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The No. 1 Threat to Private Cloud Deployment: IT Management and ITIL

In a previously published blog entry, Joe Onisick put forth the theory that the biggest threat to a private cloud deployment is your IT staff. Greg Ferro disagrees. Here's why.

People are the No. 1 reason why private clouds fail. The traditional IT management team is composed of tactically oriented, powerless leaders who aren't familiar with their core business and aren't equipped to handle dynamic IT business challenges presented by private clouds. They're more comfortable with sticking with what they know, avoiding change and ignoring the business risk of preventing change. They will be the downfall of your private cloud deployment.

Today's IT management is unprepared for change and unable to map a dynamic IT environment like a private cloud into a static and unyielding business process such as that espoused by the Information Technology Information Library (ITIL) or The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF). Everyone can see that business drivers are changing. Engineers have already embraced the new technologies of the private cloud. Management must deliver new accounting methods, better risk management and long-term funding to develop new private cloud infrastructures. At the same time, IT managers are refusing to change the existing business processes, accept risk and move their organizations forward.

This doesn't have to be the case. With some simple changes to executive thinking, IT managers can throw out the organizational dependence on outdated ITIL models and irrelevant TOGAF concepts, take control of a private cloud deployment and move the ship forward.

The business ideas embodied in ITIL and TOGAF were developed in a different computing and business epoch. At the turn of the millennium, IT projects commonly took many years to complete, required hundreds of resources and demanded massive internal cooperation. In those days, technology moved slower, hardware and OS installations took months, and the integration process was customized to the requirements of each business. Projects were planned well in advance and moved in a predefined lockstep. In those days, stakeholders didn't comprehend automated business process, rapid service delivery or rapid user take-up. Today, ITIL effectively forces every company to use the same process as every other.

Technology is a vibrant and user-driven experience. ITIL doesn't cope well with a technical environment that upgrades every six months and can't cope with projects that take weeks or days, because the project analysis and establishment costs more than the project itself.

The second and least-understood management challenge for a private cloud deployment is accounting. Today's tax and finance practices mean that funding projects for longer than one business year is impossible. Yet, a decade ago, companies regularly invested in long-term computing projects with multilayered deliverables over the term of the project. In the early nineties, accounting software and computing typically took five years to deploy as the process moved from sales ordering to general ledger, then stock management before finally delivering the end-to-end integrated accounting that we know today.

It was the "Harvard MBAs" who came along with the unholy vision of short-term gain, who maximized consulting revenue and abolished the long-term planning that infrastructure needs. IT managers need to engage with accountants, CFOs and CEOs to re-institute the concept of accrual funding and multiyear budget disbursement that is essential to the correct funding of long-term IT initiatives like private cloud infrastructures.

It's going to be tough: A private cloud deployment needs to be fluid to drive massive change to how IT management operates and engage the wider management team. The business needs driving private cloud are plainly obvious, and adapting IT to those needs is performed with a common-sense approach to dynamically acquiring compute, storage, networking and software management resources.

IT managers need to create constant and invasive loops into business management so they can communicate that IT is vitally important to how business operates. IT managers have to constantly remind business managers of the productivity gains achieved with IT, and that even further profit gains can be achieved with more IT resources.

If company executives can adapt their mind-sets to a new era of long-term project planning, abandon the outdated ITIL model and implement accrual accounting for long-term infrastructure purchasing, then your IT infrastructure team can easily step up and empower business performance.

Your IT engineers are smart, practical and motivated people who already building and maintaining an amazing infrastructure for better business. There are plenty of opportunities for management leadership and opportunities to progress into senior management when you show that IT is really about making business happen. You just have to think differently.