Game of thrones: IT departments and the cloud

Paul Harvey/Flickr, CC BY

Cloud computing, a buzzword in the tech and business worlds, became popular through the big leaders – Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Apple and Salesforce.com. It’s mostly associated with Apple’s iCloud, yet not easily defined. Technically, it represents a shared pool of computing resources, including networks, servers, applications, and services, that can be provisioned with minimal management effort.

‘The climb’

Cloud computing exists under numerous categories. The most popular are software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). SaaS is the most common, and can be used by both individuals and enterprises. The former might use Microsoft Office 365, Dropbox and Google Apps, the latter Salesforce.com, Amazon Web Services, Zendesk and Slack. For companies, these types of services can allow a remote workforce to be supported more easily and operate more independently.

Cloud services became popular due to the benefits they can offer for individuals and enterprises of different sizes, sectors and industries. The low prices and the pay-per-use characteristic of cloud services make them attractive, plus they offer agility, flexibility and ubiquity. The adoption of cloud services has increased in the recent years, and spending is estimated to reach $383 billion by 2020.

‘The wars to come’

Despite their advantages, cloud services are not yet widely adopted because of a range of threats. These can include security risks, including data confidentiality, insider and outsider attacks, and data loss. Every individual and enterprise highly values their data, making the need for protection paramount. With the cloud, however, data location is unknown for users and clients, and can lead to compliance issues. The data stored in public cloud environments must abide by national and international laws, yet its “location” is unclear.

Moreover, cloud services can be afflicted by poor connectivity, servers downtime, service unpredictability and bugs in large distributed systems. Vendor lock-in is also perceived as a risk, where user data is “locked” in one provider and can’t easily be stored elsewhere. This list of threats forms subtext of the ongoing wars between the IT departments and cloud services.

‘The old gods and the new’

Information technology departments have controlled of IT since the beginning of the digital era, reigning with full discretion – they’re the kings and gods of the legacy hardware and software of enterprises. They built infrastructure, developed applications, made adjustments and adaptations and monitoring the security of companies’ complex systems. Whenever business departments needed a service to achieve their goals, they’ve had to go through the gods of IT.

As in every fairy tale, the knight in shining armour will arrive on its strong white horse to save the day. In our case, however, the knight arrives on a scalable cloud. Sweeping business departments off their feet, cloud computing offers easily accessible, ubiquitous, economical and scalable services.

While cloud computing is the saviour of business departments, it is the foe of IT departments. Studies have shown a relationship between the adoption of cloud services and decreased IT employment. IT employees can thus feel threatened by their enterprises implementing cloud services, and can oppose to the new gods of the cloud.

‘Unbowed, unbent, unbroken’

To keep their enterprises competitive, IT employees are nonetheless attention training sessions and replacing obsolete skills with valuable new abilities. Far from resisting the new gods of the cloud, such IT employees embrace them.

However, one might wonder about the impact the transition of old gods to new has on enterprises. How should enterprises deal with this confrontation? Should they oppose the cloud and stick to their traditional methods and be on the IT department side? Or should they face them down and adopt cloud services? And the most important question is: In a game of thrones, what would Jon Snow do?