How IT can win that tricky cloud conversation

Profile picture for user jerikson By Jeff Erickson February 26, 2015
IT teams must make it clear to the business that the transition to the cloud is a marathon and not a sprint.

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In companies around the world, IT teams are facing the same, somewhat tricky question from their C-level colleagues: why, in the age of cloud, is IT still such a costly line item? It’s a fair question and one that many enterprises are being asked. Jeremiah Wilton, a principal consultant at the Pythian Group, which works with many IT leaders on just this issue, has some possible answers to offer.

Wilton's argument is that IT departments are constantly being challenged by their boards, owners and management teams to explain why their business has to run what is – in essence – an internal IT company in addition to their core operational competencies.

In the past, of course, businesses simply had no choice but to run their own IT. With the advent of cloud vendors, however, they now do. Clearly, today’s IT department must be prepared to argue its case.

For Wilton, IT teams must make it clear to the business that the transition to the cloud is a marathon and not a sprint; that over time they will deliver to the business a lean, cost-effective and secure infrastructure that will duly lead, in a safe and well thought out manner, to the public cloud partnership they envision: one that will add real value to the bottom line.

Answer One: “We’re moving in the right direction.”

The first step, according to Wilton, is for IT departments to “start looking for ways to move away from the sprawling, overcommitted, in-house, co-located IT infrastructures that have developed over the years.” In short, it’s time to move to a standardized and simplified Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) infrastructure.

This move is absolutely essential if the budgetary concerns of the C-suite are to be met. As Wilton points out, while IT may – just – be able to deliver on evolving business requirements through an over-commitment in infrastructure, they will never be able to compete with PaaS vendors in terms of cost.

For Wilton, the ideal scenario will see IT move to an infrastructure that has the right amount of capacity for what they’re trying to achieve. He explains:

If we propose to consolidate two workloads, we can see if they’re peaking at the same time. If they are peaking at the same time they might not belong on the same machine. If they’re peaking at different times, then those might be better candidates for consolidating to a single system.

In short, it is about putting in place an IT system that is perfectly tailored to the business need at any given time and is able to flex and scale as required.

By moving to the cloud, companies can use modern resources that they already have, and even retire old, outdated equipment, to consolidate their IT and create a simpler, more elegant, more efficient system that costs far less to manage and delivers the same level of capacity – just the sort of benefits that the C-suite will want to hear about.

Answer two: “Here’s your cloud.”

As Wilton explains it:

Most of the consolidations we’re doing actually involve two cloud infrastructures: one behind the company’s firewall and one working with an external Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) supplier. Both of these cloud platforms are important, because they get companies out of the business of running their own IT infrastructure top to bottom.

If this trend continues, we can expect to see a big increase in the uptake of such “hybrid clouds” as businesses modernize their in-house applications and integrate with PaaS offerings.

Organizations will use cloud PaaS technology to quickly develop and test new services and connect their SaaS applications, while also extending and connecting these to their tried-and-tested legacy applications.

The result will be much more agile organizations able to launch new apps and services rapidly, reducing time-to-profit and boosting competitiveness in the process.

With a standardized and consolidated infrastructure therefore, the hybrid approach allows the IT department to adapt to the new cloud environment in a way that boosts its value to the wider business and exceeds the requirements of the C-suite.