David Bowie’s 1971 song ‘Changes’ includes the phrase, “Turn and face the strange… Ch-ch-changes”… one of my wife’s favorite recollections of my step-daughter at age 4 or 5, belting out Bowie the way only a young heart can. Obviously not one of my normal blogs... I wanted to take some time to talk about changes in Enterprise IT, places we’ve come from, and the good things about places where we’re going as an industry.
I’ve been thinking about changes in IT for some time, how life in this career began 20+ years ago taking care of PCs, then x86 servers, then datacenters, and finally IT research and path finding and my position here in an Intel product group shepherding SSD datacenter use cases. The industry has transformed a once standalone computer that, “couldn’t ever need more than 640k of RAM” into an architecture that runs everything from supercomputers, to ATMs, to cars, to the services we get from the cloud. Cloud services are what I’d like to focus on.
A few years back I wrote a blog called ‘Cloud Compute and the Psychology of Mine’ where I asserted that as consumers of datacenter space, we were going to have to get use to sharing in a world that was increasingly moving toward virtualization. In short, over the last 5 years we got use to sharing. I’m going to assert something a bit more disruptive in this blog. That is, most of the things we consider classic IT will move to cloud services in the next 5-10 years. All of the legacy services… email, IM, telephony, conferencing, video, collaboration, LAN provisioning, and even PC support will likely move to an outsourced cloud service or service provider.
Hold on one second… before you run screaming like Chicken Little because, “of all the people in IT are going to lose their jobs.” This transformation is a good thing, in fact, a really good thing! Why pray tell? Back to Bowie, “Turn and face the strange… Ch-ch-Changes… Just gonna have to be a different man.” For the last 10 years most enterprise IT shops have faced downward pressure on both budget and personnel. At the same time, our day-to-day work has been viewed more and more as a ‘Utility’ than anything else… just a necessary cost center. Anyone familiar with the local power company knows that unless the lights are out or the bill is due, nobody even thinks about them. It’s been this way in IT for a while now and cloud services are a way out of the ‘utility zone’!
Entertain this thought for a moment, what if IT unloaded all of the services they could to a ‘mature and secure’ service provider? There would certainly be a few jobs lost, but there would also be openings and opportunity at the service providers. Imagine the value a veteran Microsoft Exchange Engineer could bring to a company whose entire reason for being was providing email to Enterprise IT. This same ‘silver lining’ and possibility thinking applies to most legacy IT services that could transition to a cloud provider.
Beyond that, imagine the services that Enterprise IT would keep in-house after a transition… Absolutely business critical systems, secure enclaves with sensitive IP, high-value unique services that no one can provide except in-house IT. All the exciting stuff and suddenly, IT is a partner providing business value not just a cost center or a utility! One of the things I personally found strange in IT is that I always was so abstracted from the business, I felt disconnected from it. Here’s a prospect for IT to be viscerally connected to a company’s output once again.
Although apprehensive about change, this is one of the biggest opportunities for transformation in IT to arrive in decades. “Turn and face the strange…” embrace the next changes in IT, elevate your value, be different, and better for both you and your business!
Christian Black is a Datacenter Solutions Architect covering the HPC and Big Data space within Intel’s Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group. He comes from a 23 year career in Enterprise IT.
Follow Chris on Twitter at @RekhunSSDs.
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