Taking advantage of a Crisis

The Business of IT Blog has an article titled “3 Secrets That Oil Companies Use To Run A Great IT Department” that has some interesting insight from Sunoco‘s head of IT, Peter Whatnell.  According to the article,

Whatnell stresses that we need to make sure that we don’t “…waste a good crisis.” What he means by this is that 2009 is going to be tough and it’s going to force every IT department to investigate nontraditional ways of delivering IT services.

Well said.

The article continues on to say that IT departments need to research lower costs method of delivering services to the organization.  I don’t think anyone would disagree with that, but many would (and do) disagree with looking toward the ‘cloud’ for some of these services.

Of course, if you’ve read my post on Cloud Computing, you know that I’m all for looking at the Cloud for methods to deliver software and services.

Whatnell, according to the article, has a similar mindset.

Whatnell is somewhat famous for saying that he’d consider moving to a cheaper alternative, such as Google’s email system, if he could get 90% of the functionality for 10% of the cost. One of the reasons that he’s taken this stance is because he realizes that most users only scratch the surface of the functionality of the applications that they have available to them. Give the power users access to the fancy, expensive version of the apps and give everyone else the basic version.

Interesting take.

Think about your current email system, especially if you are in a large organization.  Do you use all of the features of Microsoft‘s Exchange or Lotus Domino (is that still around?)?  Personally, I use email and the address book and nothing else.

Why couldn’t an organization take their email system out to the cloud?  Reliability would be about the same I would think.  Management overhead would be less (or would it?).

A pertinent question to ask yourself as a head of IT is “if I were starting my IT operation today, would I do it this way?“.  The  answer to that question might just make you stop and think about researching other delivery mechanisms for your IT services.

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Cloud Computing and the Enterprise

I ran across an absolutely amazing blog post from Mark Masterson titled ‘The Enterprise Cloud‘ that really shed a lot of light on Cloud Computing in the Enterprise. Cloud Computing seems to be one of those nebulous entities with many different definitions by many different people.  Take the following definitions as examples.

Frank Gillett @ Forrester – “Most of us confuse two fundamentally different types of compute clouds as one. Server clouds support the needs of traditional business apps while scale-out clouds are designed for massive, many-machine workloads such as Web sites or grid compute applications.” Geva Perry @ GigaOm – “Although it is difficult to come up with a precise and comprehensive definition of cloud computing, at the heart of it is the idea that applications run somewhere on the “cloud” (whether an internal corporate network or the public Internet) – we don’t know or care where.” InfoWorld – Cloud computing is “a way to increase capacity or add capabilities on the fly without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software. Cloud computing encompasses any subscription-based or pay-per-use service that, in real time over the Internet, extends IT’s existing capabilities”.

After all of that, it’s safe to assume that cloud computing can be thought of as another ‘system’ that can be used to add capabilities to your IT infrastructure without the expensive data center and operations staff. So what is Enterprise Cloud Computing?  Mark Mastersondescribes it as:

a type of cloud computing that is suited to the specific requirements of existing companies, and allows them to leverage resources in the Cloud to provide economical ways of adding capacity to their existing environments.

Nice description..simple and straightforward with no techno-speak…especially the ‘economical ways of adding capacity to their existing environments’.  I’d say every CIO is looking for economical ways to add to their IT Infrastructure and capabilities. Is Cloud computing the right way to go for every organization?  Probably not…but it does give you an opportunity to do a lot more with a lot less….which is what people are looking for today. Mark’s blog post is long and detailed….and a great read.  Jump over now and enjoy. For a real-world example of Cloud Computing within an enterprise, jump over to CIO.com and read the article about Bechtel’s move to the cloud. The article starts with an interesting question:

If I were starting from scratch, what kind of IT systems would I build to support my business today?

Great question…and one that would probably receive the answer of ‘not what I have today’ in many organizations today. Geir Ramleth, Bechtel’s CIO, asked this question at Bechtel a few years ago and found that the answer was “no”….so he set about to change how IT was delivered to the organization.  His answer: Cloud Computing. But…Ramleth and his team didn’t go to outside vendors for all their cloud computing needs…they built data centers and standardized on hardware and software and began to deliver IT solutions across the enterprise using internal cloud computing resources. In effect, Bechtel built a SaaS model and began offering these service to their internal and external clients.  According to Ramleth (as reported in the article), the goal of the new SaaS platform is to:

create a Google-like experience for enterprise application users. Log in to the portal, pick a task and get it done in a few simple steps rather than logging in to an assortment of applications.

Interesting concept.  I’d be interested in how the end-users at Bechtel are feeling about these new SaaS applications. Interesting stuff…isn’t it?  There are few companies  today as advanced as Bechtel in their adoption of Cloud Computing in the enterprise, but I think we’ll see more ‘noise’ in the coming year(s) as organizations try to ‘do more with less’. Know of any other real-world examples of cloud computing in the enterprise?  Share them with me in the comments.

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