You vs. cloud computing

Like it or not, cloud-based "IT as a service" is coming -- and you're in its crosshairs. Are you up to the fight?

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard the blare of that hypemonster known as cloud computing. The cloud is revolutionizing the way we do IT, cutting costs, increasing efficiency, and making perfect toast every time! Such cheerleading about a field that barely exists is enough to make anyone tune out.

But don't change the channel quite yet. This is important: The cloud is growing up and it wants you, your infrastructure, and quite possibly your job. Your organization's management is reading some of the same trade magazines you're starting to ignore -- and the cloud's promise of better, faster, cheaper IT sounds good to them.

[ See David Linthicum's post about the effects of sneaking around IT to get to the cloud. | Get the no-nonsense explanations and advice you need to take real advantage of cloud computing in the InfoWorld's 21-page Cloud Computing Deep Dive PDF special report. ]

Fortunately, you have an edge: You know it's coming. Unlike the legions of well-paid software developers who promptly found themselves out of a job after they were outsourced early in the last decade, we in IT at least have had an ample chance to see what's coming and adapt before it arrives in full force. In reality, the growing prospect of the wholesale outsourcing of much of our infrastructure is an excellent opportunity to up our game and do what we do better.

Why cloud computing is inevitable

Simply put, the cloud will be able to do what your infrastructure does, but cheaper. There is really no way to fight that. Economies of scale dictate that no matter how big you are, someone who is 10 or 100 times bigger will be able to deliver the same infrastructure resources as you but at a lower price point than you can on your own. Whether you're talking about software licensing, storage, or compute resources, it's all cheaper when you buy more and build bigger. If you need an example, just look at what Wal-Mart has done to mom-and-pop retail.

Of course, we all know that outsourcing isn't always the best option. Pretty much everyone has at least heard about major development projects that were outsourced to cheap programming resources only to run many times over the cost of in-house development. In many cases, the failure of outsourced software projects was due to a simple fact often overlooked: Outsourcing is a hell of a lot of work.

If you want an outside company to do anything complicated for you -- whether that's writing a new module for your line of business application or shoveling your entire server, desktop, and storage environment into the cloud -- a massive amount of footwork awaits if the level of service is going to resemble what you'd have if you performed it in-house. You can't expect an outside party to sail in and understand all of your organization's specific needs without a major effort on your part.

Failure to realize that fact is what caused so many development projects to be outsourced -- only to fall flat on their faces and be brought back in house. Nonetheless, that didn't save a bunch of dedicated software developers from losing their jobs. I think the same cycle of impulsive adoption, corrective action, and eventual permanent replacement will play itself out with the cloud if we're not careful.

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