There's a simple reason so many people say cloud computing will change everything about the IT universe: The cloud democratizes technology to a degree even more profound than when the PC first gave nontechnical people the ability to create unmanageably large spreadsheets they could play with instead of work.
It's probably not as profound as the Internet revolution, which allowed ordinary people to rely on Google rather than an eidetic memory and rich classical education, but it's not far off, says Dan Olds, founder of consultancy Gabriel Consulting Group. Cloud computing gives nontechnical people quick, affordable access to the most sophisticated software, storage, and data -- access they're using to try to do their jobs better, with or without the involvement of IT, he says.
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CIOs used to have to deal with the occasional rogue IT project; now they have to deal with business managers who hire the equivalent of several IT departments using a credit card and their normal operational budgets, says Susan Cramm, founder of executive career-development and strategy consultancy Valudance, as well as former CIO of Taco Bell and CFO of a smaller PepsiCo restaurant chain. In fact, 65 percent maintain an IT budget of their own -- carved from their normal operational budget -- for SaaS or cloud services they can buy directly, rather than going through IT.
What does this mean to IT jobs? Some IDC stats give an indication:
- By 2014, one-third of all IT organizations will be providing cloud services to business partners rather than providing IT internally, says a poll of attendees at IDC's Cloud Leadership Forum in June.
- By 2015, spending on public cloud services (including SaaS) will make up 46 percent of all new IT spending, says IDC's June 20 forecast of Worldwide IT Cloud Services. SaaS will make up three-quarters of that spending, giving SaaS and cloud providers the leading role in vendor relations with your company.
"It's not a matter of throwing out all the job descriptions and organization and starting something new," says Sean Hackett, an analyst at the research firm 451 Group. "There are a lot of commonalities, but the experience will change. Ultimately the bulk of IT could look more like a projects office than the way it looks now, when most of the hands-on work is done inside. It probably won't be a total transformation, but moving into cloud, there will be more of that and less DIY."
Where are the changes actually going to happen? Here's a breakdown by role of who wins, who loses, and who must change in the cloud era.
Biggest winners: Enterprise architects
The biggest change, analysts and IT vendors agree, will be the rise to prominence of a job often considered too abstruse for many companies and too narrowly focused to be practical for others, says consultant Cramm. That job: enterprise architect.