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Enterprise Cloud Computing Adoption

IT Professionals Become Strategic Partners

IT professionals including server and storage managers often think that the adoption of cloud computing in the enterprise puts their jobs in danger. To the contrary, the role of the IT professional is evolving into a more strategic position as more organizations adopt private and public cloud, with many using a combination of the two, which is often referred to as hybrid cloud. Recent reports suggest that the cloud will result in increased career advancement for IT professionals both in terms of responsibility and job opportunities.

IT professionals should embrace the cloud, not fear it. Consider surfers who once rejected surf board leashes as "kook chords," dismissing them as unnecessary. However, as is the case with many innovations, the "kook chord" has gradually become a reliable standard used by virtually every surfer today.

Let's be blunt: IT is a terrible place for old-school purists. To succeed, IT professionals must continually refine their skillsets to evolve into the role of strategic IT advisors for the enterprise on cloud initiatives. Rather than being just elbows-deep in motherboards and memory, they are moving from a tactical role into a more strategic role that requires a combination of hands-on work and sourcing, depending on the type of cloud environment that makes sense for the enterprise. The IT professional may manage storage arrays in the data center, in a private cloud, or choose a cloud service provider and manage the relationship while keeping in mind things like performance, integration with existing IT infrastructure, and avoiding vendor lock-in. In the case of a public cloud, direct operations become less of a task, while management of cloud vendor relationships moves to the forefront. IT professionals can build on their indispensable expertise to find the best types of cloud storage, evaluate providers, and create a business case for choosing one over the other. With a private cloud, IT professionals retain a more hands on role while in a hybrid cloud environment IT professionals must balance the two. In either case, the evolved technical role is critical.

Becoming Strategic Partners in the Enterprise
Many IT professionals have already had a taste of choosing providers strategically. Very few corporations own their entire network. Many IT professionals are already familiar with the role of the consultant, offering up the business case for choosing, say, AT&T, Orange Business Services or NTT. As cloud computing evolves, IT professionals can take their careers to the next level by positioning themselves as cloud specialists - e.g., cloud architects, cloud security specialists, cloud developers, cloud infrastructure managers, and provider specialists - using their existing knowledge of systems and updating their skillsets.

For example, consider a bank executive who wants to develop a mobile application for her customers. The executive can make the business case for the application, but she may not know how the application runs on the back end - how much data it requires, or what kind of network the bank will need for the application to work. She will turn to an IT professional knowledgeable about public, private and hybrid cloud. In turn, the IT professional, a cloud specialist, can offer several options that meet the bank's requirements for the application and make a recommendation to host the application in a public cloud but store data in the bank's private infrastructure. A cloud architect can assist with building the application so that it is optimized for the cloud. The cloud specialist becomes a strategic partner, rather than the person tasked with building an application and deploying it on the server.

With the trend toward deploying public cloud applications and applications built in private clouds, the cloud architect plays a vital role in the success of the software, eliminating the need to deploy complex software and manage updates on each workstation. IT professionals specializing in cloud architecture now support the backbone of a company's operations, optimizing performance, improving security, increasing reliability, and ensuring easy access to mission-critical applications. As a result, the IT professionals gain greater insight into the inner workings of the business as they gain a better understanding of the technology with the goal of aligning IT with the business goals.

As strategic partners in the organization, IT professionals also can examine new ways to provide services that benefit the business, end users, and the IT organization. The benefits also extend to partners and consumers. Given the expansion of cloud computing and its rapid adoption, IT professionals are now better positioned to recommend which computing, storage, and virtualization resources to choose and how to deliver it. Due to the lower capital investment in public cloud-based solutions, IT professionals are positioned to provide scalable services to the business that otherwise may be struck down. The cloud gives IT professionals the opportunity to expand services delivered at a lower cost, which pleases executives and end users who expect their applications to run smoothly and their storage resources to be abundant.

For example, many vendors offer solutions like computer-aided engineering and productivity suites that are deployed across private clouds and accessed through web browsers. This approach adds up to significant cost savings for the business and significant power for the IT department - who keep access open to the software and optimize performance.

WAN Optimization: An Opportunity to Showcase Consulting Expertise
WAN optimization is now being offered in a variety of form factors including physical, cloud, and virtualized instances. A newer option IT professionals can consider as they move towards cloud computing is choosing WAN optimization-as-a-service. WAN optimization-as-a-service is particularly attractive to organizations that prefer the predictability of an operating expense, and provides all the same de-duplication and application optimization benefits of traditional WAN optimization appliances.

WAN optimization-as-a-service providers may offer WAN optimization solutions integrated with value add solutions such as application and network performance management tools to pinpoint, understand, and troubleshoot performance issues in modern IT environments. Instead of standalone WAN optimization, IT professionals can optimize, manage, and monitor the WAN with one service. As cloud specialists, IT professionals will be able to provide metrics on application performance and network performance to demonstrate the value of optimization as well as better allocate bandwidth.

The shift to the cloud, particularly private clouds in the enterprise, calls for an optimized WAN that can deliver applications with speed and agility. Users do not want to wait for their applications or data to load, and they expect that moving to the cloud, private or public, will provide the same computing experience as using the desktop.

IT professionals can seize opportunities for cloud computing by examining the IT infrastructure from every facet. Instead of fearing for their jobs, they can embrace the cloud and use it as an opportunity to sharpen their skills, challenge themselves, and play a strategic role in delivering the next generation of the enterprise network. Cloud will make IT professionals vital to the success of the organization.

More Stories By Miles Kelly

Miles Kelly is senior director of product marketing at Riverbed. Riverbed delivers performance for the globally connected enterprise. With Riverbed, enterprises can successfully and intelligently implement strategic initiatives such as virtualization, consolidation, cloud computing, and disaster recovery without fear of compromising performance.

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