Will IT teams get extinct?

by Abhinna Shreshtha    Nov 29, 2010

cloud computingIT is slowly turning into a utility and cloud computing is just speeding the process, opined industry experts at Zinnov’s Cloud Commune ‘10 held in Mumbai on Friday.

The comments were part of a panel discussion on Indian customers and their outlook towards the cloud. Panel members included Manish Kasliwal, head (strategic marketing) of L&T Infotech, Anjan Choudhry, CTO of BSE India, Bharti Lele, head (innovation lab) of L&T Infotech, HD Khosla, president (wired line technology) of Tata Teleservices (TTSL), and Paresh Pujara, group CIO of Adani Enterprises.

The panelists agreed that cloud computing is the way forward and that sooner or later most organizations would have to move some facet of their businesses to the cloud. According to the panel members, cloud computing deletes IT management issues. “Companies now-a-days don’t want the headache of managing IT systems,” said Kasliwal. His opinion was backed more strongly by Pujara who said that businesses do not need or want to understand technology, they are only concerned with the end result and cloud computing gives them this freedom.

Speaking on the perceived security issues surrounding the cloud, the panelists dismissed them as the natural fear of the unknown.

The role of CIOs in the future was also examined by the panelists with some opining that the need for IT teams will become redundant. “CIOs feel going to the cloud will reduce their importance, but they must understand that it is the future and cannot be ignored,” opined one panelist. Another reason, as sited by Khosla, is that innovation happens on common platforms and not in secluded environments.

The discussion then turned to the challenges of adopting cloud computing and the benefits for SMBs. Bharti Lele said that a cloud environment should be able to integrate disparate systems. According to her, it should also give users the ability to get all their data whenever they discontinue the service. However, she also insisted that, none of the service providers can guarantee these two things right now. Khosla, meanwhile, felt that the biggest challenge before service providers was bandwidth constraints in the country. “For adoption to increase, bandwidth penetration should increase and costs should decrease,” he said.

The panelists agreed that SMBs stood to gain the most from cloud computing. Choudhry quoted a Forrester study which predicts that by 2012,15 percent of SMEs the world over won’t have an IT team. “SMEs are looking for IT-as-a-service. They do not care about technology jargon as long as they get prompt service. Costs are the main issue for them and if cloud computing enables them to save around 60-80 percent of their costs, why won’t they adopt it?” asked Kasliwal.

The discussion then opened to questions from the audience with one of them wanting to know how cloud computing could be used in the education sector. Pujara replied that a few companies were using the technology for remote education but the initiative should come from educational centers. Choudhry also opined that information was available through the cloud even now, but it was organized properly and proper steps needs to be taken to ensure the use of the cloud as a powerful delivery platform for information and education.

On being asked how change management could be supervised when a company begins a cloud computing project, Lele suggested by building in governance protocols at all levels; whereas Choudhry was of the opinion that if the management was involved in every step of the process there would be no issues later on. “Projects now-a-days needs to be driven from the top. It is no longer an IT initiative but a business move,” he said.

The conclusion one can draw from the discussions seems to be that IT is slowly turning into just another utility, like power or human resources. Companies don’t want to spend large amount on IT projects, especially as Opex, when cheaper options are available. This attitude of businesses, coupled with the natural attraction that SMBs have to the cloud computing model, will drive adoption of the cloud in the near future. However, as some of the panelists pointed out, there are still issues that need to be sorted out. Service providers need to be flexible in their offerings and bandwidth issues need to be resolved in the country. Standardization will help; but providers will need to take conscientious efforts to ensure it.