I am writing this blog post as one of the series of articles on my previous post: Re-envisioning enterprise IT in the era of mobile, social with open cloud. My first blog introduced the scope of these posts looking at some of the challenges faced and the potential solutions discussed in this series of blogs.
In that first post I observed it is estimated that 40 percent of all IT spending is now outside the IT department. If IT does not change, then there is a real potential they will go the way of the Dodo and become extinct.
So what is holding IT back from changing and delivering the agility, flexibility and lower costs that users are looking for?
My assertion is that one of the handicaps facing IT today is the “contract” of behaviors and expectations that have built up between IT and the business. It needs resetting, but what is this contract of expectations? Here are a few of my views.
The near universal use of project-based funding for application delivery has a perverse effect on how IT invests and handles the whole life management of applications and business services.
As IT’s first focus is typically on delivery and operation, my observation is that the tools, procedures and culture are not in place to allow for change over the course of the life of an application and its supporting infrastructure.
Funding through life is limited, so application and infrastructure upgrades do not occur and require a major step change in cost and effort when for compliance or support reasons they have to be done.
Hardware investments are made up front and sit in the data center unused until they are required. In this model I do not see any incentive for the correct sizing of infrastructure. Quite frequently I see the opposite behavior with infrastructure over-specified to minimize future risk, leading to stranded capacity.
Ironically, the public cloud consumption model is helping the IT department in this respect. Business users are getting used to the idea of pay as you go (PAYG), with costs spread through operational life.
There are considerations related to whether a business prefers to spend OPEX or CAPEX. But if it’s killing IT, why carry on?
Adopting a private cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS) delivery model with chargeable pay as you go services can provide the basis on which an IT organization can release itself from the shackles of project-based funding.
The big change is not that charging becomes usage-based, but that the underlying contract and assumptions between the business and IT change. By its nature, private cloud is a shared infrastructure that IT owns and dictates including the maintenance and refresh cycle that is part of the new contract. Just like on the public cloud, users now have to factor in management of applications through their lifecycle as the private cloud service changes.
Standard builds for servers and applications or lack thereof
The second is that users have become used to getting what they ask for. This is not always in their best interest. What they ask for has to have limits.
For most of the history of IT, it has been necessary to highly engineer systems to extract the maximum performance out of the available infrastructure. As Moore’s Law shows, technology progression has ultimately delivered massive compute capacity at low cost and moved IT to a point where relatively few applications require highly optimized infrastructure.
The IBM view point is that “Infrastructure Matters.” There are many workloads, especially big data and analytics where optimized infrastructure makes a difference.
The 80-20 rule suggests that most requirements can be meet with a limited number of alternatives. Another way of looking at this is that infinite customization, implies infinite costs. T-shirt sizes fit most requirements and with standardization and automation, costs can be brought right down.
When the IT department was the only service provider and hardware performance constrained, offering choice and customization was necessary. But now that users have access to public cloud suppliers who have highly standardized, low-cost offerings, to not be offering the same seems curious. If change does not occur in IT, then I believe its future is as bleak as the Dodo’s.
Restricting choice and applying automation to standard application component builds reduces costs and increases agility. Standardizing OS images is valuable, though I believe it is only as multi-component application (deployment) patterns are adopted as the standardized building blocks for application delivery will the benefit of automation really be seen.
Standardization using application patterns is a topic I will discuss in later posts as I believe this is a key element in accelerating application delivery, along with DevOps. In the next post I will look at two more reasons.
Stay tuned for my next post where I will discuss more reasons why the IT & business contract needs resetting for cloud. Till then, do let me know your thoughts if you agree or disagree that the above statements are holding back IT? I would be interested to hear what you have to say. Share your thoughts with me on Twitter @SteveStrutt.
Chief Technology Officer - IBM Cloud Computing, UK & Ireland