Mark Shirman, CEO of consulting and managed services firm GlassHouse Technologies Inc., says his company is looking to incorporate cloud storage into its architectural and IT management offerings. New offerings haven’t been formally rolled out yet, the CEO told me last Friday, but the firm already sees cloud computing taking hold among enough of its customers to be preparing to embrace it.
One thing GlassHouse won’t do, Shirman said, is hang out its own shingle as a cloud storage provider. “There are plenty of folks out there who do it – we’re looking to support our users’ infrastructures in the cloud,” he said. GlassHouse already has several remote monitoring tools at its disposal for administering customer environments. In the coming weeks, it will be “settling on a few favorites” among cloud storage providers to begin integrating its services with. However, Shirman said, “we’re not going to be trying to pick who’s going to win.”
But Shirman didn’t shy away from placing a bet on the cloud’s long-term future. “Because I drink so much of my own Kool-Aid, I can see companies morphing skills so that they’re running as service providers – our business is kind of predicated on that,” he said. But it will take quite a while for any kind of overwhelming trend to take shape, and it will begin with lower-tier, lower-priority data. “The enterprise level will see this happen a lot faster than the consumer,” he said.
My own jury is still out on this. I can envision IT becoming a utility, managed from centers of expertise the way utilities are now – most of us no longer shovel coal into our fireplaces, for example – electric companies burn massive amounts of coal at centralized plants and pipe the energy to our homes. A similar thing could be on the way for IT, substituting “data” for “energy.” That would seem to also mean, then, that the expertise that lives inside enterprises currently would migrate and consolidate at these service-provider data centers–so an IT pro would become more like a plumber or HVAC technician, someone from a third-party specialist company who arrives on-site for occasional breakfix problems.
Similarly, though Shirman saw this as more of a long shot, I can see a Geek Squad technician becoming the 21st century’s answer to the plumber or home electrician, and the home network becoming more analogous to the plumbing in a residential home – not something the resident usually sees or manually manages. This is also the vision described to me by Rackspace’s general manager for cloud storage last week.
However, I’ve been around the storage and IT industry long enough to see a few “next big things” come and go, and I’m sure they are far from the last. Given the conservatism of the enterprise storage market, the way storage administrators prize their own deep knowledge and expertise on their systems, and the sensitivity of corporate data, it also seems reasonable to see the cloud becoming one more tool added to an otherwise traditional enterprise IT toolbox.
Any thoughts from the peanut gallery?