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Gigaom Structure Ruminations: The Future of the Cloud and the Future of IT

June 23, 2014

Having just returned from the annual Gigaom Structure event in San Francisco, I’ve been pondering what the big takeaways from the event were. 

As those who have already read my previous posting on the first day, and on the release at the event of the 2014 Future of the Cloud Survey done by Gigaom in conjunction with North Bridge Ventures, there is plenty to ponder. First is the good news that cloud adoption in is speeding along as organizations realize the need to be agile in an era where to the swift and responsive will go the spoils and the cloud is an enabler of for doing so. Adoption, particularly by enterprises is also disruptive, as IT struggles with the demands of not just being more adroit on a host of fronts, but all deal with the complexities of migration and integration of things like SaaS (News - Alert) and PaaS, but also be proactive regarding the other two  major disruptions in their “E”vironments, mobility and security. 

The second day of the event got down into weeds on such subjects as whether OpenStack and open source solutions can fuel enterprise adoption of the cloud (BTW, they can assuming there are not different versions of OpenStack and open source is supported correctly); if multi-cloud is even possible (a tentative yes); and there were sessions about security issues and how best to scale. All were informative, and pointed the way toward things that need to be done to make the cloud even more enterprise friendly.  In short they were illustrative of an industry that has rapidly matured and is tending to important execution issues that assure growth. 

The discussions were also reflective of the fact that for the foreseeable future it is going to be a great time to be in DevOps and a data scientist. The former because the need for speed is driving everyone to want to be fast-to-market and fast in the market, and able to create quickly and easily, test comprehensively and deploy consistently, massively and safely.  The latter, because gleaning business intelligence, from breaking down of intra-enterprise silos along with all of the data being generated from the cloud (especially as the Internet of Things takes hold), will be critical for success and that is why the cloud is such an enabler and why the trend for adoption is so positive. This means regarding not just being more agile, but also for actually improving the customer experience.

That said, a topic did emerge that is going to be center stage going forward and dominated off-stage discussion, because it is disruptive. The subject is what is the future of IT?

Back in 2003, Nicholas Carr wrote a provocative article for the Harvard Business Review entitled, “IT Doesn’t Matter.” It opened a heated industry dialog of the subject that rages to this day. The reason it resonates so much more intensely today is due to of all of the things we know that are reshaping IT, and  have become a perfect storm because of virtualization, the cloud in general, mobility and risk management concerns.

The real questions are not whether IT matters, but rather what will IT be responsible and accountable for going forward. Things like SDN and NFV are causing automation to take away many of the functions that historically have been those performed by IT. This automation of workloads is a good thing and will improve speed and performance. What it leads to is the reality that the cloud is an enabler of eliminating IT jobs as we have know them. This does not diminish the need for IT. In fact, it shines a bright light on the need to invest more in people who can navigate the transformation taking place, and can assert themselves more into aligning technology capabilities with business objectives.  IT not only does matter, but in the future it is going to matter more. IT will just be different and not gone.

In speaking with IT folks at the event they all agreed. In fact, the advice from several speakers that the most important thing for all of us is to make change our friend and not something to fear was t big theme of the event despite the focus on technology. After all, people remain the most important ingredient to success. Somebody needs to turn all of that data into actions that created differentiated and sustainable value.




Edited by Maurice Nagle

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