Getting Out of the IT Business

Randy Weis, Director of Solutions Architecture

Strange title for a blog from an IT solutions architect? Not really.

Some of our clients—a lumber mill, a consulting firm, a hospital—are starting to ask us how to get out of “doing IT.” What do these organizations all have in common? They all have a history of challenges in effective technology implementations and application projects leading to the CIO/CTO/CFO asking, “Why are we in the IT business? What can we do to offload the work, eliminate the capital expenses, keep operating expenses down, and focus our IT efforts on making our business more responsive to shifting demands and reaching more customers with a higher satisfaction rate?”

True stories.

If you are in the business of reselling compute, network, or storage gear, this might not be the kind of question you want to hear.

If you are in the business of consulting on technology solutions to meet business requirements, this is exactly the kind of question you should be preparing to answer. If you don’t start working on those answers, your business will suffer for it.

Technology has evolved to the point where the failed marketing terms of grid or utility computing are starting to come back to life—and we are not talking about zombie technology. Cloud computing used to be about as real as grid or utility computing, but “cloud” is no longer just a marketing term. We now have new, proven, and emerging technologies that actually can support a utility model for information technology. Corporate IT executives now are starting to accept that the new cloud computing infrastructure-as-a-service is reliable (recent AWS outages not withstanding) predictable, and useful to a corporate strategy. Corporate applications still need to be evaluated for requirements that restrict deployment and implementation strategies–latency, performance, concerns over satisfying legal/privacy/regulatory issues, and so on. However, the need to have elastic, scalable, on-demand IT services that are accessible anywhere is starting to force even the most conservative executives to look at the cloud for offloading non-mission critical workloads and associated costs (staff, equipment, licensing, training and so on). Mission critical applications can still benefit from cloud technology, perhaps only as internal or private cloud, but the same factors still apply—reduce time to deploy or provision, automate workflow, scale up or down as dictated by business cycles, and push provisioning back out into the business (while holding those same units accountable for the resources they “deploy”).

Infrastructure as a service is really just the latest iteration of self-service IT. Software as a service has been with us for some time now, and in some cases is the default mode—CRM is the best example (e.g. Salesforce). Web-based businesses have been virtualizing workloads and automating deployment of capacity for some time now as well. Development and testing have also been the “low hanging fruit” of both virtualization and cloud computing. However, when the technology of virtualization reached a certain critical mass, primarily driven by VMware and Microsoft (at least at the datacenter level), then everyone started taking a second look at this new type of managed hosting. Make no mistake—IaaS is managed hosting, but New and Improved. Anyone who had to deal with provisioning and deployment at AT&T or other large colocation data centers (and no offense meant) knew that there was no “self-service” involved at all. Deployments were major projects with timelines that rivaled the internal glacial pace of most IT projects—a pace that led to the historic frustration levels that drove business units to run around their own IT and start buying IT services with a credit card at Amazon and Rack Space.

If you or your executives are starting to ask yourselves if you can get out of the day-to-day business of running an internal datacenter, you are in good company. Virtualization of compute, network and storage has led to ever-greater efficiency, helping you get more out of every dollar spent on hardware and staff. But it has also led to ever-greater complexity and a need to retrain your internal staff more frequently. Information Technology services are essential to a successful business, but they can no longer just be a cost center. They need to be a profit center; a cost of doing business for sure, but also a way to drive revenues and shorten time-to-market.

Where do you go for answers? What service providers have a good track record for uptime, customer satisfaction, support excellence and innovation? What technologies will help you integrate your internal IT with your “external” IT? Where can you turn to for management and monitoring tools? What managed services can help you with gaining visibility into all parts of your IT infrastructure, that can deal with a hybrid and distributed datacenter model, that can address everything from firewalls to backups? Who can you ask?

There is an emerging cadre of thought leaders and technologists that have been preparing for this day, laying the foundation, developing the expertise, building partner relationships with service providers and watching to see who is successful and growing…and who is not. GreenPages is in the very front line of this new cadre. We have been out in front with virtualization of servers. We have been out in front with storage and networking support for virtual datacenters. We have been out in front with private cloud implementations. We are absolutely out in front of everyone in developing Cloud Management As A Service.

We have been waiting for you. Welcome. Now let’s get to work.For more information on our Cloud Management as a Service Offering click here