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Just a Thought; Will the Blinders on IT Enable Public Clouds?

by Dave Cappuccio  |  June 30, 2009  |  Comments Off on Just a Thought; Will the Blinders on IT Enable Public Clouds?

I’m thinking that, especially in IT, history has a habit of repeating itself. A friend and I were talking about the drivers and catalysts in IT the other day and the topic of Public Clouds came up.  He was convinced that the catalyst for the success of public cloud was going to be enterprise class (or even global class) service levels and that until they were realized by Cloud providers most companies would only dabble in public cloud services, and then only for non-strategic commodity type services (backup, archiving, email, etc).

The more I thought about it the more I began to realize that he was analyzing things as if logic and common sense had anything to do with the success of a market.  Yes, willing customers help drive a market, but the motivation isn’t always so obvious (anybody out there still have a Pet Rock?).   So I began thinking about the history of IT and realized that there is an interesting corollary to Public Cloud which might come into play here if we’re not careful. 

Back in the very early days of PC’s I remember a business unit coming to our IT staff and asking for approval to buy one of these new devices.  The request was quickly rejected for two, what we believed, very good reasons.  It was an expensive, non-standard device, and there was absolutely no additional business value to be gained, as all applications and IT services were already provided by the guru’s of the day – central IT (of Information Systems as we were called in the day).  What, we asked, were they going to do, play solitaire?  So this local geek (one of the first no doubt) from the business unit went away and found a way to buy a PC anyway, without our approval, and sure enough they did play solitaire – but they also found VisiCalc (or some variation) and soon built a small spreadsheet budget on it. This was a pretty radical way of using technology, and all without any controls (or delays) by central IT.   Soon another “non-essential” PC was bought and the two were quickly connected and voila, the department had a LAN, all out of the control of central IT, and the beginnings of distributed computing was launched. 

What’s interesting here is that IT knew what was going on, but chose to ignore it, because after all, these weren’t business machines, and if the user really wanted a new application they only had to request it (right?).  The catalyst for change became the perceived ease of use and freedom from IT, which quickly morphed into a rapid proliferation of machines, all out of the control of IT. 

Fast forward to today and you could easily argue that the consolidation projects over the past 10 years have been  a direct result of IT letting go of the reigns back then, so to speak.

So what does this have to do with Cloud you ask?  Two things I think.  First, the primary motivator I’m hearing from many customers is speed or ease of use.  If IT is so busy doing other projects (like consolidation, or trying to fix the power and cooling issues, or worrying about audit and compliance data) and is perceived as being less than responsive to the business units needs, these same business units will look elsewhere for answers – like to an external Cloud provider.  And the solutions need not be perfect – they just need to be good enough to solve the current problem, since we all understand that good enough is often just that – good enough.  And the other underlying reason is that in many companies today, that geek from the mid-80’s who branched away from IT with the first PC is more than likely to be a very senior person in the business, or the unit head themselves, and still has an inherent distrust of central IT, whether it’s justified or not.

If you don’t pay attention Public Cloud services may be adopted in your company, whether you’re ready or not.

Just a thought…..

Category: food-for-thought  

Tags: cloud-computing  

David J. Cappuccio
Research VP
6 years at Gartner
41 years IT industry

David J. Cappuccio is a managing vice president and chief of research for the Infrastructure teams with Gartner, responsible for research in data center futures, servers, power/cooling, green IT, enterprise management and IT operations. Read Full Bio




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