There is general fear around the use of cloud based infrastructure-as-a-service. A cultural fear of the change it implies: the movement of IT from power to service provider, the perception that management will lose control, and the organisational structure changes and more.
Let us just recap first on the difference between traditional infrastructure and IaaS:
Traditional infrastructure, bought and installed on site, is expensive and takes upfront capital expenditure, requires the purchase of all associated supporting software and hardware (such as monitoring and management) and requires a team of people to run and manage it.
By moving to the cloud, there is less upfront cost, lower optional expense and has fast delivery times. This is a cultural challenge though:
big old IT projects -> dynamic procurements that are reliant upon 3rd parties
But where is the IT team with this approach?
Not known for their ability to evolve over time, IT teams traditionally are quite static, risk adverse and cost centric. Their challenges revolve around two key fundamental changes:
- IT needs to be able to let go and let their services run elsewhere
- Business owners need to feel comfortable that IT can keep their data safe on 3rd party services
Both are a question of ownership. IT needs to feel that it owns the services provided by 3rd parties and the business needs to feel comfortable that IT are keeping their information safe and secure. Both are reliant upon the other, but IT should be leading the way and facilitating change.
The fix to IT-as-a-Project?
The focus of IT though is wrong. In fearing the cloud providers, IT are alienating themselves from the business need for cost control, rapid change and flexibility. IT are becoming the problem and not the solution.
Cloud providers run IaaS systems in vast numbers. Security is their number 1 priority. Without a secure environment in which to run the services, their market and customer base would soon dry up. That’s not to say that the services hosted on IaaS are secure, but the base layer of the service must be secure.
So whilst IaaS focus their efforts on security, reliability and availability, internal IT teams focus on the next project. These projects are often at the expense of the maintenance of infrastructure and base level services.
Moving into the cloud, removes the risks of IT-as-a-project, giving IT a stable platform on which to work. As such it should be celebrated as a position that will enable IT to maintain a modern technology platform.
The IaaS budget problem
People are used to capital based procurements. It’s the traditional way of buying IT things. Big boxes turn up, they get plugged in and someone plays with them for six months to get them working. Finance get to depreciate an asset and on the books you see just a proportion of the actual cost.
Procurement of infrastructure-as-a-service is by its very nature different. There is no ownership of hardware, of flashing lights, of big data centres; you are procuring a service. With no depreciable value, the service is a line in the Opex column in finance and often operation costs are considered bad and something to be cut.
So, it is not just IT that need to change, procurement and finance need to realise that the way of doing business in the IT world is changing.
- IaaS prices are dynamic, going up and down in value
- IaaS has frequent repurchasing of shorter term contracts (2-3 years not 4-5 years)
- IaaS relies upon 3rd parties
- IaaS 3rd parties are likely to be leading edge
Summary of cultural problem of IaaS
This is a more complex subject than summarised, here, but as a starting point, think about these key areas of cultural change required to support IaaS:
- IT needs to embrace as-a-service and use it as an enabler for rapid change
- IT needs to adapt away from IT-as-a-project and embrace buying commodity IT as-a-service
- IT and finance need to move from Capex to Opex purchasing models
- IT and finance need to accept and manage the risk of as-a-service
Read more about thoughts on Cloud and everything-as-a-service.