After sitting in a session today at VMworld 2012, I was intrigued by how some companies over-complicate things...then, I realized that their entire business model revolves around complexity. IBM revealed parts of their methodology in consulting companies that are managing the transition to cloud computing. Ironically enough, the major component I could see that differentiated the "clouds" they described from simpler virtual infrastructures was the inclusion of a self-provisioning portal. Even for that, they gave it several names worthy of acronyms like Service Management Automation, and they touted it as an ITIL-based process in the cloud.
Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against process, but it seems that we put barriers in front of the cloud that don't necessarily need to be there for most organizations. Most companies today already have the building blocks of a properly functioning private cloud in place. It just takes some modifications to existing management processes to go the last mile. However, it is worth examining what the cloud service providers are touting to see where the market may be going. IBM called out five different types of clouds:
- Private Clouds - private data center, internally managed
- Managed Private Clouds - private data center, externally managed
- Hosted Private Clouds - external data center on dedicated hardware, externally managed
- Shared Clouds - external data center on shared hardware, externally managed
- Public Clouds - external data center, utility-based service
This is pretty similar to the message we see coming from other cloud leaders, like Rackspace (Amazon less so, as they're really only focused on the public cloud). This leaves many asking if the cloud will replace the IT department. I think the answer is that the cloud will not replace the IT department entirely, but it will fundamentally change its role...and this change is probably for the better. IT's role should shift toward more planning and managing tasks and away from building and running the hardware and infrastructure required. Greater levels of automation shouldn't take IT jobs away, but should allow IT professionals to focus their time on more value-added tasks. So, the cloud is not something to be afraid of, but something to embrace as the next wave in computing. A simple first step is to start with some simple cloud monitoring software to gain insight into the performance and utilization of your virtual environment and start optimizing resources.
As we've all figured out, the cloud can be whatever you want it to be (or whatever some marketer wants to define it as), but it doesn't have to be a dark, looming cloud. It could just be a welcome rain cloud that causes some growth in the way that IT operates and allows us to be more productive with the same resources!