As cloud infrastructure offerings gain more popularity, the debate on the raison d’etre of on-premise IT infrastructure has risen. A group of people observe that the traditional, on-premise infrastructure is losing its relevance. Any prediction that traditional IT infrastructure will become redundant is baseless. While cloud infrastructure has been becoming more popular, it is unreasonable to think that every company will totally move its infrastructure to the cloud. It is rather simplistic to think that all IT infrastructure will just move to the cloud. It is more complex than that. Studies show that a lot of talk about moving to the cloud is just talk. Companies will decide on cloud adoption depending on their data security, cost and benefits, relevance and other considerations. Three scenarios are possible: total, mixed or non-adoption of cloud.
Is it a hype around the cloud?
There certainly appears to be some hype around Cloud, especially on its potential to replace the traditional IT infrastructure. Unreasonable and baseless observations are being offered. There was a debate on the potential of Cloud Infrastructure to replace traditional IT infrastructure sponsored by Deloitte. Obviously, there had been two sides of the debate. While one side appeared bullish on the potential replacement of traditional IT infrastructure, the other side took a more balanced view. Let us consider both views:
For Cloud replacing traditional IT infrastructure
This side of the debate focused on eliminating the cost and hassles associated with enterprise architecture (EA). Maintaining the EA involved many different activities which are viewed as complex, costly and avoidable. There is an opportunity to move everything related to EA to Cloud and reduce hassles and costs significantly.
Against Cloud replacing traditional IT infrastructure
Jobs and processes in the Cloud cannot be treated as standalone. EA will still have a role to play in managing the relationships and dependencies between mission, technologies, processes and business initiatives. Scott Rosenberger, Partner, Deloitte Consulting, takes a more balanced view. According to Rosenberger, “No matter what tool you use, the core problem isn’t the technology. It’s in defining the relationships between all the different components of their vision, from business processes to technology. And that’s where EA comes in.”
According to David S. Linthicum, noted author, “Cloud computing does not replace enterprise architecture. It does not provide “infinite scalability,” it does not “cost pennies a day,” you can’t “get there in an hour” – it won’t iron my shirts either. It’s exciting technology that holds the promise of providing more effective, efficient, and elastic computing platforms, but we’re taking this hype to silly levels these days, and my core concern is that the cloud may not be able to meet these overblown expectations.”
What are the problems of IT infrastructure?
Both exasperation with EA limitations and cost considerations have been behind the serious consideration of the Cloud infrastructure proposition. Whether we are choosing something even worse is a different debate. EA is a practice which, if implemented well, could yield many benefits. However, it is unable to realize its potential because of certain problems.
- EA is a separate practice and requires a practice-based management. Yet, organizations put people in charge of EA who are people-focused and not practice-focused.
- Implementing quality EA requires a deep and broader understanding of EA and its role in the organization business. For that, a broader planning and architecture is required, right from the start. However, many different ad-hoc architectures are created based on situations and that can totally jeopardise the broader EA goals.
- The main problem with many EA architects is their approach to business problems. While the technical acumen of the technical architects cannot be questioned, they certainly lack the ability to take a broader view of the business problems and how the EA can solve the business problems. The technical architects are too deep into technical nuances which prevent them from accepting other business perspectives.
- Many EA are too complex and rigid. This prevents them from accommodating changes necessitated by changes in business situation. Many head architects tend to forget that the main goal of EA is on business and not on unnecessary technical stuff. According to John Zachman, the founder of modern EA, “Architecture enable you to accommodate complexity and change. If you don’t have Enterprise Architecture, your enterprise is not going to be viable in an increasingly complex and changing external environment.
Is Cloud the solution?
The way forward is to have a balance and not drastically change your IT infrastructure strategy. You also need to seriously consider the confidentiality and security of data issue. Probably the best approach would be to consider the feasibility of moving EA to Cloud in phase-wise manner. For example, you could divide your EA into logical areas such as software applications and servers and consider their cases individually. For your convenience, the following areas are given:
- Software applications: This area can include productivity suites like Office, SQL Server, Exchange email, VMWare ESX server, SharePoint, finance programs (like Quickbooks Server), or an enterprise search program.
- Services area which can include functions such as authentication mechanisms, monitoring, and task schedulers. For example, you can certainly consider replacing complex in-house services such as Active Directory with online services such as Windows Azure Active Directory.
- Storage can be a tricky proposition because you store a lot of data there which can be confidential. So, you need to think hard if you want to move that out and allow a third party to take care of your data. For example, if your business handles credit card data, it is extremely risky to hand over their storage.
The way forward should be a balance between Cloud and in-house architecture. Not all organisations are going to move to Cloud because of their unique considerations. At the same time, it cannot be denied that Cloud-based infrastructure is going to be a major force very soon. So much so that major IT infrastructure providers are expecting a slowdown. The Research firm 451 Group finds that cloud providers such as the Amazon Web Services are going to grow at an exponential rate. But EA is not going to go away anytime soon.