Clouds are already taking control over IT away from IT

Give up the headache of maintaining something and you give up control over it, too.

Adoption of cloud computing among end-user companies is moving much more quickly than most analysts anticipated, pushing IT organizations, cloud-computing software vendors and third-party support an integration companies into a frenzy as they try to keep up, according to a new report from IDC.

Part of the impetus for the rapid adoption of cloud is hype from analyst companies such as IDC, which have been predicting rapid growth of the cloud so frequently and consistently that both IT and business-unit managers felt pressured to keep up with the pace of growth in cloud hype and uncomfortable with their lack of control over the pace and the new platform.

[Also see: How to build a career in cloud computing]

Cloud computing is so disruptive a technology, and contains technologies so disruptive, that IT organizations have to migrate much more quickly than they would with other products because so many of the technologies on which they depend have already migrated to the cloud, according to Frank Gens, IDC chief analyst who oversaw the study.

Cloud, mobile computing, wireless networks, big data and social networking "are merging into the industry's third major platform for long-term growth," Gens said in an IDC statement.

The change is at least as big as the shift from mainframes to PCs, but is happening in a much more compressed time period – one in which even a pause in migration is identified as a problem.

Spending on public IT cloud services will grow at more than 27 percent per year during the next five years, rising from $21.5 billion in 2010 to $72.9 billion in 2015, the IDC report said.

By 2015, 46 percent of all new IT spending will be on services in the public cloud.

Three quarters of that will be on SAAS apps, the growth or changes in which will drive increases in spending on storage, server space, networking, application development, systems infrastructure software and other bits of stuff to keep the SAAS apps doing what they're supposed to do and integrate them with legacy apps and data.

Selecting, integrating with and deploying those apps and infrastructure will put pressure on internal IT departments, which will hire help from outside in the form of support and integration companies who will do much of the heavy lifting, the report said.

Though he left out the role of predictions by analysts and blanket coverage of cloud by the news media (which is so dizzy and weakened by spin by now that many will use incompatible metaphors like "blanket" and "cloud" in the same sentence).

What Gens didn't say, and much of the report avoided, is the degree of change IT will have to go through in order to make all this cloud goodness happen.

No one is predicting internal IT will disappear, but it will change – a lot.

As more things go to the cloud, fewer will be left inside the data center and fewer traditional IT people will be there to do them.

Sysadmins and hardware techs will never go away, but as the cloud grows, more of those jobs will be with service providers, not within IT, which will become far more focused on managing contracts, verifying the bona fides of potential service providers and negotiating the best possible contracts.

The change may only be a few percentage points per year shifted from the hands-on-IT world to one focused on virtualized service management. It won't eliminate IT or convert it into something unrecognizable so quickly that a sysadmin returning to the data center after five years in a coma or in World of Warcraft won't recognize the old cube farm.

The change will be real, however, and it will be steady enough to make a big difference in the job description of every professional geek between now and 2015.

"The winners of the cloud platform wars will likely be the new power brokers of the IT industry," IDC's press release crows.

Probably true, though not to the exclusion of the infrastructure makers who build products that make up the private end of the cloud inside the data center and the kinetic end of it within the software users actually use.

Thirty years ago the most important vendors to an IT exec were probably hardware makers. Twenty years ago it was probably software; ten years ago it was networking (then software again as people realized networks are ugly and they'd rather look at a GUI on top of it even if the GUI is called something icky like the Web).

Five years from now the first vendors an IT exec will have to worry about will be cloud providers – who will be able to behave more like telecommunications vendors with near-monopolies on service to specific geographic areas.

Cloud providers will learn to play nice with each other and, to a certain extent, keep sucking up to the CIO by making sure they meet all the SLAs and hit the metrics they promised they would hit.

As with IBM during the mainframe age and Dell, HP, Microsoft and Apple during the heyday of the PC, however, the vendors will identify which metrics will be used and, to a large extent, will also do the measuring.

In practical terms that might be as big a change in the control IT execs have over their own technology as the cloud itself.

When you give up the need to maintain something, you also give up some control over it.

The question is how much control will there be for IT executives, 10 years from now, over the technology for which they're still responsible?

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