Friday, February 19, 2010

Change is Difficult

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the VMware Partner Exchange (PEX) in Las Vegas. One of the key themes was VMware's continued push to become the infrastructure of choice for both virtualization and Cloud Computing environments. This was highlighted by the discussions around project "Redwood".

What I've witnessed over the last six months is a change in the discussions that people in the industry have about "cloud". I put that in quotes because for the past year the discussion was always about the definition of "cloud". Internal vs. External cloud; Public vs. Private cloud; Google vs. Amazon AWS vs. IT 2.0 cloud. What I saw at PEX was a change in the focus of the discussion. While there are still people that are debating definitions, the bulk of the conversations were around the amount of change that these concepts of "cloud" would bring into their environment. Change is difficult, and for many people, it started them thinking about what they were willing to change, needed to change, and what could remain the same.

Let me give a couple examples:

- When speaking with IT administrators, from every technology area, they were all seeing a blurring of the old lines that used to segment their role from other groups. Networks have become a combination of hardware and software, moving up into the servers as well as integrating data and storage traffic. Virtualization is making it challenging for Application administrators to know "where" their application resides, and it's making it more difficult for Network administrators to create security and mobility policies because Virtual Machines (VMs) are no longer fixed to the end of a cable. Application administrators are caught between building High-Availability, Backup and Disaster Recovery plans using native OS tools, or starting to adopt the functionality built into the Virtualization layer.
  • Who needs to learn the skills of the other group?
  • Does a specialist still have a role in IT, or will everyone in IT need to morph into generalists or cross-functioning roles?
  • How should policies and process be re-written to address all of this blurring of functionality?
And most of those discussions centered around a new model of running their internal IT operations (Private Cloud, Internal Cloud, etc.). The discussions about using external "cloud" services just added another layer of change around things like "control" and "security".

-  When speaking with partners (Sales, Systems Integrators, etc.), they also had concerns about the ability to sell and service IT using these new "cloud" models.
  • How do we teach our sales reps to communicate end-to-end value when they have always sold boxes, features or point solutions?
  • How do we coordinate pieces from multiple vendors, who may not be completely aligned or have different priorities?
  • How do we convince Purchasing Agents (at the customer) to not nit-pick line by line pricing after we've communicated the end-to-end value of this new "cloud" solution to the CIO?
2010 is shaping up to be the beginning of a shift in how companies solve business problems through the use of technology. Cloud Computing, in various forms, will play a big role in who they look at solving those problems.  But in parallel, everyone associated with IT will be dealing with the changes and opportunities that "cloud" brings to their world. How they handle those changes will be one of the key factors to success or failure in solving those business challenges.