I have to believe the role of CIO is one of the toughest jobs in the world. While responsibilities may vary among enterprises across the world, CIOs have the demanding job of ensuring that each member of an organization has the resources and tools to stay productive and that the organization has the ability to extract knowledge and information from systems in real time. Add to this very complex task the fact that underlying technologies change at a dizzying pace and that there are almost certainly financial constraints around investments, it is easy to see how CIO challenges can make or break careers.
It seems there has been nothing quite like the perfect storm of mobility and cloud computing to shake the foundations of traditional IT since mainframes gave way to client-server architectures.
The Blurry Edge between the Enterprise and Public Cloud
Do you remember the World Wide Web from the early 1990s? I recall installing and launching this thing called a browser from Netscape (now Mozilla), typing in an address and viewing content posted from a far-away institution. The very idea that enterprises would in turn put up websites seemed preposterous. At that time, the internet was a land for developers, coders, computer hobbyists and the like. A big “brick and mortar” company certainly would not need an “internet billboard” on this world-wide web. Do you remember that we actually used to call ourselves “brick and mortar” companies back then?
Fast forward 20 years and the entire landscape has changed. The internet is indeed a world-wide web, is everywhere, and there is hardly an enterprise on the planet that is not inextricably linked to it.
Enter the age of Cloud Computing. I see some familiar themes. The public cloud is for developers, it is not secure, it is difficult to manage and store data. These are views that echo back to the “brick and mortar” mindset of early 90s when the Internet began to force enterprises to rethink how they engage with the world and their customers.
This said, by no means do I think that all enterprises need to quickly dump all of their existing IT infrastructure, years of application integration, virtualization and storage and jump straight into public cloud computing. What I do believe, is that CIOs must embrace the momentum of new technologies and processes to intelligently evolve their enterprises to be lean, productive and informed in real time. To the extent that public clouds can offer opportunities to gain new insights, make employees more productive, improve application availability, CIOs should engage with a responsible strategy.
It is important to note that public clouds are not confined to machines on demand, but rather also include the growing number of enterprise applications offered as a service. Increasingly, in the age of cloud computing, software applications are delivered hand in hand with infrastructure. This can be great news for enterprises wishing to extract business value without taking on the complexity and capital costs of integrating software and hardware within the enterprise to enable productivity and information management.
This transformation in the way applications are served effectively blurs the lines between the enterprise and public clouds. Workers see tools and information from enterprise, even as they are served from a public cloud.
The Role of Hybrid Cloud Computing
While we believe the future lies in applications and services delivered from the public cloud, these must integrate with an organization’s existing data center infrastructure for some time to come. It would be foolish to think companies will just completely pivot overnight. A CIO’s modern IT strategy must look to new services delivered from the public cloud, while continuing to extract value from existing private system investments. In cloud computing terms, this is generally known as a hybrid cloud approach. Thankfully, cloud service providers are constantly improving their offerings to feature seamless data movement, security, and automation to accommodate this trend. This flexibility, after all, is what cloud computing is really about.