Commoditization – the next logical step for IT
Business-IT Alignment has long been recognized as the key for effective use of IT and we have gone through various stages – Standardization, Rationalization, COTS, ERP and SOA – to achieve this and it still remains elusive.
Cloud computing is the next panacea looked upon by all Enterprises. The success of cloud in SMB has been very encouraging and it would be indeed a mistake for Enterprises not to look at this option to achieve their objectives. Pay as you use (that allows effective use of resources in a cost sensitive fashion) and the seemingly unlimited availability of resources (allowing unlimited scalability and ability to handle unexpected spikes) are the benefits that cloud has to offer.
In addition to the public cloud (shared with others), there are options like Virtual Private cloud and even having a cloud within the enterprise, the real benefits of Cloud is achievable only when IT can be treated like any other utility – Electricity or Water. Though it will take years for IT to reach that level of maturity to be strictly treated as “commodity”, from enterprise perspective IT can now itself be treated as commodity by shifting the responsibility of development, operations and maintenance to a third party and retaining only the capabilities and SLA definition and adopt effective vendor management.
When Enterprises start considering Cloud as an option, it is advisable that they look at Commoditization of IT also. Rather than trying to offload the current IT setup into a cloud only for infrastructure usage (which has limited advantage) and the other extreme of trying to change the business process to fit the vendor provide services (which could be difficult and painful), a well thought-out process of commoditization of IT would be useful in the long run. In addition to help exploiting cloud and even providing certain level of protection again “vendor lock-in”, this could lead the way for the elusive Business IT alignment.
In today’s dynamic environment, boundless Agility and infinitesimal Time to Market are vast becoming essentials. Commoditization of IT, the next logical step for IT, is required to ensure that IT doesn’t become a drag on the Enterprise but rather the one that enables enterprises soar to new heights.
Commoditization need not be looked upon as a bad word by the IT personnel either – as it would essentially bring new opportunities and new challenges, as it would free up the resources for better and more important work (rather than handling the less important but urgent work). In a way, the impact would be similar when Assembler no longer was the programming language of choice, when Database started coming up with autonomic (self-healing) capabilities. As in these cases, the change would mean that the IT personnel would be relieved from purely technical, repetitive jobs and need to focus on better aspects of making IT align with business drivers. In reality, Application development has undergone a sea change in the past decade - and today most applications are created by assembling parts and even released as Beta and continually changed to meet business needs.
In various surveys on IT conducted with CIOs, it is invariably the majority view that the significance of IT and the IT headcount would grow rather than diminish. Typical comments include “business-centric IT would remain in-house”, “IT that directly impacts competitive advantage, cost savings, and process optimization will grow”, “internal IT focus and cost would shift from servers, storage to network and security”, “while numbers of traditional application developers and operations personnel may reduce, the need for Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) would rise”.
Also the expectation from IT personnel is moving towards strategic aspects like revenue generation, enabling business to deploy technology that brings it competitive advantage, manage vendors ensuring SLAs on key applications and services, ensuring legal compliance across the globe, improving globalization and time-to-market.
When an enterprise looks toward adopting cloud, the tendency would be to arrive at a cloud strategy. But that could be short-sighted and trying to fit adoption of cloud based on what is offered by vendors today. Instead arriving at Enterprise level Architecture Strategy with “Exploiting Cloud today and in the future” as a key driver would be a better approach.
Enterprise Architecture’s key driver had always been Business-IT Alignment and irrespective of the level of maturity of EA in an enterprise, the Architects have been the bridge between the Business and the IT departments. With the ability of understand both these perspectives, and with the broad picture thus achieved, Enterprise Architects are best suited to bring in the next evolution of IT – namely the Commoditization, and exploiting the new wave of cloud computing, virtual appliances etc. The Standard EA approach of fixing up the target state, identifying potential candidates and establishing a well thought-out roadmap taking into considerations the current trends across industry adapts itself to this purpose.