There aren’t many who would openly argue against it playing a future role in IT. Solarwinds has even conducted a survey which shows that 92% of IT professionals believe the adoption of this technology will be important to the long-term success of their business.
The research found that key reasons for this view include reduced cost of infrastructure, increased flexibility and agility and the freedom it provides for IT personnel to concentrate on strategic projects. So in theory, IT managers should see cloud computing in a positive light.
But in truth not everything is rosy in the garden. Gartner analyst Tom Bittman recently produced a blog looking at why some cloud projects are failing. Reasons included ‘IT protecting its turf’ and a ‘failure to get internal support’. Bittman added: “Your staff can be your biggest supporters, or your biggest roadblocks. Google the possible etymology of the word ‘sabotage’.”
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The contrast in attitudes doesn’t surprise me one bit. I’ve observed far too much conventional wisdom that IT is being ‘lost to the cloud’. And there is a danger that if cloud projects are managed in the wrong way, people will feel that they have less to do and that their jobs are at risk.
In truth, it is the opposite. As the cloud makes sophisticated solutions more accessible to business, IT managers are likely to have their work cut out.
Opportunities are being created
Currently, an IT manager may spend just 10% of their day managing hardware, nursing stacks of equipment. But the vast majority of their time actually involves managing software – and that work is still going to be there in abundance.
If you look at software-as-a-service (SaaS), the big players are producing productivity boosting solutions that would be too complex to deploy on-premise but they are in reach via the cloud. As companies demand this technology, they will need IT managers to act as the administrator.
CIOs need to explain that this type of deployment does not take anything away from anyone; it is actually providing us all with more tools. This development is providing an opportunity for IT managers to branch out and be of greater value to the business.
A recent study by EMC and VMware revealed that 88% of businesses feel that they currently lack the skills necessary when it comes to cloud technology. This is clearly an area where jobs will be created and the most likely people to fill those positions are today’s IT managers.
The evolution of the cloud
As cloud computing evolves we are likely to see the role of the IT manager develop in two different directions, depending on the size of the organisation.
Large companies will have more budget and this will allow them to take bits of their IT workload and see what can go into the cloud. Research by JP Morgan has found that enterprise-size organisations will almost triple the proportion of their workloads being moved to public cloud services over the next five years.
The report says: “A near- tripling of the public cloud-based workload mix represents a monumental architectural shift, which shows no signs of abating and is likely to create a major ripple effect across the entire technology landscape.”
As these workloads move to the cloud, large businesses will most likely look at a model that focuses on servers. When you look at the client server model, prevalent within organisations for 30-40 years, it did begin to change 10-15 years ago with virtualisation resulting in consolidation. But all that did was to reduce the size of the footprint, while the model remained the same for IT managers. The cloud is changing this, however, as mainframes are now being created using a cluster of servers in the cloud.
By allowing the cloud to take care of the operating system, IT managers will be able to focus on company platforms and applications. This new approach is closely aligned with the concept of DevOps, as it is blending the administrative and the development side.
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A different path for SMBs
For small to medium sized businesses, however, it is a different world. We are seeing the ‘engineer’ style of role – where the IT manager is concerned with keeping the lights on – move towards more of a ‘consulting’ position.
When companies are looking to deploy productivity solutions, such Microsoft’s Skype for Business or Office 365, these types of IT managers will find they have their hands full. They will need to help organisations extract maximum value from these tools, especially as new versions are released.
There may be less installation work to do but there will be more administration as companies deploy more tools. Companies will also need to identify what new software can be rolled out: what is available and what could create a real business benefit?
These tasks will need to fall to someone who will also be responsible for ensuring there is buy-in at the highest level, and that there is the appropriate level of investment. And there is a need to manage all the relevant third parties too.
If IT managers don’t step up and take on these roles then they run the risk of allowing a younger generation – for whom cloud computing will be second nature – to come along and fill these positions.
Cloud computing is the new game in town and it will become the norm. It will ensure that there is be plenty of work available but if IT managers stand still and refuse to evolve they could well become obsolete. The time has come to adapt or die.