on 02 July 21
According to a recent speech at the PlatformCF conference in Santa Clara, California by IBM VP Angel Diaz, his company is â100 percent behind the open cloud.â Diaz argues that âif you're not on board you'll be out-innovated by the world.â It's a popular cloud news threat of late: The idea of âopen sourceâ and development technologies which are collaborative ventures rather than proprietary offerings. There's a change coming, one many experts see as a form of democratization, but is this just a new form of tech hype? What does a cloud democracy really mean for companies?
Four Score and Seven Servers Ago...
There was an IT department that ruled with an iron fist. Tickets queues were days, even weeks long, and only IT professionals understood how to use, much less fix most of the computing technology in an office. The development of powerful local servers allowed companies to consolidate and effectively âsiloâ critical information, and IT admins were increasingly tasked with not only maintaining and upgrading server stacks, but making sure other employees (or management) didn't somehow burn them down.
Cloud computing emerged as an infant technology with a host of security and access concerns. Some dismissed it as merely another distraction from the real work of IT, but over the past decade both public and private clouds have come into their own, transitioning to an adolescence fraught with growing pains but which saw some of the best and brightest tech providers starting to come around. The rise of Open Stack and Cloud Foundry demonstrated that clouds could be both powerful and accessible, and now giants do battle, with massive online retailers and smartphone makers trying to sort out what's better: The potential pitfalls of access for everyone, or access only for those who can afford it.
As least, that's what they think they're doing. In truth, democracy has already arrived.
Let Them Eat Data!
It all starts with employees and their smartphones. Most end users don't think of themselves as the harbingers of revolution, but in fact they've managed to completely alter the IT landscape. Corporate WiFi networks combined with 3- and 4G access have empowered employees to find their own answer to just about any question, and this includes ways to bypass IT regulations or fix technical issues. Big data has equalized the playing field; while IT professionals still possess specialized knowledge and can apply their expertise across technology silos, individual employees-from front-line service staff to CEOs-can try their hands at troubleshooting, fact-check an admin's proposed solution, or attempt to improve on security protocols. There's no longer a limit on what can be done with technology resources, only a question of what should: What yields the greatest benefit for a business?
Simply put, data democratization has changed the corporate IT landscape from one focused on configuring technology to one hell-bent on consuming technology. In turn, it has changed the role of IT.
I'm Not Running For Office...Right?
A recent Tech Republic article talks about the need for IT reinvention, with a focus on becoming âcustodiansâ of technology, rather than owners. This is again thanks to democratized clouds, which allow businesses to outsource labor or cost-intensive processes and eliminate the need to troubleshoot them at a local level. IT professionals, often concerned for the future of their jobs, have a choice: Adapt or obsolesce.
There's some blowback here from admins see overly restrictive mobile policies as a more than just stop-gaps, or who believe carrying on as if nothing has changed will somehow convince users to leave their devices at home. But this isn't sold ground. Even tech giants known for perpetual licensing and a resistance to any kind of public oversight are changing their tune, because it's no longer possible to ignore the public cloud. Forward-thinking companies are already ditching their old IT models and moving to a more collaborative alternative where technology drives business success, rather than simply enabling it.
New Leadership Needed
Democratic data sets the stage for a re-creation of the traditional IT paradigm. Instead of virtual dictatorships, admins need to encourage the creation of republics, one where no questions are stupid, and no solutions off-limits. This comes with difficulty; decision making processes can be slower, and admins need to develop thicker skins along with an improved ability to rely technical concepts.
Implemented properly, however, this kind of tech democracy not only liberates employees by giving them control of powerful technology to perform their jobs and letting CEOs worry about the bottom line without the distraction of potential server meltdown, but can also free IT pros from the drudgery of ticket-and-response. In short, open source clouds backed by powerful tech providers are poised to let companies forge their own destiny in a corporate government landscape driven by consultation, not command.
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