Cloud Computing and the new (leaner?) role for the IT manager, Part 1.

In last week’s blog post I suggested we already were at the top of the Publishing hype cycle for Cloud. Little did I know that just about every magazine to hit my doormat this week would be a dedicated special issue about Cloud Computing. The most innovative was a double feature that when read from front to back- gave a management perspective, while turning it upside down and reading it back to front gave a technical perspective, with the two target audiences metaphorically meeting in the middle. Highlights included the classification of the traditional CIO as Chief Infrastructure Officer (by Salesforce) and the conclusion that IT staff in a Cloud Environment need to have “Know-What” instead of “Know-How.”

So how is the role of the IT manager changing? SalesForce.com has been marketing its solutions under the slogan “NO SOFTWARE” and Amazon’s Elastic Cloud promises virtually (pun intended): “NO HARDWARE.” Does this mean for the IT Manager: “NO JOB?” No, certainly not! But what does a Cloud IT Manager do then? And will a Cloud IT manager be a Lean(er) IT Manager. First, let me state I do not have all the answers and that I welcome your ideas and feedback. Second, to discuss the role of a Cloud IT Manager we need to distinguish different types of Cloud Computing. The often quoted NIST definition (mind you, version 15) of Cloud computing distinguishes three models: Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure of a Service (IaaS).

To keep this blog readable I am not going to define and describe each type here in detail but it is worth noting that with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), users do not need to know or be aware that our Cloud IT Manager is using the IaaS cloud, while vice versa – with SaaS – the IT Manager often is not aware that users are already deploying this (so much for our Holy Grail of IT Alignment). As a result I will discuss these separately.

Platform as a Service (PaaS ) may very well prove to be the most interesting type of Cloud Computing, as a platform for building custom applications would allow and require the Cloud IT Manager to again actively engage with business users about what they want or need functionally. Personally I like to think PaaS may reconnect users and IT. Unlike with IaaS – where users are often unaware – and SaaS – where IT may feel left out – PaaS enables IT to build cloud functions that the users can deploy. Something we all did and loved back in the days of bespoke (custom build) software, but somehow this became a lost art when standard packages became the norm (the time we all became “Chief Infrastructure Officers/Operators”). But PaaS is also the area with the least practical experience and the most confusion (some may say really flexible SaaS is PaaS; if I can freely configure my application it becomes a platform. Others feel that PaaS could be building something on a traditional platform and then deploying it on the Cloud (IaaS) . So for now we will focus on IaaS and SaaS to examine our Cloud IT manager’s role.

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