How IT can learn to stop worrying and love the cloud

PaaS speeds dev times and lowers risk for new apps -- so why does so much IT bureaucracy stand in the way?

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Who's driving adoption?
I asked Sacha who he saw driving adoption. Largely it's sales and marketing, the folks most connected with customers, who feel the need to get something out fast. This tends to produce shadow IT, where an empowered business unit line manager and team of developers buy a PaaS subscription on their company credit card and ask core IT for forgiveness later. To some degree, this is how open source was adopted, but for vendors like CloudBees, it's a business opportunity.

Sacha and I spoke about the pricing model: "If you think about it, with open source and with Salesforce.com, it was all the same. You want the friction to be as small as possible. You don't want to have to talk to anybody. You just want to try it and get started and fly under the radar, and that's still how things happen for the most part."

Atlassian was known to have priced its popular issue tracker, Jira, in the early stages by keeping the unit cost (be it monthly or for a few seats of a private install) at what a line manager could throw on a credit card without getting any kind of pre-approval. This results in a short sales cycle that avoids the necessities of selling core IT, getting board approval, or incurring any of the nightmarish issues caused by larger deals. Smaller vendors like Cloudbees can play in this midmarket, where customers tend to be startups and other smaller companies, as well as larger companies with special projects on the sales and marketing side.

Sacha is looking forward to the end game: "Once people have committed to it and see interest, what you typically see is they're going to sell this solution inside their company and try to make it more formal. That's kind of the coming out, if you will, where they say, 'Well, we've tried this service for a while. You know what? It's pretty good. We should definitely look at it more seriously and see whether we could expand usage.' That's when typically the move away from credit cards takes place."

I asked Sacha whether developers are a driving force toward adoption: "It depends. If you look at who the big proponents of PaaS are, they will all be developers. Now that doesn't mean that all developers are big proponents of PaaS, and the reason for that is, again, you have to look at how people behave. And I think a lot of developers are kind of control freaks. They've been used to using Tomcat 7.0.36 with that JVM, with this, with that, and then suddenly you're telling them: 'Well, you can still control that issue, but really that's more of an exception. The default is to trust us, to focus on your application, and close your eyes, it's gonna be fine.'

"That freaks out a number of people, so typically it takes them to try a few projects, see where it works, where it doesn't work, why it doesn't work, could it be improved, but it takes a bit of learning to kind of relax and let it go."

All of this reminds me of the late '90s when marketing would outsource Microsoft ASP projects that were a royal mess -- then dump them on core IT for maintenance. I asked Sacha how we can have our PaaS and faster IT without ending up with a tangle of an architecture -- basically a bunch of disparate PaaS and IaaS deployments that don't share data, require separate logins, and reflect no coherent picture of the business.

Sacha's answer: This is where core IT comes in. "To me, this is a new role of IT. I know IT is not going to be focused on cabling systems and setting IT addresses tomorrow. What I also know is that IT is not going to disappear. What is the job of IT? The job of IT is to step up and defend the assets of the company, and they have to make sure they keep a well-architected map of our system. They are the maintainer of that map."

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