Saturday, 8 October 2011

IT Futurology: The Impact of Cloud Computing on ITSM

The world is changing and so will IT
The baby-boomers that shaped the post-war commercial landscape are retiring, the entrepreneurial Generation X have settled down to become the new business leaders, and the Digital Native generation Y are moving from the schools and universities into the global workforce, bringing a self-directed tech-savvy approach to the workplace.  This cultural shift combined with new technologies such as cloud computing, will cause major and disruptive changes to IT in the next decade.  Changes that will further unbalance the position of the established blue-chips at the top of the food chain.

The real impact of cloud computing hasn't even begun yet
The cloud computing model is driving a fundamental change in the way IT services are delivered.  Powerful ‘web 2.0’ technologies allow for much of the user interface functionality associated with installed apps to be utilised within a Java-enabled browser.  This will in turn enable a massive shift from on-premise installs to the delivery of apps and services in the cloud.  The end result will be a massive reduction in the scale of the internal IT estate.  For some organizations, in-house IT service delivery and support requirements may be eliminated completely.  Organizations will need to completely re-think their strategy and ask one critical question – what is it that is really important to our business?  Is it owning a massive, expensive IT estate, or is it the technology that the IT estate delivers to business units?  The answer is obvious, and it represents just one of many major shifts in thinking that will happen in the next decade:

 Anyone for spaghetti?
Businesses will see major shifts:
  • A shift from a technology focus to a business outcomes focus
  • A change from the old device-oriented IT approach to a top-down Business Technology approach
  • Management of IT services from a service supply-chain perspective
  • A move from large in-house IT estate to a more lightweight SaaS-powered IT strategy
  • Complex in-house service management will give way to service vendor management
  • Use of personal IT to simplify the corporate IT estate

The dawn of the disposable desktop
In turn, this will impact a company’s hardware requirements.  Effectively, the browser will become the operating system, and the OS itself will shrink to cover basic processing and the human interface aspects – the monitor, the keyboard, the mouse, etc.  Not quite a return to the dumb-terminal era, but not far from it.  With much of the processing being done in cloud data centers, desktop specs will drop to a level low enough to make the disposable desktop a reality – where the cost of investigating a problem with a base unit is higher than simply unplugging the unit and replacing it.  With all application, data and processing happening remotely, there is no user footprint on the desktop unit and end user downtime will be reduced to the time it takes to unplug one unit and plug in another.  With simpler desktop management, the desktop support department can be downsized (or even closed) as desktop problem management is no longer an issue.  Time spent finding and removing viruses will be eliminated.  Window re-installs will be a thing of the past.  Disposable desktops will be bought in bulk from vendors with windows pre-installed and ready to go.  ‘Broken’ desktops will go back to the vendor who will recycle and re-issue the desktop.

"Have you tried turning it off and on again?"

BYOD - Bring Your Own Device becomes practical
In some organizations, it is likely that end users will be made responsible for their own IT hardware - using their own home desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones to operate.  With no hardware burden on the business, the on-boarding process will be simplified down to the issuing of a number of application logins, or a single login to a service catalog providing user-customized access to the complete suite of technology that the end user needs in order to operate.  Only knowledge workers with the most specialized, industry-specific requirements will need to be supported.  Third party device support providers will spring up to fill the gap in device support, with organizations effectively outsourcing their device support or leaving support of personal IT completely to the end user, covering this with a fixed IT allowance paid monthly so that all aspects of IT are fully devolved from the company to the end user.  Desktop management is the most obvious case of capacity wastage that IT never spots.  Everybody who works with a desktop has a desktop at home, and a laptop, and often a tablet and smartphone.  There is no need for the business to duplicate the hardware their staff already own and self-supports. 

Mainstream Adoption
Immature markets represent risk for CIOs who are concerned about negative business impact, so the shift to a completely cloud sourced IT model will follow the usual, pedantic technology adoption curve.  Innovative start-ups will lead the way to gain an agile edge over slow moving blue chips.  Lean organizations who want to focus on core business and outsource wherever possible will form the early adopters group.  However, whilst the model is still immature, some of these organizations will fall foul of the bleeding edge – finding the pitfalls to be avoided by the early majority.  In response, it is likely that SaaS vendors will have to tighten up their service capacity and availability and liability in order to survive.  High performing service management will become business-critical to these cloud service providers.  Organizations that use very specialized software will have to wait longer for the technology to migrate to the cloud, but it will happen.

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