Gartner Symposium: IT Solution Providers Take on the Cloud
The omens all pointed upward at this year’s Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2011: Attendance was up by about 1,000, the vendor headcount increased by almost 100, and everywhere solution providers and consulting firms and vendors espoused the opportunities new technologies such as virtualization and cloud computing were transforming into signed contracts.
In fact, 85 percent of attendees surveyed at random by Appiro said cloud computing will dramatically change the way IT works over the next five to 10 years. Thirty percent said they already have more than five applications in the cloud, while only 13 percent said they have no cloud-based applications, according to Appiro’s poll.
Organizations recognize the advantages and benefits of virtualization—and many are turning to outside assistance for their expertise in recommending, designing, and implementing virtual and cloud solutions. However, cost is not the primary motivator, said Dana Wolfe, client partner for Dimension Data, IT Outsourcing Group, formerly Strategic Services. Rather, centralization and control are key reasons for companies’ move to the cloud, he told Channel Insider.
And this makes cloud and virtualization an ideal opportunity for services-focused organizations such as Dimension Data. Customers want true partners that have a proven record of success with other clients, and seek-out solution providers that can demonstrate the benefits cloud will deliver to their business.
"Cloud is not to IT what labor arbitrage is to outsourcing. It’s complex," Wolfe said, in an interview. "Providers need to demonstrate a deep knowledge and understanding of what cloud can deliver (and cannot) to the business. Cloud is not a technology solution. It’s a business solution that leverages technology, and needs to be carefully evaluated as one. It changes the face of IT, and how IT needs to assess cloud. Non-technology issues need to be carefully assessed before embarking on a cloud strategy, and ideally as a step as part of that journey. The technology challenges, e.g., security – are more easily addressed through smart architecture."
Birth of Brokerages
And cloud-computing providers increasingly are becoming specialized, according to Gartner. They are proficient in solutions such as email, human resources, and managing servers, said Daryl Plummer, managing vice president and Gartner fellow. Specialists that support consumers who pick the services they want to use from the providers they want to work with will result in cloud brokerages, according to Gartner.
"Cloud brokerages can aggregate, integrate, govern, or customize cloud services to make those services more specific to the needs of the consumers," Plummer said. "They will re-imagine business, and post-modern businesses will even re-imagine the roles that IT departments will play. Three out of 10 IT organizations will become cloud brokers for their business, and that is one way they will survive."
This is good news for the channel: In a poll of show attendees, 37 percent said a systems integrator is the best kind of cloud broker, while 33 percent said a third-party technology provider is the best type, and 30 percent said a cloud service provider is the best type of cloud broker, according to Appiro. Many respondents see the overall value of brokerages. In fact, 45 percent most value brokers because they connect multiple cloud platforms for more value and ease-of-use, Appiro’s survey determined, while 22 percent said a broker’s most valuable attribute is the help it provides in finding the right cloud services to use, the study showed.
Input into the cloud decision should extend beyond the IT department, recommended Wolfe. Solution providers and consulting firms have the expertise and knowledge to help guide, oversee, and pull the most information from these conversations, he said.
"There should also be a Cloud Steering Committee function that ensures alignment with the business objectives throughout the program, because it will be in a constant state of evolution as platforms mature, applications become more adept to various cloud architectures, and the enterprise becomes more comfortable with the concept," he told Channel Insider.
Changing Role of IT
Solution providers are also evolving. Some are becoming increasingly more services oriented, adding a rich level of business-oriented offerings and, in some cases, partnering with VARs on product implementations.
The non-technology issues are just as important—and often more challenging—for some traditional, product-focused solution providers to address, said Mark Popolano, Partner-Global Innovation Center, CIO Advisory, at Kurt Salmon. And because cloud computing is so transformational, CIOs must consider the repercussions that can extend far beyond the data center and into the human resources department, he told Channel Insider, during the Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2011.
"A lot of CIOs don’t understand the human resource implications," he said. "Cloud computing allows us to automate the infrastructure. It’s going to change the way you look at a company. We’re agnostic: We get to see it all. We take a pragmatic, operational approach to strategy. We get to advise."
Some of that advice focuses on the shifting role of the CIO, whose value is increasing as he or she becomes a "broker of everything non-IT," said Popolano, in the interview. "Nobody would build a building without installing networking in it. It’s like electricity."
Added colleague Vincent Kasten, Senior Advisor, CIO Advisory, at Kurt Salmon: "Technology is fundamentally woven into everything [organizations] do. Having it as a separate thing is artificial."
Some organizations have recognized that value, and CIOs are on the boards of directors and play an integral role in helping to direct companies’ future direction, far beyond pure technology-adoption discussions. Kurt Salmon mentors "emerging CIOs," said Popolano, helping these executives move from IT leadership at a Fortune 2000 company, for example, for a top position at a Fortune 50 corporation, he said.
In fact, IT leaders must re-imagine IT and their roles, according to Gartner.
"IT leaders must embrace the post-modern business, a business driven by customer relationships where the customer is everywhere, and must your business; a world fuelled by the explosion in information, collaboration, and mobility, enabled by the cloud," said Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president and global head of research at Gartner, during a keynote presentation to an audience of about 8,500 CIOs and IT leaders gathered in Orlando. "You must pursue simplicity by putting people and their needs at the center of design. You must dare to employ creative destruction to eliminate legacy, and selectively destroy low-impact systems."
Part of that re-thinking includes the way in which organizations partner with solution providers and system integrators, said Gartner’s Plummer.
"A post-modern business is one that completely rethinks the status quo of business and embraces dramatically new relationships with its customers, suppliers, and partners," he said. "In the post-modern world, your business has no walls. It must be everywhere."
Solution providers can help customers break-down barriers to business opportunities by guiding them toward optimal use of the right technologies and the integration of automation plus efficient, cost- and energy-saving processes. By partnering with their clients, solution providers cast an unbiased eye, one devoid of office politics and departmental loyalties, and can help organizations get both a holistic and drilled-down view of where they are and what they need to arrive at their desired destination. Judging from the buzz and energy at the Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2011, that’s a message organizations are open to receiving—and, more importantly, acting and spending on.