Message to IT: Modernize or else

Business management is using the public cloud as a club: If you can't do it, I know a cloud provider who can. Here's how to block that threat

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Make devops a priority. Improving the efficiency of app dev may be the most compelling reason of all for a private cloud. Today, developers must wait impatiently for operations to fill requests for specific test resources and configurations, which change along the way, leading to more delays. Put self-service in the hands of developers -- a trend known as devops -- and they can provision and reprovision their own environments, yielding more and better apps. Plus, devops software enforces workflows to help development projects stay on track.

Roll out data center automation. Advanced virtualization management tools are great for moving around workloads, but at some point, you have to deal with bare metal. At a minimum, data center automation software offers automated server provisioning, which vastly reduces the time spent on hardware setup.

Converge your infrastructure. This comes last on the list because it demands the greatest capital investment. But ultimately, you'll miss the full benefit of the private cloud without melding the data and storage networks into one -- and buying servers purpose-built with the bandwidth to be monster virtualization hosts. Also, moving to a flatter network architecture and replacing low-bandwidth switches with 10Gbps equipment enables you to slice and dice bandwidth as your workloads scale and you move those workloads around.

Taken together, all of the above sounds like a ridiculously tall order, especially in the face of a down economy. Remember, however, that you don't need to put everything in place at once. And if you prove the value of one -- say, rolling out devops results in a much shorter time to market for apps that serve strategic business initiatives -- the more likely you are to get funding for others. At most of these phases you're trading a modest capital investment for major drop in operational costs.

Also note that, despite how this post began, I'm not suggesting that IT should stand in the way of all "consumerized" IT services and try to handle everything itself. That's neither possible nor desirable. Instead, IT needs to stay one step ahead and objectively assess what it should keep and what should be handled by an iPhone app, a SaaS application, or a consultancy. Stay proactive and figure out how to choose and manage consumerized services -- or, more accurately, the policies around them -- and you win both ways.

The time has passed for tiresome buzz phrases: private cloud, infrastructure convergence, programmable data center, and the rest. The plain fact is that IT needs to get its act together and deliver what the business needs and wants to avoid chronic underfunding. If you can't execute, it will be harder and harder to convince the CFO to let go of the money.

We've heard the "do more with less" refrain for so long it's a crime. Well, with an economy like the one we're stuck with, that refrain will only get louder. Choose your battles for new investment wisely. With careful planning and a little luck, and a new set of technology building blocks to work with, you may actually be able to meet that obnoxious demand without working 24/7.

This article, "Message to IT: Modernize or else," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog, and for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

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