Services from major cloud providers are the future of IT.  The days of corporations owning massive amounts of IT infrastructure to run their businesses are numbered because doing that, with the associated capital and operational investments, is no longer necessary. 

A shift will continue toward the purchase of hardware infrastructure only necessary to provide access to those cloud services by employees, also decreasing centralization of the workforce and increasing the talent pool for any organization beyond traditional geographical borders. Managed services and solution provider organizations will continue to capitalize by being experts in, and providing transition, development and management around these services provided by major cloud providers.

Lead Up to the Cloud

I have been lucky enough to have been born at the right time to see the whole picture of where today’s IT came from and what it is evolving toward.  In the early 1990s, I worked at a company that was dragging its feet with transitioning away from a massive Burroughs mainframe computer that provided a subset of the services required to operate efficiently via green screen, dumb terminals.  “The internet” at that time existed only as a mechanism for government and colleges to communicate using rudimentary terminal emulators and text-based email programs such as elm and pine.

As the internet and associated technologies began exploding around them at an exponential rate, there was no longer a question as to if they were going to embrace the new technologies, but when.  There was, of course, great resistance to the transitions that I was heavily involved in at every step of the process.  Concerns and doubts about transitioning to PCs from dumb terminals, from DOS to Windows, to Ethernet networking, to using IPX/SPX communication protocols, to using a NetWare file server, to using TCP/IP, to using internal email programs for interoffice communication in lieu of manila envelopes, to hooking up to the internet, to allowing email in-and-out of the organization, to allowing people to use the internet at work, and on and on. Each transition was resisted out of fear of the unknown, the investment required, the track record and so forth.

Fear of the Unknown

The latest technology that many companies have resisted up until quite recently is the complete embracing of cloud services. As before, all of the roadblocks and fear have fallen away as both understanding has increased and the technology has matured. Every doubt has a definitive answer in 2016.

“It’s insecure.” The reality is that in order to secure your own infrastructure to the level the major cloud providers have, while providing similar functionality, would require an impossibly enormous investment in both technology, personnel and services.

“It won’t pass audit.” The auditors have caught up out of necessity and cloud services do, in fact, pass audits and can meet compliance standards.

“Our app won’t support it.” Right, because your app is terrible and needs to be rewritten or replaced completely to not be an extreme liability to the organization. Containerize our applications to make them scale easily, require less administration and run across multiple cloud providers.

“We need guaranteed performance and we love our own hardware.” Private cloud.

“None of the specialized services we need are available on the major cloud platforms. What about our existing hardware investments not off the books yet?” Hybrid cloud.

“It’s too expensive.” Compared to the repeated three-year cycle of hardware investment, maintenance, staffing, data center space, and licensing required to do it yourself, it’s not.

“How do we manage it?” Plenty of service providers, such as CDW of course, can provide ITIL-based secure management around these platforms for security and success.

The Times Are Changing

The incredible commoditization of these powerful technologies is disruptive to traditional ways of doing business.  The focus for companies when modern IT was new was necessarily on the technology — because it was new for everyone.  Today, with so much technology second nature to the workforce, back-end technology supporting the business can all be provided more effectively and set up almost instantly from any number of cloud services with proven reliability.

A continued shift from the back-end hardware and toward the technologies required to allow employees to use all of this cloud technology will continue to increase. Companies can choose to provide network infrastructure, workstations, notebooks, tablets and smartphones. Or, as is increasingly common, organizations can allow for bring your own device (BYOD) quite easily.

Why do you need to handle all of this asset management and capitalization when you can simply provide a minimum systems requirement to employees and provide reimbursements or stipends for their existing technology investments?  You can securely manage those devices with mobile device management software, which is offered by cloud providers.

Do you need software distribution platforms when you have a marketplace or an app store you can publish to?  Why does a company need to provide a gigantic space when perhaps only a smaller meeting space is required these days?  The old business model is to throw everybody into a giant multimillion dollar energy-wasting office space with varying levels of management and hope for the best.  Forward-thinking businesses leverage cloud technology to manage resources, projects and people effectively, and in real time, working from anywhere. This saves the company huge sums of money, increases the available talent pool, and allows the focus to be on the organization’s mission and not on the technology.

Services Are Delivering

Solution and managed service providers are a huge part of this shift. While the technology moves offsite and the details of the hardware are completely obscured, the services provided still need to be understood, leveraged effectively and managed properly via the portals and advanced management mechanisms from the cloud providers. Companies that can provide services for rewriting old, mission-critical software supported by older technology and moving it onto modern cloud platforms will continue to see explosive growth. Organizations need help with thinking differently, because they are used to a certain way of doing things, and often cannot see outside their walls toward more effective ways of using technology.

Companies like CDW can absolutely help them do that. New software development timelines have shrunk with the advent of these cloud platforms, and development lifecycles can continue indefinitely, eliminating abandonware. The focus is going to be on how to package and use these services from cloud providers to do everything the business needs. This will necessitate service provider and managed services organizations to know more about what companies are doing with the technologies, and will only get them closer to the heart of each organization’s mission. The focus will shift from things like reporting on event log issues with operating systems and uptime of storage systems to responsiveness of cloud services, and successful rollouts of new functionality to the workforce.

Everything is here now to do everything differently, and better.

Read this case study to learn how a startup incubator leveraged cloud and managed services to support its mission.