Thursday, February 10, 2011

2011 cloud predictions and how the cloud affects IT pros

Cloud, cloud, cloud - the lingering doom hanging over us, the IT department, but is it such a bad thing? How is the cloud going to affect us? An article by Colin Smith at TechRepublic titled How will cloud computing change the IT pro's job in 2011 and beyond? has some answers for us.

"There is no question that cloud services are gaining momentum in many sectors. One of the interesting aspects of the uptake in cloud services is the number of small organizations that are moving to cloud services. Traditionally, IT innovations have seen early adopters in large organizations where economies of scale can help justify the initial cost of a new technology. Small organizations have typically been late adopters as they wait for the players to consolidate and technologies to become mainstream. Not so with cloud services. The fastest growing segment is small business.

It makes sense since cloud services give SMBs some of the economies of scale previously unattainable. Consider how much it would cost in hardware, software, backups, and human resources for a 15-user organization to implement Exchange, SharePoint, and Office Communicator, and Live Meeting in house. I don’t think it would be a stretch to suggest that it would cost at least $10K if not more over a three year period. My lowball costs are $5k in hardware, $2k in software, $1k in backups, and $2k in services. That works out to about $275 per month.

For the same 15 users, you could use Microsoft BPOS at a cost of $10 per user per month. That’s $150 per month. Of course there are less expensive options available from other vendors, but this is a direct comparison based on a brand new installation with no sunk costs.

The dramatic cost savings is the main appeal of small organizations that want to focus on their core competencies and minimize IT budgets."

Aha, cost savings. Yes, the cloud will decrease IT related expenditures greatly. OK, how does this affect the typical IT pro? Colin says it depends on the type of organization the pro works for.

"All organizations

The cloud provides flexibility and scalability not only to organizations but also to IT pros. With the ability to connect to cloud based services from more locations and devices, IT pros will find that they can do more remote work and the “office” will be wherever (and whenever) they can get a connection.

As cloud-based services homogenize the application landscape with fewer large players providing the majority of services, this will increase the mobility of IT pros, and the ramp up time associated with a move between employers will be shortened.

While this flexibility has some advantages like reduced commuting and real estate costs, it can also mean longer work hours that are not necessarily tracked or compensated.

Organizations that help employees achieve a healthy balance between work and other activities will see lower turnover. While also true in a non-cloud environment, the increase in employee mobility should be a concern for HR departments."

What I took from this section was "...longer work hours that are not necessarily tracked or compensated." I don't mind working over my regular 40 hours a week; I've done that many times, but within the cloud the extra hours worked will be hard to track because your availability will be anytime and anyplace. You'll be available anywhere there is a connection. The cloud has benefits, but so far the disadvantages are outweighing the advantages. Let's read on.

"Small organizations

Small organizations might find that they no longer need as many (or any) full time IT pros. IT might become a part-time role for somebody with another function and a proclivity for technology."

Less IT jobs it seems. In my experience, the employee with a proclivity for technology usually makes the technical problem worse; chalk up another negative for the cloud.

Small managed service providers

"The most immediate implication is for small outsourcing and managed service providers. The value-add that they provide is eroded significantly when compared with cloud services. As larger organizations providing cloud-based solutions attract more small business customers, small IT shops will lose customers, margin, and traditional service opportunities.

This is also an opportunity for those service providers that are agile enough to transform themselves into cloud partners. What I mean by this is that there are opportunities to help small businesses take advantage of cloud services and save money either through migration services or cloud service reselling. The sales pitch is easy but the margins are low. In order to have a viable business model, volume is key. This means that small managed service providers will need to grow their customer base significantly to maintain sustainability.

So what does this mean for the IT pro at a small outsourcing shop? I would expect that there will be far less hands-on technical work and much more menial administration across many more customers. There will also be an increase in network architecture and management requirements as connectivity to the cloud will increase in importance compared to local connectivity."

Say goodbye to your local computer support/sales shop. This is another negative of the cloud. Why? Because people, usually, like choose the local computer support shop for the better price of support and for the face-to-face interaction. This isn't a strong argument against the cloud, but it is one that hits home to many individuals and businesses. Also, so far, all I've noticed as benefits of the cloud are business benefits; where are the technical benefits of the cloud?

"Large organizations will see a splintering of their IT workforce. There will be a split between those who end up building and operating the internal private cloud and those who manage their organization’s use of cloud services (both private and public).

The private cloud team will build depth in the requisite technologies (e.g. virtualization, fabric computing, grid computing, etc.) for providing internal cloud services.

The team that manages the use of cloud services will have the more orthogonal shift in job description. They will have much less focus on operations. Their technical depth will decrease while more emphasis will be placed on technical breadth."

What about security? How secure will the cloud be? I don't think security is the goal here, but I do think money is. Cheaper cost is the mirage in desert of "expensive" technology. At least networks are secure right now! In my opinion, if you plunge your network into the cloud then the story down the road will be of someone's cloud being tapped for credit card numbers, social security numbers, etc. and find out that it has been happening for years. "The cloud" will not be so sexy anymore.

I know there are benefits to the cloud, but I can't help seeing that the only benefits are sales benefits which don't really matter when the situation is the security of customer and business data. How secure will that data be in the cloud? I'm thinking not very secure. I'll need to be convinced of this before I jump on the "Hey the cloud is so freaking cool" boat.

Read the full article by clicking here.

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