Hitching your IT wagon to the cloud carries organization and personnel implications. This means the deployment of a cloud-based environment requires doing new things that are bound to cause initial discomfort.
This is certainly the case if you are one of those organizations with a sprawling IT department operating in separate silos. In such scenarios, different teams own different components of your IT environment, and they don’t necessarily work together to meet common goals.
Teams could be separated by function, so you might have some folks working on security and business continuity, while another group handles network infrastructure, and yet another handles databases and related applications. Even worse, you could have separate teams performing the same functions but in different locations with different equipment and application versions.
Employees organized by function or location don’t necessarily report to the same managers, so you end up with organization issues not only in the IT infrastructure itself but also the people who run it.
Things can get pretty messy in corporate IT. Often poor growth planning and mergers are the principal causes. Systems that should be communicating operate independently while policies and processes vary from one location to another.
You could have separate teams performing the same functions but in different locations with different equipment and application versions.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out this kind of hodgepodge setup is an efficiency killer that potentially exposes an organization to security risks and data loss.
But try to fix it, and you may actually hit some roadblocks. Especially if you mention the cloud.
This is where you run into personnel issues, with people trying to protect their jobs. It’s a natural reaction but left unchecked, it is detrimental to day-to-day operations and future strategic planning. A poorly designed IT infrastructure managed through separate IT fiefdoms will surely encumber any organization’s growth.
So any plan to move IT assets to the cloud has to cover the question of how to get IT personnel buy-in. A downsizing in personnel may be in order, but not necessarily so. That of course depends on how much of the technology you keep in house, in a private or hybrid cloud environment, and the level of service you get from your cloud providers.
For some companies, there is an opportunity to shift the focus of the IT staff away from day-to-day functions to strategy. And that, when you think about it, is one of the benefits of the cloud – refining your strategic focus.
Technology is supposed to make your life better. It makes you more efficient and productive, and allows you to do things your way.
That’s the theory, anyway. And for a long time, before the advent of cloud computing, IT companies didn’t always deliver on that promise. At times, they didn’t even come close.
Operating systems often were clunky and just short of intuitive, desktops were poorly organized and the technology didn’t always work as promised. While PCs were still the new thing, tech companies could get away with this because, well, users didn’t know any better.
But that’s in the past. With stability achieved for the most part, IT companies have to work a little harder to deliver new improvements.
As such, cloud computing is proving a gift from the heavens for the IT user. Once you’re in the cloud, dropping technology that stinks is as easy as getting it in the first place. You don’t have to be stuck with a faulty piece of equipment or temperamental application because you paid for it upfront.
This forces IT companies to innovate.
Once you’re in the cloud, dropping technology that stinks is as easy as getting it in the first place.
Take, for instance, OS33, a vendor making a name for itself with a fresh approach to desktop computing. OS33 offers a cloud-based customizable IT platform that essentially lets you replace your desktop with a “webtop.”
The platform spares you the intricacies of integrating technology from multiple vendors and the physical infrastructure that has been the bane of many an IT administrator. OS33 takes pretty much everything you use, from servers to operating systems to security and storage, and turns it into a hosted cloud platform.
Assuming you have a stable Internet connection, this is an ideal approach for a user or business that doesn’t want to waste time figuring out which IT piece does what and how, as long as it just works.
From a user standpoint, the most powerful thing OS33 does is to allow you to organize applications, documents, email and Web links however you want. Your webtop becomes a true reflection of how you do your work. You can add tabs and panels at will that take you to the computing resources you use. So instead of cluttering your desktop with a hodgepodge of icons and links, you can set up your webtop neatly.
Beyond that, OS33 is working with its service partners to deliver cloud services that take complexity out of IT administration. Among those services is Cloud Drive, which allows the company’s service partners to unify storage capabilities from Amazon and Microsoft into a single solution.
Along with OS33, a host of cloud service vendors is out there coming up with innovations that will forever change how you use technology. And most importantly, you don’t have to stick with an application or solution if it doesn’t fit your needs because, in the cloud, you have the power.
As business decision makers review cloud offerings to determine what fits into their IT environments and strategic plans, they should pay particular attention to what a cloud platform allows them to do.
Some of you may be familiar with Amazon’s cloud-based storage service, Google Apps or Salesforce.com’s web-based CRM application, but what if you wanted to start moving significant portions of your infrastructure, if not all of it, to the cloud? You’ll want to make sure you do it with an eye to anticipating future needs.
Most, if not all, vendors tout scalability as a key feature of their cloud-based offerings, but typically that applies only to a specific product. So if you want to add nodes later on, you’ll be able to do that, which is of course desirable but not necessarily the answer to all your needs.
Some companies offer platforms with plenty of room for expansion but you’ll have to stick with their products as you add resources.
If you are actually looking to deploy a platform on which to build a cloud infrastructure, be mindful of the freedom the platform you choose gives you to add technology as you go along. Some companies offer platforms with plenty of room for expansion but you’ll have to stick with their products as you add resources.
Other companies take a more open approach, giving you the platform and then letting you build on top of it by pulling technology from different vendors. Such vendors include Cloupia, whose Open Automation for Clouds technology allows users to automatically add resources from multiple infrastructure and cloud vendors to satisfy their datacenter needs.
The technology, Cloupia said in a recent statement, allows “users to take control of systems and applications with a minimum of engineering effort and without vendor lock-in.” IT administrators can use the platform to customize and automate tasks, while IT staffs have the ability to “build and execute repeatable physical and virtual infrastructure provisioning workflows without complex custom scripts and expensive system integration engagements.”
Companies looking to build on an open cloud environment might also consider OpenStack. Self-christened as “the open source cloud operating system,” OpenStack is a collaboration of developers who want to create freely available code and establish standards for cloud services consumption. For those of you familiar with Linux, this approach should ring a bell.
OpenStack is getting collaboration from some big names, including NASA, Dell, Citrix and Intel. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on this collaboration because, if successful, it could have a significant impact on defining what “cloud” means.
I mention Cloupia and OpenStack not to steer you in the direction of these brands, but rather to alert you to the choices out there. You may find that a vendor with an all-in-one package may be just right for your needs, but before you make that decision, it won’t hurt to explore the possibilities.
Remember, there are plenty of clouds in this expanding sky.