Not too long ago, I was visiting with an IT executive at a large\u00a0company in the Midwest. The technology profile was fairly typical of a company\u00a0that had\u00a0leveraged\u00a0IT over several decades: a mainframe that\u00a0was the backbone of their operations,\u00a0a\u00a0large number of\u00a0servers,\u00a0storage devices, and\u00a0networks, and everything from\u00a0commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) software, to\u00a0custom applications developed and maintained by\u00a0in-house staff.\nConspicuously absent, however, was any\u00a0significant presence\u00a0in the cloud, a potential indication that innovation wasn't a priority. Or more likely, that the day-to-day operational challenges\u00a0associated with\u00a0managing a\u00a0complex\u00a0IT environment\u00a0were keeping the team from\u00a0exploring the cloud in any meaningful way.\nI think it's a pretty safe bet that the\u00a0situation I observed\u00a0is far from unique. While Amazon recently shared very impressive AWS revenue and growth numbers, and while AWS's competitors have some impressive revenue growth numbers themselves,\u00a0overall cloud revenue appears to be a small fraction of the multitrillion-dollar annual global IT spend. This is a good indication that most corporate compute and storage remains within the four walls of corporate data centers, and means that many companies have yet to leverage the tremendous business value that cloud offers.\nUnfortunately, these companies are stuck paying what I call the IT "infrastructure tax.\u201d\nThe IT infrastructure tax is the often sizable portion of a company's\u00a0IT budget and\u00a0skill set\u00a0that goes towards\u00a0building and\u00a0managing data centers,\u00a0provisioning and operating servers,\u00a0storage systems, and networks, and\u00a0scaling this infrastructure\u00a0to meet\u00a0a seemingly insatiable demand.\nUnquestionably this is mission-critical work, but IT gets very little (if any!) credit for it, and more importantly, the resources applied to it are resources that can\u2019t be applied to directly engaging the business, and helping it serve customers and drive revenue.\nIf this sounds depressingly familiar, then it\u2019s time to embrace the cloud, or at least to give it a small hug. You\u2019ll likely find it hugs you right back, and before you know it, a very beneficial relationship will begin to flourish.\nHere are a few suggestions on how to get started:\n1. Do something really, really fast. Reach out to your IT team\u2019s best and brightest, and tell them to spin something up in the cloud: compute, storage, and a Web service. Shake off the inertia, and work to create a sense of excitement. If you find they\u2019ve already been exploring the cloud, commend them.\n2. Invest in cloud technology training. Effectively leveraging cloud increasingly requires a sophisticated skill set, and you can accelerate its adoption by purposefully equipping your teams. And, you might also allay concerns about job security \u2013 not an uncommon concern when introducing new technologies. Remember how mainframe programmers felt when distributed systems began to proliferate?\n3. Make a concerted effort to understand the security ramifications of moving your company\u2019s applications and data into the cloud, and be prepared to address the concerns your business colleagues will inevitably express. Note: in a future blog entry, I\u2019ll provide some pointers on this really important topic.\n4. Put your green eyeshade on, and delve into cloud economics. I strongly believe the numbers are in cloud\u2019s favor (and yours), but make sure you understand the mechanics and implications of usage-based pricing.\n5. And finally, become a student of the cloud yourself. To effectively lead an IT organization through a transition to the cloud, you must be conversant in cloud-speak, especially when you move beyond the basics (e.g., compute, storage, networking), and begin to embrace more enterprise-class features.\nWhether you\u2019re an IT leader at large company in the Midwest, a multi-national, or an SMB, the cloud\u2019s in your future. Embrace it. Say goodbye to the IT infrastructure tax. And begin partnering with your business colleagues the way you\u2019ve always wanted to.