Enterprise cloud providers must borrow from Apple's playbook

But IT departments may not be ready to give up a degree of control to reduce time to value, complexity, and costs

I've been on the road with clients and partners of late and one thing I can attest to, other than the fact that trains are a much more civilized form of travel versus planes, is that enterprise interest in cloud greatly outpaces actual cloud investments.

The second development I can attest to is, at the highest levels of companies, there's a realization that today's approach to IT is suboptimal. Cloud computing is supposed to help, but C-level folks aren't convinced. Why? Because IT is stuck in the weeds and still isn't thinking about what users care about and how to serve users through cloud computing.

[ In an excerpt from his new book, Nathan Clevenger makes the case for a user-centric IT strategy. And InfoWorld's Galen Gruman shows how traditional IT control fails today's user expectations -- and IT security as well. | Follow the latest in open source developments and thinking with InfoWorld's Technology: Open Source newsletter. ]

IT values infrastructure, but users value applications

Applications have value to users. All the storage, networking, compute, operating systems, hypervisors, and middleware that underpin these applications are, from a user standpoint, irrelevant. We in IT find these piece parts incredibly relevant, sometimes even sexy. Many careers in IT are spent going deep on one of these parts, and many services hours are spent integrating products from each piece part into a platform to run the application -- you know, the thing the user cares about.

It pains us as IT professionals to not have control over each and every layer of the stack. We want not only control, but to tinker with each layer of the stack. Vendors provide best practices for their layer of the stack and ask us to follow these guidelines. Sometimes we do, but most times we believe our particular environment is so different than others that we need those additional five configuration tweaks. We love the control.

Giving up a little control for a lot of benefit

When it was first released, I couldn't fathom why any self-respecting IT professional would buy an iPhone. Sure it was beautiful and easy to use, but could I install additional memory? Could I change the battery? Could I run any application I want? Simply put, would I have the same level of control over the device as I'd become accustomed to?

Some developers asked whether they had the same level of control and flexibility they were accustomed to with Web and Windows applications when building an iOS application. The answers to these questions were not ones I or other IT pros wanted to hear: I couldn't do any of those things, and developers had to live within the confines of the iOS APIs. Yet look at how much better life is for users and iOS developers as a result of Apple saying no to the degree of control, configuration, and tinkering we're all so accustomed to in any IT organization.

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