What will your role be in the cloud?

Chris Everette is a colleague of mine, a Sr. Systems Engineer out of Detroit.  He is a very sharp, seasoned, virtualization industry pro.  In working with him over the past two years, I’ve noticed that he writes very well.  So of course, I’ve been trying to get him to start a blog, or contribute to this one, for quite a while. 

My hard work has paid off :)  It looks like for now he’ll be a guest blogger here on Virtual Insanity.  Whether or not he starts his own blog remains to be seen.  Please welcome Chris Everette to Virtual Insanity!

During VMworld last week, he sent me his first post, which I’m just now getting a chance to post …

What will your role be in the cloud?

Well being at my 3rd vmworld gets me thinking.  I am wondering about this “cloud thing” just like everyone else who has been in IT for a long time.  I sometimes follow other blogger’s articles, and I like Chris Wolf’s writing.  He got me thinking, as well.  His article, titled the “Cloud and the Wal-martification of IT”  struck a chord.  If this Cloud thing really takes off, which by all indications it has and will continue to gain momentum, companies may scratch their heads and wonder if it makes sense to have their own IT assets and resources and IT professionals.  Especially companies where their core business is not IT.  So, what does that mean for IT professionals and particularly my customers?  Are we really going to all get our computing from several large cloud providers and many smaller ones?  Does anyone remember mainframe time sharing? 

Do I think that companies will outsource all of their IT to the cloud in the next year?  Probably not.  Chris Wolf uses the timeframe 5-10 years.  However, will portions be moved to the cloud?  I was speaking with one of my customers and he reminded me that he is already “outsourcing” web filtering and spam filtering to two different providers.  Many companies have their web  presences already “in the cloud”.  Software as a Service has had some bumpy starts and stops, but is now a reality for many types of applications.  It will be an evolution.  Security is still of concern.  There will be companies that will try something, not like it, pull back, only to move again to a model that provides them more flexibility and reduces costs. 

What does this mean for the IT professional?  I believe that if you are working for a company that is not an IT company, that you will want to manage your companies migration to the cloud.  Get out in front of it.  Volunteer to do the research.  Use it to further your own knowledge and career.  Can you convert your IT department from a cost center to a profit center and be a cloud provider for other types of similar businesses?   If all else fails, take your expertise to a cloud company.  The exciting thing is in the future you can work for a company that will service many different types of customers and provide you many interesting job challenges.  I believe cloud providers (since their business is IT) will be on the forefront of exciting and new technology as well as need the best and brightest to operate them.  Do an inventory of your skills.  Do you understand databases?  Great, cloud providers need to manage many databases (if not for their customers) for their own internal systems for billing, monitoring, reporting, etc.  Do you understand networking and security?  Cloud providers are going to need to guarantee that data cannot bleed from one customer to another.  Same for storage.  And obviously, also for virtualization. 

We call this concept of being able to support multiple customers on the same infrastructure as multi-tenancy.  Since a cloud provider’s model is multiple customers on the same infrastructure (“cloud”), it better be secure.    Is your expertise Enterprise Applications, messaging, development?  Guess what, cloud providers need application expertise as well so they can meet the business needs of their customers.  If you are a developer you need to be able to write applications that are “cloud aware”.  Applications that can ask for more resources if they need them.  Applications that may service more than one customer.  Do you understand service management?  Do you work with infrastructure services such as backup and recovery, business continuity or data center design?  Do you work for an IT provider, already?  Your customers of the future may change to include a mix of large “cloud providers”.    They exist, today and are called many things.  They may provide Hosting (infrastructure as a service), application services (Software as a service) or multiple platforms including items such as  storage (Platforms as a service) and even voice services.   I am sure there are some cloud “thinkers” that may challenge my simple definitions of these terms, but you get the idea.

I believe the security concern is the single largest inhibitor to companies running full tilt into cloud computing.  However, just like we use VPNs, SSL web services, and other forms of digital encryption of data on the public internet, these security problems will get solved and enforced.

IT is an interesting business.  Sometimes things build up until there is a tidal wave and things change rapidly.  Sometimes things move more slowly and there is an evolution.  However, if you hear the term “cloud” and think it is only a marketing term, you may want to think again.  It is already affecting and will affect all of us in IT sooner than we may think.

What do you think?

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