Working with clients in the technology training and IT fields often leads to some interesting conversations regarding technology trends and where they are headed over the next few years. One of the biggest trends that I have been seeing is the adoption of cloud based services, versus traditional hardware solutions, by companies looking to upgrade their aging IT infrastructures.
Imagine for a moment that you are a medium to large sized corporation in the building automation space. Traditionally you would have an IT infrastructure built on servers, hardware cabling, switches, routers, and a multitude of software licenses. These systems are extremely labor intensive to service and maintain; as well as having extremely long deployment cycles for upgrades. They are labor intensive, and need constant monitoring to balance overhead expenses as upgrades are rolled out.
Effectively managing overhead costs is one of the most important processes that company needs to embrace if they want to remain competitive in an ever changing economic climate. The traditional internal IT hardware model is commonplace for most medium to large corporations, and is continually plagued with the issue of having aging components that need replacing or upgrading. Traditionally these aging components were swapped out for new hardware, but tech savvy companies are looking at new cost effective cloud based technologies to do the same job.
Cloud-based solutions have been making an appearance in the marketplace since the early 2000’s, but have really grown into their own for providing a variety of ways to replace hardware and servers with virtual IT systems. Applications needed to run a corporation’s IT infrastructure can be accessed through secure web based applications via the internet. The question then becomes one of how using cloud based technologies will affect traditional IT structures?
If history teaches us anything thing it is that a change in technology for corporations means a change for corporate staff. IT roles are going to seriously change with the adoption of cloud technology for IT infrastructures. Any system that has less moving parts requires less maintenance and that means that IT staff sizes will reduce. The need for IT desktop support will also diminish as the implementation of new software becomes seamless through cloud interfaces. The days of large scale migrations like the one from Windows XP to Windows 7 will not exist with cloud based services.
A great example of the differences between a traditional IT infrastructure upgrade and a cloud based upgrade can be illustrated by looking a deal that I recently brokered for a city Municipality. The Municipality had reached the end of the technology life cycle for Microsoft Windows XP and made the decision to upgrade their entire IT infrastructure to a Windows 7 Operating System. This entailed the installation of new computers, server upgrades, hardware upgrades, licensing, and a huge training component for both IT staff and end-users.
The entire roll-out is scheduled as an eight month period and costs several hundred thousands of dollars just for the hardware and initial training. Not to mention all of the personnel hours involved with the actual physical implementation of the new systems. There are also the additional costs of continued help desk and desk-side support calls that will come from the end-users of the system regarding software issues or just general questions. Overall a hugely intensive process that will involve another upgrade when Microsoft decides to stop supporting Windows 7.
The same migration problem could have been more cost effectively solved by enlisting the services of a cloud provider who could convey the advantages of cloud computing. Mainly how it can be integrated into an existing infrastructure while maintaining security and deceasing maintenance costs.
Additional cost savings could have been passed on to the Municipality by moving to a subscription based cloud model rather than the traditional licensing model. As a provider like Microsoft pushes out newer versions of MS Office applications the subscription based model easily updates in the cloud to ensure that end-users are always working with the latest versions. No IT staff are required to perform upgrades, or deal with licensing issues, and companies will enjoy reduced overhead costs of having the cloud provider do all the work.
Since the cloud provider performs all of the software upgrades inside the cloud there will also be cost savings in training. With a cloud based solution the training of new applications focuses more on the end-user and less on the training of IT staff. Software updates can be easily taught to end-users via short burst training classes that can be conducted either face-to-face or via the web.
In-closing IT Infrastructures are changing and more and more applications are being moved to the cloud. When corporations consider implementing cloud solutions they need to remember that the main point of “cloud computing” is about shifting their business interests, and concerns, from maintaining physical resources and personnel to a cloud based model of efficiency and utilities. The cloud will enable companies to stop worrying about the expenses associated with their IT processes and focus more of their attention on building better business. At the end of the day that is all any company really wants to do is reduce overhead, maximize profits, and establish a formula for corporate growth. The growing trend toward the adoption of cloud based solutions says to me that the key component in the formula for corporate growth lies firmly in the cloud.