Cloud CIO: How Cloud Computing Changes IT Staffs

How will cloud computing change the various roles within an IT organization and how will it change their importance, relative to one another?'s Bernard Golden explores some key issues.

By Bernard Golden
Fri, January 28, 2011

CIO — My recent post, The Internet of Things and the Cloud CIO of the Future garnered a lot of attention and comments. One tweet by @abbielundberg said "agree w priorities but there's more to CIO role." Abbie, by the way, is former Editor-in-Chief of CIO Magazine, so she definitely knows whereof she speaks.

A good friend who spent years selling to CIOs once commented about CIO priorities "They can only focus on three big things, and two of them are budgets and people, so don't expect that it's easy making your widget a top priority within the organization."

There's a lot of wisdom in Abbie's and my friend's perspectives, and it's instructive to think about what the people side of cloud computing is going to look like—or, to put it another way, how will cloud computing change the various roles within an IT organization and how will it change their importance, relative to one another?

We believe it's impossible to understand these questions without understanding the environment in which IT personnel will be working in the cloud computing future. Our prediction is scale: big data, more (virtual) servers, more applications, much larger applications, and many more highly elastic applications. In the past, growth in computing capacity was mirrored by a linear growth in headcount. It's clear that this phenomenon, if it ever made sense, is unsustainable at the scale IT will have to operate in the future. Companies can't—and won't—support the scale growth with headcount as in the past.

The solution is quite clear: the substitution of software automation for what was manual interaction. This is the only possible way that IT will be able to cope with the one, two, or three order of magnitude growth of scale the future will hold. And the personnel of the IT organization will need to implement and support that automation. Essentially, what was heretofore implemented manually must be standardized, captured in rules, and executed without human interaction. So what will it mean for IT people when automation is infused within the systems and processes? Here are five of the likely implications:

Enterprise architects become more important

The prerequisite for automation is standardization, and the bane is customization. IT organizations will be forced to implement standardized infrastructures, application architectures, and system automation. Developing, implementing, and enforcing standardized architectures requires skilled technical architects, and every IT organization will need this role desperately. Applications will become functionality added onto a collection of standardized components assembled in common configurations. Of course, many organizations have enterprise architects today, but their influence is often muted by "the needs of the business," which causes non-standard applications to be implemented. For company IT organizations to operate at cloud scale, those kind of one-offs need to stop. On the other hand, the availability of public cloud providers tempts business units to pursue "shadow IT" initiatives, so it's hard to predict how this will play out in specific companies. One thing is for sure though: scale demands automation, which demands standardization. Which leads to the next changed role in a cloud IT organization.

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