Whenever “Cloud Computing” is mentioned, invariably the IT conversation steers towards the topic of savings; savings in manpower, savings in infrastructure, savings in equipment maintenance, savings in support costs.
And while savings are a crucial part of the Cloud value conversation, it’s not a foregone conclusion that moving to the Cloud automatically entails a budgetary windfall. In many cases, the costs for moving to a private Cloud are a wash, at best, with traditional on-premises IT.
In fact, at my last job we ran the numbers; comparing a traditional, fixed-term lease of data center blades, servers, and backup systems to a comparable private cloud alternative, the traditional lease option was cheaper. Why? Because we derived savings past the term of our fixed-term lease, once the equipment was purchased, versus having to make the monthly nut on a private cloud implementation, where the cost was always ongoing into perpetuity.
Your mileage will vary, and your results will be entirely fact dependent.
But cost comparison – alone – is entirely beside the point.
The Cloud is not simply an IT Revolution.
It is an Enterprise Revolution.
Cloud services force us to consider a tectonic shift in the way that we think about information delivery, process automation, and who should, shouldn’t, or can’t control information work.
How might we imagine our enterprises transforming, once all the energy we formerly devoted to supporting legacy systems and hardware, are instead channeled into core mission competencies, with the adoption of a Cloud services mindset?
- Colleges and universities can focus on outboard and evergreen services, that support and extend the pedagogical mission – at lower costs to students – rather than try to find expensive, on-premise employee talent, in bucolic out-of-the-way hamlets where small liberal arts schools tend to find themselves.
- More people in the enterprise can be knowledge workers, rather than just a small handful of people who formerly controlled access to “knowledge” and “expertise.”
- Ready technology solutions to real-time enterprise problems can be acquired directly by subject matter experts in the enterprise, rather than waiting to “train up” IT people to learn “the business problem”, or dictate an “approved” solution.
- Enterprise solutions can be addressed in near real time, with ready-to-implement services, rather than languishing on the whims of arbitrary backlogs of work, sitting in your development team’s inbox.
These shifts in perception of how our jobs get done aren’t without cost or friction.
Cloud spending and services decision making needs to be communicated transparently across an enterprise, so that everyone understands what decisions are driving each service solution and implementation. If this doesn’t happen, duplication of services and re-invention of the wheel are inevitable.
The benefits of this change of thought will be unmistakable. Rather than having a priesthood of technology gatekeepers, one will instead have a workforce of enabled information workers, completely aligned with an institution’s core mission. IT workers won’t have to be trained in how a business works, before solutions are explored, and then implemented; the business’ existing subject matter experts will be empowered to discover and implement best-of-breed business solutions themselves, based upon market need, timeliness, and ability to execute – and not have solutions simply driven by the tastes, dictates, or skillsets of in-house technical staff.
This brave new world is decidedly scary, and is creating conflict, even today, between chief marketing officers and chief information officers the world over.
The brave new Cloud world is already the one in which we live in. How and when we start acknowledging that we’re living in it, will largely dictate who will ultimately inherit the spoils.
Viva la revolución!