IT And Its New Role In The Era Of Cloud Computing

By | November 24, 2012


A few days ago I attended another event on Cloud Computing. Indeed, over the past few years, I attended countless events and meetings with clients to discuss this matter. I also participated in several proof-of-concept projects. I saw and heard much on these occasions, and I took a walk around to philosophize a bit about it.

In my opinion, cloud is not just a technological upgrade to the data centers, but a paradigm shift in how we use and provisionize computing resources in data centers. In cloud, the server is the data center. Cloud computing implies a significant change in the way we consume and sell products and services and information technology, although there have been many events and debates on the subject, disbelief still remains about their impact. So, I think that it will be a little more interesting to discuss the challenges that companies, both suppliers and consumers of technology will face.

The decisions of when to adopt cloud hosting solutions (the question “if” has been answered … the cloud model will be adopted sooner or later) require an analysis of the benefits versus the risks and effects of cloud computing in the enterprise. And the decision is directly related to the degree of maturity of the organization and company culture, not just the technology available in the market.

Let’s look, for example, at large corporations. They are inherently complex and cloud to generate real value, should cover much more than a platform to be an isolated environment, such as the development and testing of applications. This should be just the first step and should be inserted into a larger strategy. The crux of the matter: cloud strategy should not only be in the hands of IT, but must involve the organization. Moreover, startups do not have to deal with legacy systems and can enter directly into the cloud. It makes no sense to start a company to operate emulating the model of current systems on-premise , installing hardware and software inside.

If we look, we see that the current cloud delivery model for IT resources is similar to how the electricity was at the beginning of the last century. The industries had to build and maintain their sources of energy that were not their business. Today, build and maintain their own data center, even if it is not their field of expertise. The result? Many data centers are inefficient. The cloud computing model can potentially mitigate this inefficiency, enabling resources, such as servers and storage, are to be delivered and used as services, like electricity. Now why Cloud cannot be seen as a utility, like a power utility?

Let’s examine what are the commonalities between a service utility , such as electricity, water and telephone services, and cloud computing. What are the basic features of service utilities such as water, energy and telecommunications?

Early on we remember the high dependence of the service. We cannot live without water or power. Another feature is the in-service reliability . Water, for example, when we open the faucet, our expectation is that natural water falls. It is not expected that the service is not available.

Usability is another characteristic. A faucet is very easy to use. One need only to take the plug that connects the electrical appliance. A cell phone is something a two year old knows how to use to make a call.

And, another important aspect is the elasticity. We pay for these services we consume and we know we can consume more or less. We consume a lot of energy in the summer with air conditioners connected 24 hours a day, and leave the house in the dark when we leave on vacation.

For the provider, the other important characteristic is the level of use. He needs to manage the peaks and valleys because the demands of service users utility fluctuate widely over time. If the provider maintains an infrastructure set up for peak demand, will bear a high cost. On the other hand, if the infrastructure is insufficient, it will not meet the rapid growth in demand.

What about business models? Basically, the utilities charge for use ( pay-as-you-use ), such as water and energy, or by signing, as broadband providers, that offer unlimited services by monthly subscription.

But as IT in most companies? Well this model has different utilities. Until then the issue of pay-as-you-use will require greater maturity of processes and culture. IT is seen often as cost center, and not as business generator.

Cloud computing also affects the relationship between IT and its users. Let’s recall a little recent history of computing. Gained importance in IT companies because the technology demanded expertise to program and control applications. At the time of the centralized model, 100% of IT dominated computing activities in companies. With the arrival of PCs, users began to be able to develop many of its applications and IT control which aboslutely began to crumble. Many applications were no longer written by IT technicians, but bought ready-made or written by users in high-level languages, that abstract the technicalities. With the PC, IT became the coordinator, the acquis computational kept corporate systems and processes was responsible for the security, backup etc.. But it was no longer the sole developer of applications.

This process is accelerating with the advent of tablets, smartphones and cloud computing. Users can now replace earlier systems provided by IT applications available for public clouds. The process of disintermediation. IT has to assume another role: to coordinate and monitor the use of clouds and even generate certification processes that services can be obtained by cloud providers. Either way, it is clear that the influence of users in the use and adoption of computing in enterprises is growing, and IT will be forced to change its role as provider of computational resources for certifying and consultant.

Let’s illustrate the new scenario. Today, a user department that requires a new application will require the purchase of IT equipment such as servers and databases. The purchase and installation process can take several months. But with cloud he can go straight to the provider and acquire virtual servers in the cloud and SaaS applications, paying with its own budget, without going through IT. Thus, it ignores the processes and procedures adopted by IT security and can generate future problems, but manages to show results in the very short term, which pleases the shareholders!

The issue of costs has to be considered carefully. In general, look up for the costs of a public cloud, not the cost of server time. But, the cost of transmitting data? Furthermore, as models of cloud services evolve, new payment methods arise, and capacity planning helps to identify what would be the best option. It is not hard to imagine in the future we see the market for public cloud providers offering resources with different prices according to the time of day or month.

Other issues that need to be evaluated as well to decide the adoption of cloud computing are issues involving security, privacy and legal issues. Methods and procedures of security change every time the computer model changes. We have to rethink many of the security procedures currently adopted.

A public cloud provider may be the target of attacks like denial of service (DoS), and this attack can be directed to some specific targets. That is, the attack is not directed to the provider, but a customer within the provider. In this case, what is the reaction rate of the provider on this situation? How IT can become involved in security issues in cloud? Analyzing and evaluating providers if their security practices suit the company’s compliance policies is the solution.

As we see, there is plenty of room to operate the cloud computing in the IT world. Therefore, rather than fears, IT must see great opportunities in cloud computing, leaving aside activities that do not add value (install hardware and operating system) and regarded as a cost center, to be seen as an enabler of new revenues and new business.