Cloud Computing Calls for Rebuilding Enterprise IT


IT operations will need to be restructured and automated to support cloud computing. This goes well beyond using tools to support dynamic application deployment to virtual machines in the cloud. This means modifying the processes by which IT infrastructure itself is installed and configured. The catch phrase is "infrastructure as code," and it means using tools to install and configure operating systems, networks, and storage implementation.

At the very least, manual installation and configuration of all software assets must shift to automation. The cloud environment itself should be able to absorb additional hardware assets as they are added to the environment.

Frankly, this is the area that is most likely to require radical rethinking on the part of IT executives. I've seen many people proclaim that they are going to run an "enterprise" cloud. In part, that presumes the use of expensive, high resiliency equipment, but it also implies that the cloud environment will support custom, one-off infrastructure configuration and unique application requirements.

This is admirable, but it's not cloud computing. It is virtualization yoked with traditional system administration practices. Long-term, this approach is unsustainable and any IT organization that doesn't realize it is going to be left behind as application groups embrace other alternatives. Failure to adopt the infrastructure management practices pioneered by the large public providers will consign an operations group to slow, reactive and expensive processes, which are unacceptable in a world that has embraced automation as a quotidian practice.