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Floating into the cloud

Aug. 13, 2013 - 03:45AM   |  
By JOHN GARING   |   Comments
John Garing ()
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For the longest time I believed that justifying moving into cloud computing as a way to save money is the wrong argument. Rather, I was convinced cloud computing is really about improving operational performance — things like better collaboration and sharing, better interoperability (especially relevant to warfighters), and access to more and better information. Cloud computing does save money. Many have moved functions like email service, CRM, service desk, etc., to the cloud and indeed saved money. But in convincing decision makers, those who allocate dollars, I found the operational and performance arguments much more compelling and successful — especially in the DoD. Arguing any cause to “save money” can be dangerous, because resource allocators have long memories and ask hard questions. So, get the operator involved in the persuasive argument. That is a successful strategy.

But two things happened on the way to a change of mind. First: Our mobile nature. We are in the midst of the evolution of using whatever devices we can carry for all business, fun, and life. The days of being tethered to a desktop or a data center are going away fast, if they are not already gone. Every day each of us uses clouds as we work, have fun and live. Cloud computing is a literally a way of life. Second: CIO choices. As I’ve talked with CIOs in government, education, and the private sector, I began to realize what I think is obvious to many: that small and mid-sized organizations — government, academic, business — are choosing to turn to someone else for IT “things” they don’t have to do for themselves. Here’s the difference: This choice is not just on the promise of saving money, but mainly because modern CIOs don’t want to deal with what is called the muck.

Muck, according to Dictionary.com, is mire or mud (the polite definitions). CIOs from all walks of life are choosing not to get mired down in the daily grind of running email, providing file sharing, buying IT things that change at the blink of an eye, and dealing with service issues. The muck. Rather, they are turning to service providers to do these things because the providers do them for a living and do them more efficiently. So, minus these burdens CIOs can then concentrate on IT as a multiplier for their company, business, or organization.

This is “floating into the cloud.” It is not being done as a matter of policy. It is not being done by fiat. It is not a program (DoD has a penchant for making things like cloud computing programs — a huge mistake in my opinion). No, CIOs are deciding that their time, energy, and money are better used for things less mundane. And this is becoming more and more the case.

So, what is the implication for the IT industry that supports government, academic, and business organizations? Fewer data centers, fewer support contracts, and fewer targets for hardware and software sales. Professional service providers, software houses, and resellers will find markets shrinking, fewer people to sell to.

We in the industry have to be alert to change. Too often we find ourselves the prisoners of our own experience, often unconsciously making decisions that keep us in our comfort zone. Wayne Gretsky is famous for saying, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” In 2001, The Harvard Business Review told readers to “Skate to Where the Money Will Be.”

Those who are choosing to float to the cloud and rid themselves of muck are sending a strong signal to the marketplace. We should be thinking like the hockey legend lest we be too late to remain relevant.

John Garing is vice president, ViON Corp., and former director for strategic planning and information at DISA.

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