Most IT leaders with an interest in cloud computing will have tried the technology out in some capacity by now, and many are beginning to use the cloud in production environments.
The debate is therefore moving from defining and describing the cloud to discussing how to get the most out of the service delivery model.
Information Age’s most recent roundtable debate, which took place in January in Birmingham, invited IT practitioners to share their experiences of cloud computing in terms of how it has affected their IT operations.
One IT manager in attendance reported that adopting an infrastructure-as-a-service offering has liberated his staff from the more menial IT management tasks. "To think of all the jobs we had to do when we owned all our own kit," he said. "Now, with 90% of it in the cloud, you never even need to pick up a screwdriver."
The adoption of cloud computing moves the responsibility of IT from technology management to supplier management, delegates agreed.
One delegate reported that he had learned how important it is to scrutinise cloud contracts carefully the hard way. “We’re looking at terms and conditions a lot more carefully now after a couple of cock-ups,” he said. “Now we insist on compensation if a service falls over.”
Regrettably, not every organisation has the ability to give cloud contracts the scrutiny they deserve. “We just don’t have the clout to hire legal bods that can make sure our contracts are watertight," explained the IT director of a growing insurance firm.
Another fact of cloud computing is that it places responsibility for innovation firmly in the hands of the supplier. Business must therefore insist on seeing the technology roadmap of any potential cloud supplier. "I’m signing a lot of non-disclosure agreements at the moment," one delegate said.
One attendee was the IT programme manager at a large drinks manufacturer that has embarked upon a significant software-as-a-service deployment. He revealed the lengths to which his organisation has gone to vet potential cloud suppliers.
"We did a lot of due diligence on potential suppliers first,” he explained. “We looked at [business information service] Dun & Bradstreet, the supplier’s licence model and the risk of financial failure. We actually excluded two suppliers on the basis of their financial performance and the fact that we weren’t happy with their hosting provider.”
But while cloud computing might make supplier management the IT department’s primary role, this does not mean that businesses no longer need technical know-how, delegates agreed.
For one thing, businesses need to be able to evaluate cloud services independently. And secondly, integrating cloud services with in-house systems is still a technical challenge, and requires strategic thinking on the part of the IT department.
"Supplier management is the IT department now, but it’s essential that there be some technical expertise coming from inside the business," said a construction company IT director.
Information Age roundtables
This article draws on a recent Information Age debate, sponsored by cloud computing services provider Star. To facilitate open discussion, the debates are run under the ‘Chatham House Rule’, ensuring that no material gathered is attributed to either the attendees or their organisations.
Information Age frequently hosts roundtable debates – usually over lunch or dinner at a top restaurant – for readers to share their experiences of some of the key challenges in IT today. If you are interested in attending these free events, please email our events manager, Jenna Parker, at jenna.parker [at] vitessemedia.co.uk