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The truth about enterprises and the public cloud

Jonathan Hassell | June 25, 2014
Many companies look to the public cloud to cut costs, overhead and time to deployment. However, businesses need to understand how dramatically a move to the cloud will affect a key constituency: The IT department.

You've certainly heard a lot about the cloud — the public cloud, that is, run by software vendors and outsourced completely. You've heard the standard advice about why the public cloud has certain technical advantages and disadvantages, too. However, there's an inconvenient truth to the public cloud that has been brewing for a while: Its effect on IT pros.

Cloud Vendors Creating False Choices
As part of software companies' push to move their customers to cloud versions of their products, many companies introduce features or capabilities available in the hosted service versions of their programs that aren't immediately available in the on-premises version of the software. In some cases, these features aren't on the roadmap at all to be ported to on-premises systems.

We've heard from Microsoft, for example, that major server products such as Exchange and SharePoint will be as close to feature equivalent as possible. We've even heard promises that new technology such as the Office Graph will be ported back to the boxed software release designed to be run in your server closet. These commitments have been walked back, much to the dismay of existing customers and IT pros.

It may well be true that some new features in the cloud versions of software depend on massive scale and compute power unlikely to be available in a corporate data center or private cloud - but it's particularly dishonorable to make a commitment to deliver features to both versions of your product, only to reverse that commitment months later because the cloud is the "only place" where such compute resources are available. It's as if Microsoft and other vendors simply don't trust IT pros to make the necessary decisions and deployments to make the technology work, even in large enterprises with big IT budgets.

What's beginning to happen — and this isn't yet widespread, but that it's a phenomenon growing in frequency — is that these vendors create false choices that harm the reputation of IT pros. As users see new technology in action, they push for access to that new technology, which is becoming increasingly exclusive to cloud software. IT departments resist for both technical and career-related reasons, management intervenes and issues a diktat, and IT is overridden. Users get the features they want, the cloud software vendors get the monthly or annual recurring revenue they want — and IT pros are left to twist in the wind.

Public Cloud Marginalizes IT Professionals
When IT professionals twist in the wind, they can't help but feel marginalized. Decades of experience in deploying new hardware, managing operating systems, automating software deployment — all of those tasks are dramatically less complex, or even eliminated, once a company decides to offload workloads to the cloud. Even patch management is outsourced; IT pros can't control the content or frequency of updates in cloud software, so even if they know users aren't ready for a user interface change or the elimination of a certain feature that's been integrated into their daily workflow, they have no power to stop its rollout.


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