Social media has indelibly changed the way we think about community and collaboration. Diminishing IT budgets are having a similar effect.
The result has been IT organizations that try to do more with less -- even as tech business needs are accelerating. Commercially, more IT vendors are selling prepackaged solutions that can address many of the tasks IT used to have to do by itself.
As these new solutions roll out and as budgets continue to constrict, IT is fast discovering a new definition of teamwork: The ability to band together into a community effort that capitalizes on shared resources to make big things happen.
Cloud computing is facilitating this change, which is transforming datacenters into virtual entities. And we are just at the beginning.
Many private cloud solutions now come preconfigured with best-practices that spare IT the effort of having to build these private clouds from scratch. These private cloud best-practices employ high levels of integration and automation that blend elements of IT infrastructure to a degree to where it is often impossible to see the line between applications and the underlying IT infrastructure that makes them run.
Because this line between applications and IT infrastructure is blurring, the traditional borders between IT disciplines like application development and systems support are also becoming indistinct. The result is a new approach to application development and support, dubbed “DevOps.” Very simply, DevOps means application developers and systems support professionals, traditionally siloed from each other, now collaborate to ensure the entire application and its underlying infrastructure deliver a valuable IT service to the end business.
Business service effectiveness will be measured by key performance indicators (KPIs) that IT and end users agree to. Some IT departments are also taking their user satisfaction indexes one step further and mirroring social media by enabling end users to “like” (or dislike) applications in a community forum. It is then up to IT to revise applications based upon user input that developers gather as a result of the initial “like” or “dislike” feedback.
All in This Together
Adding social media elements gives end users a direct voice into application development and fosters a sense of community within your organization.
Finally, there is the datacenter itself.
Government agencies have already banded together in datacenter coalitions so they can share resources and save money -- but datacenter sharing also extends to private companies.
Several years ago, I was on the board of a software-as-a-service (SaaS) operation that served six different small banks. We operated a multi-tenant datacenter where each bank had its own segregated processing for transactions, customer information, and other data. The largest bank furnished the IT equipment and benefitted from the subscriptions that other datacenter participants paid in order to use the resources while the smaller banks benefitted because they didn’t have to invest in their own datacenters.
Cloud computing will enable more organizations to consider this mode of operation -- and it is likely to lower the costs of datacenter operations even further because of how much the cloud is virtualized.
What are the messages for IT?
First and foremost, the era of segregated duties (and turf protection) are on the way out. In the future, IT will be evaluated on how well it delivers an end-to-end business solution to its users -- and no one will care who is doing what in IT. This will require a breakdown of many hallowed IT expertise silos, a difficult process that is still a work in progress.
Second, the economics of cloud computing and shared data resources will expand. Even if the economy gets healthy, lean IT (at least as far as datacenters are concerned) is here to stay.
Third, internal IT departments will compete like never before with a host of outside vendors for the patronage of its end users. One advantage that IT will continue to have is its inside knowledge of the parent company and its users. The more that IT can engage these folks in a community effort characterized by open and frequent communications, the more IT will thrive in this new community approach to technology.
— Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data