IT managers must evolve in cloud-based world

To remain relevant in increasing cloud adoption, role of IT administrators must change into one that governs service providers and application deployment, urges industry analyst.

KUALA LUMPUR--IT managers must start evolving or risk being phased out in an enterprise landscape that is increasingly turning to cloud services, cautions an industry analyst.

Errol Rasit, principal analyst for data center systems at Gartner, said in today's emerging cloud computing paradigm, IT managers would worry about their jobs as they would have fewer responsibilities to manage in the data center as processes are moved to the cloud.

"An IT manager fears for his job because cloud computing actually externalizes IT infrastructure out from a data center," Rasit told ZDNet Asia on the sidelines of Microsoft Malaysia's cloud seminar here Tuesday. "As a result, data centers may need fewer people to administer and that's where operational savings typically come from."

He noted that with the burgeoning cloud services providers appearing in the market, an application owner that wants more capacity and processing power can theoretically bypass an IT manager and deal directly with a cloud provider to acquire the increased capacity.

However, the Gartner analyst added that this might not be the best scenario for a company because application owners could end up choosing a cloud computing provider that did not comply with strict regulations and specifications, such as security and application performance, needed for an application to operate smoothly.

"The role of the IT manager has to change to become one that governs which service provider is suitable for use," Rasit said. "He may need to have a 'menu' of pre-approved providers so that he can offer an option to application owners that need the capacity, while ensuring that all the technical specifications are met."

Asked who should drive these changes in the IT manager's role, he stressed the need for this to be a top-down approach.

"The change in role must be driven from the C-level downward. Systems administrators and IT managers need to be retrained and recertified so that they can make the companies they work for more agile and more tuned in business needs," the analyst explained.

Growing cloud interest
According to Gartner, Malaysia is seeing increasing interest in cloud computing. Rasit noted that about 50 percent of large enterprises globally indicated plans to invest in cloud services this year, and small to midsize businesses were starting to follow suit.

Ananth Lazarus, managing director of Microsoft Malaysia, said the adoption of cloud computing is taking shape at almost all levels in the local market and in various verticals. "In my meetings with various industry leaders in the past eight to nine months, there has been talk about cloud computing and how it can help with their businesses," Lazarus said at a media briefing following the seminar.

He noted that one local company that has benefited from adopting cloud services is Syarikat Takaful Malaysia. A leading Islamic insurance provider in Malaysia with a staff strength of about 1,000, Takaful Malaysia recently deployed Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Standard Suite, effectively becoming the first company in the country to outsource its file and e-mail infrastructure to Microsoft's cloud services.

"All in all, the cloud in Malaysia will gain more substance," Lazarus said. "Customers will want real-world applications that meet specific needs and will look at vendors that can provide end-to-end solutions."

Edwin Yapp is a freelance IT writer based in Malaysia.