Do we need a Private Cloud?

 A Microsoft Certified Trainer since 1995, Paul Gregory has worked with and for some of the world's leading IT services organisations - including Unisys, Dell and Microsoft. Paul specialises in delivering training around the Windows OS as well as infrastructure and management solutions around System Center, going right back to SMS 1.0. A frequent visitor to Microsoft's Global Headquarters in Seattle, Paul has been invited to deliver training courses around the world on behalf of Microsoft.

Cloud computing is just the latest IT fad right? Cloud computing will be replaced with the next IT trend in a few years right? Trying to predict what will happen is always a risk, but how often within IT, with the benefit of hindsight, could we have done better? During the last 10 years of virtualisation and cloud computing there has been paradigm shifts in the way we can envision IT.

Unfortunately, a number of IT departments see their role as performing a few basic functions: patching, Software version upgrades, Hardware upgrades and supporting user calls. Most IT departments feel they are ‘keeping the wheels on’ and want to ensure they remain supported.

This does, however, not always align with business objectives. A business constantly evolves and IT must too. All too often the focus of IT can be separate to business – the IT department is often seen as either a blocker, or the department who says ‘NO’, rather than the enabler and a business unit that drives the business forward. I was recently on a customer site talking with their IT staff, who knew they were recognised as the department of ‘NO’ and admitted to giving up approaching the IT management staff with new ideas.

A few years ago, I wrote an article for TechNet discussing how to stay relevant in IT. One of my points was that you needed to be bi-lingual, meaning able to speak tech and business. This is becoming more relevant with each passing year, because a business will only achieve its true potential with the support of IT. Not only will this ensure a better solution, it will also be better for the support department because they are part of the solution. If IT does not learn this, the user base will find a way themselves and shadow IT will emerge.

Why cloud computing?

So is cloud computing the answer? I could justify “why cloud computing” quite easily, but it would be much better to listen to Stephen Fry in his YouTube video Changes to Computer Thinking. When you have watched the video, cloud computing will make perfect sense. It highlights the dark ages of computing most of us live in today, but the video also raises the questions, “How could our IT be better?”, “What can we do different?”, or “We make washing machines.”

The success stories

Let us look at Aviva as an example. They wanted customer loyalty and the ability to provide best value car insurance. So what did they do? They turned to cloud services. Aviva decided to monitor their customers driving through a mobile app, which uploads data to a cloud service, and then analyses that data to ensure they are getting the best insurance value Aviva can offer.

Cloud computing enabled Aviva to change their model and relationship with their customers. If you do happen to make washing machines or other consumer electronics have a look at Thyssen Krupps video on how Cloud computing and The Internet of Things has changed their business.

Start driving your business forward

If you watch the videos, the utopia picture looks good. It shows how you can align IT expenditure with demand, rather than over or under provisioning systems. It also shows how you can drive your IT solutions in new directions, but again you’re comfortable with patch Tuesday so you will stay where you are. On top of the business risks, this will also affect output, costs and profit of the company. On the door step of the IT department, you will also start to lose control as Shadow IT looms. All companies have, it just depends if you know or are prepared to admit it – shadow IT is where the users implement their own IT solutions to bypass the IT department. This could be anything from just finding a way round a system to complete a task, to completely implementing their own solution – either on premise, using some form of Software as a Service (SaaS), or maybe a social media solution (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)

Private Cloud computing allows this much needed relationship change to occur on premise, within companies, today. Private Cloud is especially important if you are unable to use a Public cloud due to technical reasons (i.e. Data Sovereignty), or you are just public cloud adverse. Private Cloud computing has enabled almost every size of business to have access to the toolset, system reliability, automation and scalability that was only available to the largest enterprises 10+ years ago. With Windows Server, System Center and the Windows Azure Pack you have all the pieces you need to achieve the dreams of highly scalable, reliable, automated, manageable and predictable IT solutions. On the Microsoft Virtual Academy website, you can discover how these technologies from Microsoft work together to deliver the solutions your company needs today. You will then have the call to action to evolve your IT into a business asset rather than a business cost and blocker by thinking outside the box: become a department that drives your company and says ‘YES’ to its users.

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