IT Trends: A Vast, Moving Cloud?
Are Big Data, mobility, and the cloud converging to reshape the IT environment at a fundamental level? Red Hat's "cloud evangelist" says that they are. True, his job is to say things like that. But in fact, these IT trends are hard to miss: They dominate the tech press week after week. They form the backdrop for all the buzz about individual tech firms.
That means that IT at midsize firms are entering a new world. The real challenge is not simply seeing that the cloud, mobility, and Big Data are dominating the new landscape, but predicting how they will reshape it and how IT shops can best adapt to the new environment.
Gordon Haff is the evangelist mentioned above, and he takes to the CNET pulpit to preach his message. And the message? That the emerging IT trends point toward a landscape that is far more fluid, a place with multiple degrees of separation between the data structures we work with and the underlying layer of hardware on which that data is ultimately hosted.
This evolution, argues Haff, is ultimately being driven by Moore's Law and its indirect corollary, the commodification of hardware. Once upon a time, IT shops were organized around a single mainframe computer and the software and peripherals designed to support it. The shift from a single mainframe to a local network running Windows did not really change this mental model.
Now, an IT shop may be dealing with a mix of cloud-based resources and virtual machines hosted on its own servers. These resources may interact with mobile and remote devices, including not just smartphones and tablets but "smart" sensors.
And the amount of data all these resources work with may far exceed what traditional database architecture could handle. (The term "NoSQL" has emerged to deal with the somewhat Heisenbergian effects of Big Data.)
A Fluid World
Such is the environment in which many IT shops at midsize firms are operating. Soon it will be the norm. For IT managers at these midsize firms, it will mean an environment that is more interesting but also more demanding.
Given the variety of devices in the network, fewer tasks will be routine. The structure of the network itself will be in constant flux, as cloud vendors are shifted, sensors added or upgraded, and data rearranged to provide new views and insights.
One way to look at the emerging shape of IT management at midsize firms is by adopting a maritime--or even spacefaring--metaphor. The IT shop is a ship voyaging through a sea of information. The task of IT managers is to take sightings to determine their position and set a course that takes them toward the desired port of call.
Position and course are never fixed absolutes, because they are constantly changing. The IT managers on the midsize bridge must learn to keep a mental chart of where they are, and where they are going.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.