Architecture & DesignDevOps Tips: The Cloud-Data Center Balance

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By Robert Duffner, Senior Director, Product Marketing, Cloud, at ServiceNow.

A new survey finds that a majority of enterprises have migrated their IT systems and applications to the cloud. That may not turn a lot of heads; industry watchers have been predicting a cloud-first world for years. What is surprising—even alarming for IT professionals—is the parallel rise of the DevOps movement, and how it’s stealing the spotlight from IT.

ServiceNow polled 1,800 people evenly split among IT, Line-of-Business, and DevOps for its 2016 Cloud Computing Tipping Point survey. Just over half (52 percent) of survey respondents report being cloud-first (in other words, that new apps and services are hosted in the cloud as opposed to on infrastructure the enterprise owns and manages), with 77 percent predicting they will reach that tipping point by 2018.

The survey also raises a red flag for IT organizations: They do not receive credit for helping their organizations make this shift. 76 percent of respondents give that credit instead to DevOps (development and operations), even though many don’t have a dedicated DevOps department or business unit.

The Rise of DevOps

Most respondents (63 percent) consider DevOps as an operating philosophy with origins in the agile development community. Nearly every respondent (94 percent) reported they are involved in some way with the DevOps movement.

Despite its popularity, there doesn’t seem to be a universally-agreed upon definition of exactly what DevOps is. However, there is consensus that the core principle is to foster collaboration between the application development and operations teams—two departments that traditionally have little interaction with each other. The need to fix issues quickly and make systems more available to the users has necessitated the need for development and operations teams to work very closely. The objective is to shorten the time required to develop, launch, and update new applications or services by enabling users with little or no coding experience to create new apps without having to write any code.

Individual lines of business that have an idea for an app that can improve their teams’ productivity levels or benefit customers no longer must submit requests to IT, and then wait for months for IT to deliver. By collaborating and working together as a single team, many organizations, such as Netflix and Google, are able to deploy their code many times in a day. DevOps is marginalizing the IT department, at least in terms of its traditional role and responsibilities. 89 percent of survey respondents with companies that have completed the shift to a cloud-first model said their current IT staff lacked the required skill sets to help with that effort. 88 percent feel the cloud could replace their IT departments, at least on a part-time basis.

Those statistics are troubling, but fortunately, they also come with a big asterisk. Not only did most of the survey respondents express their opinion that IT still plays a critical role, they also expect that role to evolve into one that’s even more important in the near future. 72 percent of survey respondents said the cloud shift can actually make IT even more relevant to the business. 68 percent said IT will be “completely essential” in the future.

How is it possible to draw these two seemingly polar opposite conclusions? Because there’s one big caveat to IT’s survival—it must evolve from the traditional role of a maintainer of systems to a strategic broker of new services and applications.

New Roles and Responsibilities

A cloud-first world will increase the number of cloud projects deployed, and because DevOps plays such a key role, most will initiate from the bottom-up and deploy at a much more rapid pace than in the past. This presents two significant challenges: maintaining visibility over the entire IT infrastructure—both on-prem and in the cloud—and the ability to predict computing costs.

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the survey’s respondents report that the shift to cloud-first will make it more difficult to achieve 360-degree visibility. A similar number (63 percent) say predicting the cost of computing will suffer as they become cloud-first.

Implementing more agile cloud management policies and best practices is critical. A cloud-first world demands a new approach to managing consumption-model solutions. Managing cloud applications and services providers is much different from a cost and logistical standpoint from acquiring, deploying, and maintaining systems in the data center. Companies will be dealing with more vendors, and many of those relationships will begin and end more quickly than in years past. Service Integration and Management (SIAM) and vendor management will become more important and require moving from a “large grain” to a “fine grain” approach to managing IT services.

These factors all lead to the same destination for IT: a shift from a builder of systems to a broker of the services users consume. The model of IT-as-a-service-provider is not a new one, and many IT teams make already consider themselves service providers. When the IT organization embraces the shift to a cloud-first world, it can become the leader in creating and driving revenue-driving initiatives that are important to all the lines of business. It will quickly shed its image as a necessary cost-center, and become a strategic partner that users count on to improve their productivity levels, facilitate collaboration, and help them grow the business.

This article was contributed. © All Rights Reserved

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