Everything as a Service Goes Mainstream
By Samuel Greengard
By now, it's apparent to CIOs that a growing wave of digital disruption is forcing many organizations to re-examine the way they procure, manage and consume information technology. Business and IT leaders increasingly find themselves on the front lines of decision-making about whether to build internal systems or look outside to managed service providers (MSPs) and others for core functionality.
Although the concept of software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is nothing new, more and more organizations are now venturing into an everything-as-a-service (EaaS) model. "It's not so much an issue with CapEx versus OpEx, although these can be a factor for some companies," says Dave Seibert, CIO at IT Innovators, an Irvine, Calif., firm that provides consulting and MSP services. "The primary issue is that organizations want to be more agile and flexible."
Seibert believes that the consumerization of IT and BYOD are feeding the trend toward a managed services model. "It is becoming more and more difficult to manage everything effectively," says Seibert. "There are so many devices, apps and cloud capabilities—including consumer-based clouds—that's it's overwhelming for many IT departments." In addition, marketing departments, which drive a growing array of enterprise IT procurement, are turning to clouds and managed capabilities to perform more nimbly.
Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst Rob Desisto says that an EaaS approach can ultimately bring technology closer to the end user. IT doesn't serve as an intermediary and it doesn't get in the way of updates, patches, bug fixes and other improvements. What's more, many MSPs deliver better performance and security than organizations deliver in-house.
An Appealing Concept
The EaaS concept appeals to Wes Wright, senior vice president and CIO at Seattle Children's Hospital. The 323-bed facility handles more than 350,000 patient visits each year—and that requires ERP and an assortment of clinical applications and a need to access data remotely. But there's also a hospital research arm that requires very different tools, technologies and services. "The research group has a much greater need to collaborate and communicate," Wright notes.
The facility uses Lawson ERP in the cloud, it relies on Citrix Systems for virtual desktops, and it has tapped Microsoft cloud solutions, including SharePoint, to provide better integration between storage and content applications. In addition, Wright depends on Accellion to provide a private cloud file-sharing and mobile collaboration platform. This makes it possible to exchange patient information, images and videos across a team of specialists—all within a secure environment.
Wright is now looking to take Microsoft Office into the cloud through Office 365 and he is considering using Amazon cloud services to provide greater flexibility with computing resources. "Right now, we're still picking and choosing," he explains. "But it's clear that, over time, we're moving more and more toward an everything-as-a-service approach. Although cost is always a consideration, the primary issue is that we're looking to build out the most-efficient IT environment possible and the cloud offers many advantages."
According to Desisto, handing over the technology baton doesn't negate the need for IT leaders to stay involved. Although a MSP provides the technology, interface and framework, an IT department must ensure that policies and rules are embedded in systems and workflows. It's crucial to ensure that there's a way to manage and monitor settings in cloud-based systems, Desisto explains. "You do not want people configuring systems and using the technology in ways that put the organization at risk," he says. "Governance and compliance are critical."
To be sure, EaaS makes sense—and maximizes dollars for a growing array of organizations across a wide swath of industries. "In many cases, as CIOs are coming to realize, MSPs can provide better performance and better security than they're able to achieve internally," says Seibert. "People can go to work on Monday morning with new functionality and new features without the involvement of the IT department. This allows CIOs and IT to take a more strategic approach to business and build a more competitive enterprise."
About the Author
Samuel Greengard is a contributing writer for CIO Insight. To read his previous CIO Insight article, "Law Firm Makes a Case for IT Consolidation," click here.