IT depts still struggling to be as agile as cloud players
Need to balance policy requirements with technology innovation
INFORMATION technology (IT) departments are still struggling to make their organisations more agile and flexible so that they can better serve their business counterparts, according to open source cloud vendor Red Hat Inc.
The main challenge they face include having to balance policy requirements placed on them by management, and the need to be technologically innovative in helping the business improve efficiencies, said Damien Wong (pic), Asean senior director and general manager at Red Hat.
Speaking to the media recently, Wong said that in today’s typical enterprise environment, IT departments are caught between a rock and a hard place.
On the one hand, they need to retain control of their IT infrastructure to meet security and regulatory key performance indicators (KPIs); while on the other, business departments are putting them under pressure to be agile and quickly provide IT services in order that they may advance business goals, he noted.
The tension between these two leads to a scenario in which businesses seeking more IT agility will shop for alternative services from the outside – where IT departments have little control over – thus leading to a phenomenon known as ‘Shadow IT.’
“Most business units don’t want to knowingly bypass their IT departments and will rather work through them as they would [eventually] need their support for IT services.
“But if they experience too many difficulties or if IT takes too long or is too expensive, they [now] have the alternative to go out there and buy IT services as easily as using a credit card – because if they don’t get the support they need, they aren’t going to meet their KPIs, and sometimes it’s a question of survival for them,” he said.
Wong pointed out that this is where IT departments need to evolve and instead of stifling business users, they must provide the that level of services, flexibility and agility, while retaining control of their own KPIs on security and compliance.
“It’s a form of vendor and resource management, and not just about managing IT from within,” he said.
Bryan Che, general manager of cloud product strategy at Red Hat, said the role of IT managers and departments is changing and in this new paradigm, IT is no longer a standalone entity that applies controls to the rest of the organisation – rather, it should be a ‘broker’ across a wide range of services.
“IT used to be the primary provider of all IT resources and services when it was all about apps and services coming from them,” he said.
“Today, IT needs to facilitate services – everything from Salesforce.com to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to Google. It needs to act as a broker of these services and integrate them back into traditional enterprise IT,” he added.
Che also noted that the nature of cloud computing is forcing IT to respond faster, but the trouble is that traditional enterprise IT isn’t set up to be like that. “It’s a big change and it’s about how to do all these old things in a new world.”
Asked what IT departments must do make this transition effectively, given that some may feel their jobs are being threatened, Wong said that the cloud is here to stay and so the only way to deal with this is to embrace it rather than to resist it.
He said Red Hat has seen how leading organisations accept that the cloud is here to stay as well as the concept of IT departments and managers as brokers which act as facilitators rather than the ‘IT police.’
“The key therefore is to equip IT departments with the right capabilities to ensure that their end-users have access to their on-premise resources, whether they are in the private cloud or the public cloud.
“IT departments have to understand that they are no longer a single source of IT provisioning. Resources are going to be served from different sources, hence the term broker of IT services,” said Wong.
Transition the key
The conclusions gleaned by Red Hat are backed by two surveys: One conducted by Forrester Research across the 12 Asia Pacific markets and commissioned by rival virtualisation and cloud vendor VMware Inc; the other, commissioned by McAfee and conducted by Stratecast (a division of Frost & Sullivan) – both of which were completed late last year.
The annual VMware Cloud Index suggested that many business executives in Malaysia believe that their IT investments are not aligned with their companies’ business objectives, and that if their IT departments cannot deliver, they will go to the public cloud.
The study noted that only 14% of Malaysian respondents believe their current IT investments are both sufficient and properly aligned with the business but that 67% believe that leveraging cloud and ‘as-a-service’ approaches will help or has helped their organisations become more efficient and able to operate with leaner IT resources.
The McAfee study revealed that of the 600 IT and line of business (LOB) decision-makers or influencers in North America, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, more than 80% admitting to using non-approved SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) applications in their jobs.
Red Hat’s Che (pic) said the ‘Shadow IT’ situation is worsening and he believes that the only way to combat this trend is for traditional enterprise IT to provide similar services as those offered by public cloud providers.
He said that in order to do this, companies need to have three elements: Ease of use, integration and innovation.
“Enterprise software is usually complex to install and use, and has a poor user interface – this acts as a barrier to usage. So the key is to have software that is intuitive instead of being cumbersome.
“Secondly, a company needs integration. If all the functions and features of your application are not integrated together and if a user has to go all over just to use them, they would end up not using them.
“Lastly, you’ll need to have innovation. For example, if you have ease of use and integration but these elements are based on old legacy technology that doesn’t solve their needs, again no one is going to use it,” he said.
Che said enterprises need to holistically look at how to address all three challenges and ask themselves if their vendor of choice is able to meet these criteria or not.
“Vendors must be able to provide not only a solution that is easy to use and is integrated, but is able to take existing apps and help them make a transition from an on-premise world to a cloud world.
“They can’t be totally disruptive but should help the customers incrementally evolve their apps and services. For instance, they may want to migrate parts of the web front-end to the cloud but not move their Oracle database out of their data centre,” he said.
Che also said that customers would also need a means to consume all this innovation as they cannot do so without support, security, certification for the hardware and software, and the management and deployment of the whole system.
“At Red Hat, we are able to give our customers a smooth on ramp so they can build new cloud apps on the same traditional infrastructure while slowly evolving some parts of their architecture to the cloud,” Che claimed.
Wong added, “We do see a lot of verticals such as banks having the existing apps, which they are not going to re-architect.
“Eventually, when they have to refresh them, they will most likely move them to a cloud-based architecture, as it’s the next generation platform. But in the meantime, we have to cater for the two,” he said.
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