One of the hot topics here at the Web 2.0 Conference and Expo was whether computing resources will remain in the enterprise or migrate into the network. So called “Cloud Computing” has garnered much interest with some folk arguing that Web 2.0 somehow changes the paradigm and erases the importance of IT. (I just got finished chatting with Susan Kuchinskas on the subject and you can check out here story here.)
To my mind, organizations will always require an IT department of some sort, but the responsibilities of that organization will evolve depending on industry sector, company size and the success of “cloud computing” initiatives. Organizations within heavily regulated industries, financial services or medical for example, will tend to keep information local to the organization and as such will require traditional IT staffing.
Less regulated industries though will have more flexibility and be able to evolve their IT organizations. Leveraging service providers for hosting and storage or additional applications becomes a real possibility because often service provides can deliver these services at a fraction of the cost of what an enterprise would be required to spend. Service providers can amortize the costs of a data center with 24x7 surveillance, a VESDA system for early stage smoke monitoring, gas suppression systems, and double interlock sprinkler systems across clients. Enterprises don’t have that luxury. The same thinking holds true for deployments of wikis, blogs, and bookmarking services.
But all of this depends on service providers meeting their service level commitments. At the Web 2.0 conference, Treb Ryan, CEO of OpSource argued that we’re dealing with a new generation of users who are used to finding things online. They’ll invariably demand cloud-based initiatives.
Hogwash. Users can care less where an application resides as long as that application is available and responsive. And “Cloud Computing” will only be successful if the service delivery can match the user’s expected experience of application performance within the organization or at the desktop. While some service providers, such as SaleForce.com, have been able to deliver on that proposition that's hardly been the universal case. Carriers in particular have been notorious fo their customer support after the contract's been signed.
Even when organizations do utilize outside providers, they will ultimately need a team to assume responsibility for a technology deployment and be held accountable for ongoing administration of that deployment. Departmental-scale deployment of blogs, wikis, and the like may well succeed, but enterprise scale will require a professional body to look out for the organization’s best interests. They’ll need IT.
So does Web 2.0 need IT? It will if it's going to grow beyond the dabbling interest of a few workgroups.