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Enabling Business Value of Cloud Through Intelligent Infrastructure (and Intelligence)

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This chart from our technology partner Cisco sums up the undeniable cloud adoption ramp up over the next few years. We’ve speculated before that the term “cloud” will eventually be folded into “the infrastructure,” becoming an irrelevant distinction when talking about computing and storage.

Total Data Center Traffic Growth

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Cisco Global Cloud Index: Forecast and Methodology, 2012–2017

Given this trend, it would seem apparent that the role of administering IT resources on behalf of the enterprise must evolve as this wholesale shift of responsibilities and accountability to the service sector plays out. Cisco touches upon this notion in a recent blog, saying that IT must become a broker of services rather than an infrastructure provider. It goes on to say that IT has to reinvent itself to be able to keep control as applications are increasingly moving to cloud infrastructures.

While that’s true and necessary – and there is no company better than Cisco to help implement the intelligent infrastructure – the full scope of IT’s reinvention must go well beyond what are still essentially operational functions. Brokering services and controlling applications will go only so far to transform IT into a profit center and elevate its corporate standing.

Shadow IT and line-of-business self-provisioning happen because IT and business operations are not aligned, and business isn’t waiting around. Brokering new services is tactical, not strategic. Until IT becomes a strategic contributor to defining and driving business initiatives, a strategic corporate asset and not a cost, then its value in the eyes of the leadership will be stunted.

Today’s CIOs are in a difficult spot, caught between the necessity of traditional data center operations and the maelstrom of social media, mobility, cloud and Big Data analytics. The business operations side is pulling relentlessly in the direction of the new order. From IT’s perspective, the world suddenly looks like Star Trek’s Starship Enterprise engaging warp speed.

In another recent Cisco blog discussing how the cloud can help harness the power of mobile collaboration, Cisco’s Sheila Jordan reiterates the CEO’s lament, saying “CEOs want IT leaders to figure out how technology can help their businesses transform and expand, as much as make it operate.” Cloud computing can have an enormous positive impact on powering new business initiatives. While the infrastructure is operated and managed elsewhere under business/technology staff oversight, CIOs are released to assume more strategic roles in their organizations.
Sounds simple enough, if not for the fact that CIOs and other CXOs do not tend to speak the same language, assess risk/reward the same or necessarily think in compatible ways. In a blog from Forrester Research, Inc. called “CMO’s and CIO’s – the new C Suite Power Couple,” Sheryl Pattek, vice president and principal analyst, optimistically states that CMOs and CIOs are on the cusp of transforming their firms into customer-obsessed enterprises, but that work remains to be done. It offers match-making and relationship-building suggestions.

The point is that there are multiple layers of transformation playing out … or not for those who have yet to recognize the massive business technology upheaval underway that’s fueled by cloud, mobile and the rest. In some ways, the technology part is the easiest to understand. It’s the cultural, behavioral and political changes, the reconstructing of business methods, approaches and interactions that are needed to fully extract the business value from within the technology that remain problematic.

Cloud computing and the Internet are changing everything; simple words with profound implications and challenges. Unchartered territory comes with risk but, as with most discoveries, those who arrive early generally have an advantage over those who come after. Those not properly prepared or who trail too far behind will likely fall to the wayside.

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