Blog Post

Hey, IT Staff, Get Off My Cloud

[qi:gigaom_icon_cloud-computing] The Central Intelligence Agency “endorses cloud computing, but only internally,” according to an article today at ComputerWorld, which has me thinking it is more likely embracing the concept of delivering IT as a service from a single resource pool espoused by HP (s hpq) rather than the multi-tenant, Amazon (s amzn)-like model of cloud computing. But the article addresses a big potential problem for IT organizations as they move from existing IT service delivery models to a cloud-based one — you need fewer people to manage your gear. Companies like this, but soon-to-be-laid-off systems administrators aren’t keen on it. From the article:

Barry Lynn, the chairman and CEO of cloud computing provider 3tera Inc. in Aliso Viejo, Calif., said a typical environment may have one systems administrator for every 75 physical servers. In contrast, a cloud-based environment may have just one administrator for every 500 servers or more.

The CIA has “seen a significant amount of pushback, slow-rolling [and] big-process engineering efforts to try to build another human-intensive process on top of enterprise cloud computing,” said Jill Tummler Singer, the CIA’s deputy CIO. “It will take us a good long while to break that.”

A reason the cloud is becoming more prevalent and cost-effective is because we require more and more compute resources every year to keep up with our demand for data. So even as virtualization allows for better CPU utilization, we still need more CPU, more memory and more bandwidth. Eventually, we would have run out of people to manage that complexity under older IT models. That’s no comfort to those who will be pushed out of their jobs as cloud computing is adopted by enterprises and governments, but it’s a similar cycle that happens when the economics and delivery model of an entire industry are upended. Just ask the newspaper industry.

One Response to “Hey, IT Staff, Get Off My Cloud”

  1. This human factor is a real issue. One company I visited has 1 admin per 1,000 servers; as they add virtualization, they plan for that ratio to get even better.

    The big difference with the past that cloud calls for standardization. When every server is exactly the same, you can by avoid the custom and long server-build process. It’s self-service catalog model rather than the bespoke model it’s in lots of IT organizations.

    As for IT jobs, some jobs will go away. But a whole bunch of new ones are being born right now. For example, cloud computing requires a very good service catalog; this is driving demand for IT product managers, relationship managers and service designers. These are new jobs in IT.