Posted by Wesley David in IT Professional, SysAdmin on 02-07-2010
Tags: IT Professional, SysAdmin
I admit that I’ve been a bit hypersensitive to trends that tend to disperse central IT departments (Exhibit A and Exhibit B on this blog). As a result I was a little surprised to see this press release from Riverbed Technologies. The title “Riverbed Survey Shows Businesses Are Rapidly Moving Toward IT Consolidation”, knocked me back for a moment.
The article is based off of a 2010 Interop Las Vegas survey done by RiverBed Technology. Over 350 Interop attendees were surveyed. The results were interesting, but upon further inspection do not, I believe, suggest that IT departments are resisting the trend towards a decentralized technologist workforce and an increased usage of service providers.
In a nutshell, the survey shows that IT departments are centralizing their resources through private clouds and branch-office virtualization. The motivations are primarily to save money, reduce complexity (which really means “save money”) and increase security (which really means “save money”).
Upon a closer inspection, this survey suggests a trend towards centralized IT resources more than it does a centralized IT workforce. The survey seems to be poorly named. It may have been better to title it “Study Suggests IT Departments Seek Cost Savings Through Shared Resources and Reduced Complexity.”
In my opinion, centralized resources, particularly using an internal cloud, will make the individual technologists more flexible in their roles and be the enabling technology in redistributing them into individual business units. Also, the increased simplicity of pooled resources may allow for IT workers to be “let go” (a term which I hate) from a company’s IT workforce, or at least shifted to a different position within the business. Perhaps that different position will be one which is more closely aligned with a specific business unit as outlined in this previous SysAdmin-Talk post.
At it’s heart, this kind of consolidation is motivated by the same concern as most anything else is: money and the desire to make and retain more of it. Reduced complexity and increased security are built on top of the desire to reduce spending (whether in the form of management costs or fines). Increased flexibility would hopefully increase the potential for money to be made.
What does this portend, if anything? I think that when technology departments seek to consolidate their services en masse into internal clouds (a fancy term for what many of us have already started doing with the use of virtualization), it will cause reflection on which services they really want to keep in-house. Inevitably some will be handed off to outsourcers that specialize in the task. Hosted Exchange, Wikis and CRMs for example. Basically, if it doesn’t directly make money for the business or differentiate the business then it’s a prime candidate for outsourcing.
Much of what remains behind will be the specialized tasks and tools that are specific to individual departments. Those things will be absorbed into an internal cloud for easier management and the technologists that work on them will work directly in the departments that use the services. Ironically, those services that are kept and absorbed will likely be primed for migration to an external cloud provider if the standards that are often talked about by the likes of VMWare and even NIST come to fruition. What was once considered too risky to trust to the cloud may not be once certain concerns are addressed.
Business leaders may become more comfortable with external service providers the more those providers are shown to be successful and the more their security and SLAs are documented and guaranteed. What services remain in-house after the first round of “cloudification” would then be even more tempting to outsource when internal compute power begins to run thin and the cost of procuring hardware begins to make little sense and cloud providers can leverage the economy of scale in their favor. Of course, less services being provided in-house as well as the simplification of management that internal clouds can provide will mean the possibility, nay, the probability of less technologist jobs being necessary internally and more being made at external service providers.
The report mentioned four concerns that the surveyed individuals were mindful of as they centralized their resources. First was performance closely followed by security. Availability and migration issues distantly trailed in importance.
Those same concerns over an internal centralization of resources will ring true (and maybe even morseo) for service providers before they can be utilized in enough capacity to cause the predicted 75% reduction in internal IT workers. As those concerns are overcome, it will be all the easier and more desirable for an increasing amount of “undifferentiating” tasks to be outsourced.
After the internal consolidation is done or significantly progressed, that will free technology departments from their monolithic structures and allow for a healthy internal dispersal. SysAdmins will no longer have quite as much grunt work to tend to and the “grunty” tasks that remain will not be as disparate and thus easier to manage. I say that within 18 to 24 months we’ll see the first signs of the significant shift in technologist placement as well as in-demand skills. Technologists will begin the move towards closer relationships with business units or take up new positions at external service providers.
With quotes like this in the RiverBed study it seems that the change is upon us: “33 percent of respondents plan additional data center consolidation projects within the next 12 months.” (emphasis added)
This industry has certainly changed a lot in the few years I’ve been involved in it. Do you see the change in your own job? Are you readied for it?