellect of our customer community, so they can make faster decisions with better information. The site allows us, the vendor, to highly fine-tune the functionality most in demand.
Cloud computing brings to IT what the Internet marketplace has done for consumerism. You can print your boarding pass, choose your seat and even check in for a flight online, without help from anyone. Similarly, the end-user community is tired of waiting for IT to provision a new server or application, and is developing a taste for this kind of immediacy and control. IT departments may not be thrilled with the idea of putting more control in the hands of their end-users, but they will have to embrace it or face chaos -- and possibly a revolt.