The Elephant in the Clouds

Moving to the clouds doesn’t mean resources must be let go.

By Miki Sandorfi, Chief Strategist, File, Content and Cloud, Hitachi Data Systems

The barriers to cloud computing are often talked about in technical terms – security issues, compliance, and risk management being the most common inhibitors. What are not often talked about are the organizational and cultural issues the cloud will bring. As CIOs refocus their resources and embrace a move to the cloud, the elephant in the room (or to be exact, the elephant in the way of moving to the cloud) is the IT execution team’s question -- will my job be taken away?

Without a doubt, cloud computing will impact all IT, including the CIO organization. New roles will be created and some current roles will go away. With cloud, we can move to single, integrated platforms that service all data requirements. Best practices in IT management will not even focus on IT; they’ll focus on people and processes, not the technology itself.

This is why the transition to a centralized model won’t happen overnight and why cloud computing will take several years to reach maturity. Companies will demand ways to centralize data management because otherwise there’s just too much data to manage. Choosing a centralized approach takes companies away from the political and cultural hot potato: who owns and manages all this data -- my network, server, storage, or database person? Instead, moving to the cloud will create hybrid jobs that blend specialties in networking, storage, and servers.

That, however, should not be scary for the IT organization. In fact, it is really nothing new for them. Over the past 10 years, many new roles have been created to deal with the ever-growing and ever-changing technology landscape. Let’s look at the example of the chief security officer. This role didn’t exist ten years ago, but today it is an essential part of a company’s IT team. If we look back in time, we’ll gain some comfort in understanding that some roles may disappear with the move to cloud but new roles are needed in order to support the changes and meet the goals of becoming more effective and efficient.

In addition to change, we should talk about the importance of orchestration in our new approach of data center workflows that were previously off limits to the network/storage administrator. They will now be accessible, and the orchestration layer will become the glue. Orchestration is a just fancy word for automation; it’s required for a well-run traditional data center as well as the cloud. Whether you consider this a separate piece of software or look at it as integrated with packaging and automation, proper orchestration becomes the key to running an efficient data center.

As we continue down this path, orchestration workflows will increasingly become a commodity and enterprises will no longer need high-cost orchestrators. This task will be included in the different servers, networks, and storage solutions. It will become ubiquitous across different hypervisors and applications because it will take enough out of deployment -- less money, time, and effort -- that it will become a shared piece of the infrastructure.

That is what cloud is all about -- spending less money, time, and effort on deployment, and concentrating on orchestration and helping IT organizations become more effective and efficient. Instead of worrying about layers of infrastructure and supporting deployment, these resources can be redeployed into new roles that focus on business-user requirements such as security, resources allocation, customer requirements, and quality of service data, as well as planning for future business needs.

More than 50 percent of all failure in IT is a result of human error or activities done incorrectly. Using the cloud to have predicable and consistent delivery of services greatly reduces the opportunity for failure. The ability to redeploy IT resources to other mission-critical areas will enable IT to be more flexible, accelerate time to market, and decrease errors and issues.

How do you kick off this change? Start by changing the culture of your IT organization. This, of course, is easier said than done, but it doesn’t have to be as hard as you might think. Changing an organization’s culture is much easier if people can buy into the result of the change because it is hard to disagree with increasing efficiency and stability. What is the best way to get people to buy in to a new way of doing business? Keeping them informed and involved! Senior management can provide long-term strategic planning to help alleviate employee stress about what to expect. Your team must ensure clear communication and staff involvement before, during, and after the transition to cloud. This will go a long way in getting everyone on board.

Once cloud has been deployed into the organization, and there is a more consistent and predicable service that results in reduced errors or failures, what’s next? The answer isn’t to let resources go; the answer is, in fact, to take those resources and deploy them in roles that help the company capitalize on mission-critical data, process, and efficiency, which will accelerate time to market, increase quality, and improve customer satisfaction. The roles don’t go away: they evolve. In fact, by increasing productivity with less focus on tactical firefights and error correction, your IT organization can focus more on proactive strategic work, and that may be an IT person’s dream job!

As chief strategist, file, content, and cloud, Mr. Sandorfi is responsible for driving forward the Hitachi File, Content, and Cloud product and solution portfolio. He joined the company in January 2009 and has over 19 years of experience in the storage industry. He served for more than a decade at EMC Corporation where he was responsible for many technological advances in the mainframe and open storage spaces, leaving EMC as one of the lead architects in the Symmetrix organization. More recently, Miki was founder and chief technology officer of Sepaton responsible for pioneering advances in enterprise data protection and deduplication technologies. He holds 16 issued and 20 pending patents and a BSEE from Northeastern University.
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