Much of the resistance to cloud computing is by operational IT staff. Some of this resistance is based on real concerns; most of it is because of the fear of loss of control. IT Pros seem to fear that the moment the physical, on site datacentre disappears that they will lose their power base and jobs.
Service rather than server
The constant message from cloud computing experts is not that jobs will be lost, but jobs will change – dramatically in some cases. The biggest change is the shift to being responsible for the availability of a service, rather than a server. The subtle distinction means that skills of operational staff need to move up the stack and away from the hardware.
IT Operations will need to understand and support more of the actual applications than just the web server and everything underneath. They will need to understand more about how the application behaves, how data is moved around various nodes, how the system handles failure scenarios and what their own role is when things go wrong. It will no longer be a case of palming of the support of the application to the vendor or application support team as there will be aspects contained within the overall cloud ecosystem that application people have no clue about.
In large enterprises it is likely that there will be many cloud computing platforms, from multi vendor private clouds to rogue applications hosted on any number of public cloud hosting platforms. Ops staff are going to have to master the nuances of how each platform behaves and understand the various APIs so that they can write their own automation scripts to perform tasks specific to the organization.
The biggest challenge will be for IT management. Without a gleaming data centre with lots of impressive blinking lights to back them up they need to find ways to pitch their value to their own (internal) customers. While cloud computing allows anyone to whip out a credit card and bypass procurement of hardware, or filling in a requisition to the corporate data centre, we know that the provisioning of solution infrastructure is more than just ordering hardware and this point needs to be communicated to business. IT Ops management need to facilitate migration to cloud computing by engaging actively with business (so that they are seen as trusted advisors) and their own staff in order to keep the business specific knowledge while migrating skills to a more service based operational model.
While IT may be familiar with contracts with outsourced IT, the difference with cloud computing contracts is that they will generally be on the vendors’ terms. A cloud computing provider may only have an architecture to support a specific level of service and no amount of large corporate huffing and puffing will change five nines to six. The way IT has to combine hybrid environments and effectively front various different agreements will become quite colourful, never mind the billing issues when the costs are passed on to the business.
IT Ops are probably the best prepared for cloud computing because they are already familiar with working with more abstract views of technical infrastructure. IT Ops spend little or no time deep in the server room any more and juggle hundreds of servers from the comfort of their desks, similar to the way that they would manage cloud based services. However, IT Ops needs to be far more proactive, particularly in dealings with large vendors, to insist that they have the tooling and operating framework to continue to deliver to the business in a cloud computing environment. After all, just because the need for specialised local hardware doesn’t exist, it does not mean that business does not need the fuller range of services offered by enterprise IT.
Disclaimer: This is not a complete list and IT Operations is where all the big cloud marketing money is
The ‘Who Should Know About Cloud Computing’ Series
This post is part of a series of posts for non technical roles, which you can follow from the links below