One of the greatest moments a cloud evangelist indulges in occurs at that point a listener experiences an intuitive leap of understanding following your explanation of cloud computing. No greater joy and intrinsic sense of accomplishment.
Government IT managers, particularly those in developing countries, view information and communications technology (ICT) as almost a "black" art. Unlike the US, Europe, Korea, Japan, or other countries where Internet and network-enabled everything has diffused itself into the core of Generation "Y-ers," Millennials, and Gen "Z-ers." The black art gives IT managers in some legacy organizations the power they need to control the efforts of people and groups needing support, as their limited understanding of ICT still sets them slightly above the abilities of their peers.
But, when the "users" suddenly have that right brain flash of comprehension in a complex topic such as cloud computing, the barrier of traditional IT control suddenly becomes a barrier which must be explained and justified. Suddenly everybody from the CFO down to supervisors can become "virtual" data center operators – at the touch of a keyboard. Suddenly cloud computing and ICT becomes a standard tool for work – a utility.
The Changing Role of IT Managers
IT managers normally make marginal business planners. While none of us like to admit it, we usually start an IT refresh project with thoughts like, "what kind of computers should we request budget to buy?" Or "that new "FuzzPort 2000″ is a fantastic switch, we need to buy some of those..." And then spend the next fiscal year making excuses why the IT division cannot meet the needs and requests of users.
The time is changing. The IT manager can no longer think about control, but rather must think about capacity and standards. Setting parameters and process, not limitations.
Think about topics such as cloud computing, and how they can build an infrastructure which meets the creativity, processing, management, scaling, and disaster recovery needs of the organization. Think of gaining greater business efficiencies and agility through data center consolidation, education, and breaking down ICT barriers.
The IT manager of the future is not only a person concerned about the basic ICT food groups of concrete, power, air conditioning, and communications, but also concerns himself with capacity planning and thought leadership.
The Changing Role of Users
There is an old story of the astronomer and the programmer. Both are pursuing graduate degrees at a prestigious university, but from different tracks. By the end of their studies (this is a very old story), the computer science major focusing on software development found his FORTRAN skills were actually below the FORTRAN skills of the astronomer.
"How can this be" cried the programmer? "I have been studying software development for years, and you studying the stars?"
The astronomer replied "you have been studying FORTRAN as a major for the past three years. I have needed to learn FORTRAN and apply it in real application to my major, studying the solar system, and needed to learn code better than you just to do my job."
There will be a point when the Millenials, with their deep-rooted appreciation for all things network and computer, will be able to take our Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and use this as their tool for developing great applications driving their business into a globally wired economy and community. Loading a LINUX image and suite of standard applications will give the average person no more intellectual stress than a "Boomer" sending a fax.
Revisiting the "4th" Utility
Yes, it is possible IT managers may be the road construction and maintenance crews of the Internet age, but that is not a bad thing. We have given the Gen Y-ers the tools they need to be great, and we should be proud of our accomplishments. Now is the time to build better tools to make them even more capable. Tools like the 4th utility which marries broadband communications with on-demand compute and storage utility.
The cloud computing epiphany awakens both IT managers and users. It stimulates an intellectual and organizational freedom that lets creative people and productive people explore more possibilities, with more resources, with little risk of failure (keep in mind with cloud computing your are potentially just renting your space).
If we look at other utilities as a tool, such as a road, water, or electricity – there are far more possibilities to use those utilities than the original intent. As a road may be considered a place to drive a car from point "A" to point "B," it can also be used for motorcycles, trucks, bicycles, walking, a temporary hard stand, a temporary runway for airplanes, a stick ball field, a street hockey rink – at the end of the day it is a slab of concrete or asphalt that serves an open-ended scope of use – with only structural limitations.
Cloud computing and the 4th utility are the same. Once we have reached that cloud computing epiphany, our next generations of tremendously smart people will find those creative uses for the utility, and we will continue to develop and grow closer as a global community.