Rick Braddy is Founder, President and CEO of Softnas and the former Chief Technology Officer of the CITRIX Systems XenApp and XenDesktop group and former Group Architect with BMC Software.
Millions of words have been written in recent years about how the cloud revolution is changing the way that computing at almost every level is being done.
But I was particularly struck by the analogy drawn by Nicholas Carr in his book, “The Big Switch – Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google.”
As Carr explains, businesses in need of electrical power in the late 1800s were required to build and manage their own power plants. But by the 1900s, most businesses had moved away from power plants and taken advantage of commercial power distribution.
Turning to today, Carr points out that the Internet is analogous to the power distribution system, because it’s an information distribution system that’s rewiring how data is accessed and delivered.
So, from my perspective, cloud-based Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) are the new application and IT infrastructure “power plants,” which replace the need for most traditional data centers.
Powering the cloud with agile solutions
Indeed, the new post-data-center model that’s currently taking shape and taking hold in the cloud depends on IaaS, which enables companies to rent the infrastructure needed to power IT systems, data and applications in a truly flexible and cost-efficient way.
Best-of-breed commercial applications are also available, thanks to the SaaS rental model, which eliminates the need for software development, installation and maintenance in many cases.
Taken together, both IaaS and SaaS provide more agile solutions, particularly when compared to the traditional in-house approach, which has typically involved a protracted, expensive procurement and deployment cycle.
Virtualization the 'secret sauce' for IaaS
This new post-data-center model makes tremendous sense for several reasons. But the key reason, in my view, is that virtualization has changed how IT infrastructure is organized; in the process, this has helped pave the way for IaaS to become a broad market reality.
More specifically and technically, application workloads and data now run on top of the virtualization layer, and they no longer require direct bonding to the underlying hardware.
To put it simply, virtualization is the “secret sauce” for IaaS.
Virtualizing commercial applications occurred at the presentation and desktop layers first (i.e., CITRIX); this was followed by virtualizing the server workloads (i.e., VMware); and virtualizing data and data delivery is now taking place. Once everything is virtualized – applications, compute workloads and data – companies will be able to deploy a technology strategy that unites IT and the business because it will meet all but the most demanding and unusual business needs. I say “most,” because supercomputing will still require dedicated hardware.
Beyond traditional, capital-intensive data centers
Bearing all this in mind, I believe it’s time for CIOs to stop justifying their traditional – and extremely capital-intensive – data centers.
And, to be fully successful and effective, they need to modify their technology emphasis away from in-house IT infrastructure and toward the Iaas and Saas cloud rental model.
The new day-in and day-out goal absolutely must be delivering “IT-as-a-Service.”
That means leveraging a combination of IaaS and SaaS; shifting focus in order to meet SLAs, RPOs and RTOs; reducing IT project backlogs; and providing better IT services, rather than just running a series of expensive and out-dated IT “power plants.”
The ultimate objective for IT in the 21st century is no longer just keeping the lights on. Instead, it’s to add critical and much-needed strategic value to the business.
That said, it’s going to be increasingly difficult to grow the top or bottom lines unless CIOs are at least willing to take the first step with a hybrid cloud that's more than an off-site backup and business continuity target – one that runs the company’s B2B, end-user apps and even virtual desktops in the cloud.
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