December 05, 2011, 4:06 PM — When developers want to level a stand of virgin forest, the call the environmentalists who protest the destruction "tree huggers."
Some did it because they just liked trees. Most were part of '70s and '80s environmental movements, which had a complex political agenda that's not always clear even yet.
In the Noughty Outies the relevant term is "server hugger," coined by pithy Forrester analyst James Staten as a way to ding executives who resist cloud computing or virtualization because they just don't trust a server they can't see.
There have always been good reasons to prefer a server you can put your hands on if necessary; virtual servers tended to multiply and eat up all the available resources because, when they burst into data centers with irresistible ROI, they were almost invisible once they were launched. Especially once the same user launched a new version of the same server every single day for a couple of months without ever killing one.
Sprawl-controlling lifecycle management has come a long way since then, as have virtual-server and cloud-resource monitoring software.
Neither category as complete as it should be, and none of the products are as capable as the physical-server versions of the same products.
Cloud and virtual servers aren't invisible anymore, however.
Staten and other virtualization- and cloud-computing analysts didn't use pejoratives back then to describe IT or business managers who resisted virtualization. Their reasons were too good.
Most of them now are more worried that if a server disappears they'll have a hard time justifying their jobs.
Server huggers "have significant concerns about their ongoing value to the company if they don't run [IT systems] themselves," Staten told Computerworld.
The situation is more complicated than the business-unit manager who thinks IT is gypping his or her department by taking away the physical servers and replacing them with an equivalent amount of processing power, allocated via cloud-based infrastructure, from the data center.
With nothing to lay hands on, the only evidence that something worthwhile is being provided is the work employees do.
A lot of managers would rather measure their importance against the amount of space their departments take up, or their headcount or the number of servers they need, rather than the importance or quality of the work their departments produce.
Quality is so much harder to quantify than quantity.
Within IT, at least, there is a legitimate question of how cloud computing, specifically, changes IT job descriptions.