Can IT as a Service replace the datacenter?

Has your business figured out that IT can be a competitive advantage? Or does VMware have it right, and business units see IT only as an expense?
Written by David Chernicoff, Contributor on

At VMWorld Europe, VMware once again announced their IT as a Service model (initially announced at the earlier VMWorld show in San Francisco), hoping to convince customers that cloud services will be the transformative technology for their business. VMware message is to move IT from a cost center to "a center of strategic value." To do this they continue to push the integration of the private cloud (AKA your existing network) and the public cloud.

Now unless I missed a memo somewhere it has been a long time since any successful business has considered IT strictly a cost center and not something through which they can achieve strategic value.  The IT department has long been looking for ways to, as the marketing types put it, achieve a competitive business advantage. In fact, I wrote an earlier blog on the need for IT to maintain that competitive advantage when competing companies were making use of the same cloud-based services.

Of course, that was earlier this year, when moving entirely to the cloud was the message. Now the message is to move partly to the cloud while integrating with your exiting computing environment, apparently.

While it's nice of VMware to point this out while offering products to help bridge the gap between existing in-house services and the potentials of the public cloud, the truth of the matter is this is the way in which leading IT departments have always worked. To make IT a driving force in business, good IT departments are always on the lookout for technologies that can fit in with or drive the business model of their company.

The applications and services announced by VMware are useful in the process of integrating virtualized datacenter services from with and without the cloud, and at first glance appear to be a good step for implementing cloud integration with your existing IT services. I haven't actually worked with the products yet, so I can't evaluate their claims beyond that.

But the message seems directed at a business market segment that may have control over IT budgets and doesn't believe that their business gets good value from their existing IT. Intentional or not, driving a wedge between the IT department and the business units it serves, by implying that IT is nothing more than a cost center, may not be the most effective way to drive new business VMware's way.

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