Cloud: A transformational opportunity

Cloud is not only transforming how IT was done traditionally, but is also bringing a significant shift in the CIO’s role

By: Harish Arora ,VP Engineering, Storage Efficiency Technologies, NetApp

Customer delight can be best explained with the Walt Disney’s mission statement, “To make people happy”. Short and sweet, it effectively communicates the organization’s core business objective.
Enterprises (especially in the banking, eCommerce, and retail sectors) have a very high data churn. These organizations find themselves in dire straits when it comes tostorage and data management. A promise like Walt Disney would be music to their ears. But alas! It’s the proverbial elephant in the room.
Arguably, it may not be a challenge to install a single system but an enterprise datacenter would not be easy to deal with. The tendency to over-provision (investing in equipment, in anticipation of future growth), increased cost, and admin time wasted on maintenance make it acumbersome exercise. As a significant percentage of IT resources is diverted to keep the datacenter up and running, enterprises are rendered incapable of adopting new technologies as well as delivering new capabilities to the business to support growth. In the light of the above facts, the cloud offers a transformational opportunity. Don’t change and transformation mean the same thing, you may ask. I believed so, too! But there’s a difference.

Change refers to doing something in an incrementally different way. It is not permanent. It is reversible and gives us enough wiggle room to adjust. For instance with time, ideologies change, leadership styles change.Transformation goes a notch higher. It has far more depth, it’s intrinsic, and there’s no going back. With the advent of advanced technologies, communication has leapfrogged from having to book a trunk call to talking to a family member in another continent to having a chat on Skype. This is transformation! It is about doing something
so drastically different that it becomes a qualitative shift, not just quantitative.Cloud too is a transformational opportunity, with the CIO at the helm. The traditional role from maintaining IT systems and containing costs stands elevated to that of a business advisor. This is so because there’s a dramatic shift in the way businesses operate and interface with their customers. The business looks up to the CIO to be wellinformed about affordable and efficient data management solutions, legal and compliance requirements with respect to data security and disaster recovery solutions.

The cloud is compelling in certain use cases, it lends scalability and high-performance to the businesses. The op-portunity is huge and luring too. Tempted thus, and beleaguered by forces (internal and external) organizations  have to guard against cloud service providers offering attractive deals. The devil is in the ‘fine print’ that’s laced with booby-traps: Vendor lock-in, no access, and no flexibility to move data from one cloud to another.
The CIO’s job has only gotten more demanding. Correspondingly,
the IT’s responsibility of safeguarding the organization from intruders infiltrating their data warehouse has increased manifolds. There’s another dimension to this: With the innovation bug gone berserk, developers are encouraged to experiment with innovative ideas that need to be tested too. As a result, everything and anything gets tossed into the cloud and it becomes their test bed!
With a host of disparate data management and disaster recovery solutions that may not even be aligned to the organization’s data management strategy jostling against each other, perhaps to respond to a request from a world out there, chaos shall follow. System breakdowns will be frequent and harder to identify because there is no semblance of effective governance to manage datacenters. The outcome will be disparate, isolated, silos of data, which cannot be moved from one cloud to another, because they use different data formats to control how things are stored.
The need of the hour is for consistent data management capabilities across different clouds. While cloud is compelling for certain use cases, hybrid cloud will be the dominant enterprise model. Hence, integrated hybrid cloud architecture is an important priority for enterprise IT organizations to increase efficiency, improve IT responsiveness, and accelerate innovation.

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