Most IT pros I know think cloud computing is a joke. There are some good reasons for that. But lately I've noticed the laughter is ringing a little hollow, as if tempered by a secret fear: Is it possible the business side might go behind my back and replace chunks of IT at lower cost? Or maybe get some big projects done faster than I can?
It's true. Cloud services -- generally divided into software-as-a-service applications, on-demand infrastructure, and Web-based dev platforms -- may soon form the greatest threat to IT since offshoring. Businesses are increasingly frustrated at the cost and pace of internal IT operations even as fluffy cloud options multiply like rabbits. The buzz is overwhelming. Last week I went to the GigaOm Structure '09 event in San Francisco, subtitled "put cloud computing to work," and it was packed even in this awful economy.
[ For more on this topic, read whurley's classic blog post, "IT needs to get over its cloud denial, or management will get over IT." ]
You may be philosophically opposed to cloud computing, but the last thing you want is for the business side to adopt cloud services without involving IT. Left to their own devices, the business guys will inevitably pick an unwieldy cloud service or jettison an internal system of unique value.
So point one: Engage with management on this topic preemptively and create your own hierarchical list of applications, environments, and/or infrastructure that could be replaced by commodity cloud services with the least pain and risk and the greatest cost savings. Point two: Sketch out an architecture that would allow you to get the maximum benefit from those services.
On that latter point, Miko Matsumura, vice president and chief strategist at Software AG, offered some interesting advice when we spoke at Structure '09. "The critical skill in the cloud age is the ability to integrate and combine on- and off-premise infrastructure and applications," he said. "This skill is supported by a service-oriented architecture."