The Impending It Crisis (and What Do About It!

April 3, 2013

In our consulting group we spend a lot of time discussing, dissecting and analyzing each project we do. This leads to long debates around what ultimately are the best practices in everything from app virtualization, to VDI vs SBC, to storage, networking, hypervisor and ‘physical versus virtual’. While this is personally and professionally very satisfying it pretty much means that we don’t do any “cookie cutter” solutions. Each new project gets the benefit of lessons learned and is uniquely tailored and shaped to be ideal for that particular client environment.

Over time, however, this process has been rapidly increasing in turn over time. It used to be measured in a few years and there was a relatively small set of technologies to master and keep up on. Then it accelerated to about a year or so, but with an order of magnitude more details to learn and integrate. Now, it seems to be happening in months and weeks and there is more and more complexity at each turn. There are even times when it seems that important elements of solutions are evolving and changing within a just matter of days! Oh, and once you figure it out, new version of the products get released and all new Best Practices are needed!

When you do this full time for a living, try really hard and have an “A” Team like we do at Thin Client Computing, we can just about keep up. However, most of our clients are not in the I.T. Business, their missions are in other important areas such as HealthCare, Education, Finance and Manufacturing. They do I.T. because it is necessary to run, support, enhance and grow their Core Mission.

In a recent group retreat, Brenda Tinius shared a concern and phrase that pretty much stopped us all in our tracks. She described with great concern was she sees as “The Impending IT Crisis”. The crisis is an inflection point in which the technology advances beyond what people can readily absorb and assimilate into their daily processes. IT Professionals are kept very busy with the day to day tasks of maintenance, repair, updates, and, responding to the daily needs of the Business and it’s Users- how can they possibly stay ahead of trends and innovate in a climate of change that is happening faster than human speeds!

One example is the fact that the technology industry has been pushing organizations to virtualize servers and desktops for years now. It is becoming generally accepted, and the stated policy of many organizations today, to virtualize every workload in their organization. Enter rapid change- that was a great idea when most of the workloads were running on legacy 32bit Operating Systems- servers had somehow sprawled out all over the data center in a mess of inefficient configurations and underutilized hardware. Hardware Virtualization, i.e. the hypervisor, emerged as a useful and effective tool. Over time it has become the central focus of so many IT initiatives, but, in the time it took to become mainstream, a lot has already changed!

Now there are well proven ways to virtualize at all layers of the stack- hardware, disk, operating system, application, user and presentation layers. Hardware virtualization is only one solution in a range of options and often strikes me at the technology equivalent of Monty Python’s classic skit “Mosquito Hunting with a Cannon

Some would say that this is whole point of Cloud Computing, you no longer have to buy, build, and maintain Information Technology yourself, you simply consume the resources you need and let the provider worry about all the details. Thats a great thing and I agree that in time this is exactly how the world will work, but, this is clearly in the future. For now, I just don’t see comprehensive offerings in which organizations can completely outsource all their needs to a Cloud Provider and have them truly met.

Just like in the days of when the mainframes and minis ruled IT, I see users wanting, needing and expecting more than IT can often deliver. Today is it common for users to have better capabilites on their personal SmartPhone/Tablet and their home computer than they have at the office! Everyday now we are hearing about departments within our client companies skirting around the internal IT department to deploy technologies they need and want themselves. Meanwhile, IT is working harder than ever to provide what they can, and, with smaller and smaller budgets. There is a real Crisis brewing here, but what can we do about it?

In short, it is time for a new Era of Innovation and I see this as fueled by a taking a fresh look at the technology landscape and being willing to let go of old assumptions  and ideas. We have to start over again in 2013, wipe the slate clean and take a fresh approach. While most people regard Cloud as hype and self serving marketing on the part of many industry players, it has taught the key to avoiding the Crisis:

Build Once and Leverage Infinitely

The hardware today is astoundingly powerful and software capabilities are at an all time high. Tools are readily available to create advanced systems, whether internally or externally hosted, that can deliver virtually any application to any user, device or location. There is no longer any need to hard-code the hardware to the OS, the OS the Apps, the Apps to the User or the User to a device.

The key is to rethink how to accomplish this in your own organization. Take a step back, learn what is possible, leverage what is available and flip this whole Crisis on it’s head.  I.T. can become a valuable service to the organization once again by adopting these new ideas, rising to the challenge of the Cloud by rethinking and redesigning internal systems to provide seamless and ubiquitous services to all who need them. It is time to stop doing things the old way just because they are familiar and take a bold step forward into technologies and designs that let you get ahead of the curve by creating versatile platforms and not just point solutions.

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