Cloud can't outsource responsibility or managers

You may outsource hardware, even service, but you can't outsource responsibility.

There's a debate brewing about whether or not cloud computing is synonymous with outsourcing. The concept puts ownership and location of hardware and infrastructure in somebody else's hands, but does that really shift responsibility? And what about personnel? Will shifting to the cloud allow you to reduce your IT staff footprint?

In February, I wrote about the impact cloud computing was likely to have on IT job creation. The early thinking then, and now, is that businesses that move to cloud computing may be able to hire fewer IT staff positions, but those remaining will be more senior. Drue Reeves, vice president and distinguished analyst of cloud computing at Gartner, talks about the role of "cloud managers" becoming prominent in IT organizations. Cloud managers are jacks-of-all-trades who manage all aspects of IT for a business line or business unit.

"Before the cloud, you might have been able to say you planned to be a storage guy forever, provisioning the storage arrays, managing software updates, replacing hardware, cabling. In the cloud, the provider is going to do all of that," he said. "You are going to have to configure the network firewall and determine how much storage you will need and communicate with the vendor, but that will be the same guy. No more separation to roles by IT function"

Among those duties is vendor management, which means someone who rides herd atop the vendor to ensure delivery of service is as promised and ultimately, the cloud service provider can be fired or swapped.

It's a reminder that the ultimate responsibility remains with the business and personnel inside the organization.

Jason Wisdom, an IT consultant who has served as a DBA for several clients, shared a story with InfoWorld for its Dirtiest IT Jobs report that reminds us responsibility isn't outsourced.

"With one of my clients their entire cloud farm just collapsed due to a failed motherboard," he says. "The disk array was ruined as well. All the servers, including the database, had to rebuilt from scratch. The entire IT infrastructure was down for a week as servers were reinstalled and the data was being recovered."

Fortunately, says Wisdom, the company has backed up the data to a stand-alone machine, or it really would have been in trouble.

For that business, Wisdom was the cloud manager. The steps and protections he put in place, and the vendor management overlay, saved that company's data when the vendor failed.

You may outsource hardware, even service, but you can't outsource responsibility. The IT footprint may be reduce, but the enterprise will still need managers like Wisdom on staff to manage the cloud.

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