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Cloud computing calls for rebuilding enterprise IT

Bernard Golden | March 22, 2012
For all of the buzz about cloud computing, there remains confusion about its real implications for an IT organization. CIO.com's Bernard Golden argues that to take full advantage of the cost savings and efficiency improvements of the cloud, CIOs have to rethink their approach to IT.

What all of this means is that IT is going to have to be rebuilt for cloud computing. Every group, every process, every skill will have to be re-evaluated in light of the need to reduce cost, implement automation and support revenue-focused business initiatives.

What will this look like? Here are some areas that CIOs will have to focus on:

Chopping Legacy Cost

 

It will be impossible to rebuild for cloud computing if you carry forward a huge technical and financial debt of legacy applications. For one, the cost will dominate your budget and hinder your ability to adapt in the future. Just as important, legacy applications require you to keep staff on hand with lower-level skills to perform manual interaction.

This cost-cutting will play out in two ways: re-architecting home-grown apps to be truly cloud-based (more on that below), and shifting to on-demand SaaS applications to replace on-premises packaged applications.

Down the road, only a very few on-premises applications will be kept in the legacy format. These will be applications that have high security or privacy aspects or those that provide competitive differentiation such that IT organizations can justify the continued maintenance of a high-cost installation. But keeping an on-premises standard package like email? There's no future for that kind of thing.

I'm actually a bit heartened about progress on this front. I recently spoke to a gathering of CIOs and was surprised at how aggressively most of them are pursuing SaaS initiatives. This group was looking to get out of the non-value adding IT business as soon as possible.

Make no mistake: Absent an aggressive push to get out from under the legacy burden, all your cloud computing plans will wither on the vine.

Re-architecting the Application Development Process

Many IT organizations decide to pursue cloud computing through a develop-and-test cloud initiative. Often the impetus is that software engineers are turning to Amazon Web Services and IT management wants to prevent it. The thinking goes that by offering developers a local cloud, they can be dissuaded from using a public offering.

That's OK as far as it goes, but it misses the far larger point. Most IT organizations rolling out a developer cloud have only thought about optimizing one facet of applications: developers getting access to resources. They haven't thought about the other two elements of applications -- the development process and operating applications once in production.

Leveraging cloud computing for accelerated access to resources is a big win, but optimizing this element without optimizing the others does not speed applications into production or make them easier to update once in production. Speeding up one part of a process (and that's what application development is, a process) and leaving the other parts unchanged does not appreciably reduce overall deployment time.

 

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