How cloud computing is transforming the IT department

As enterprise IT adopts cloud, traditional IT pros struggle to remain relevant, often molding their roles to adapt to the changing environment.

As technologies change, so must IT admins. There is a massive shift going on in enterprises. Instead of building out on-premises infrastructure, they are shifting to the cloud or building highly automated private or hybrid clouds, and IT teams must learn to shift in response. Chief technology officers, chief information officers and IT pros have to capitalize on this sea change and fight to stay relevant in new cloud environments.

Steve Schoener, Eze Castle IntegrationSteve Schoener, VP of technology,
Eze Castle Integration

Eze Castle Integration Inc. provides strategic IT and cloud services, focusing on the financial space -- an industry perhaps uniquely positioned to reap the benefits of cloud computing if it can overcome its security fears. Steve Schoener, its vice president of technology, provides technology consulting for a range of companies, and he has seen the whirlwind that cloud has brought his clients. sat down with Schoener to discuss the roles in IT departments that are changing as a result of the cloud. When a company decides to adopt cloud computing, who drives that decision? How has this changed over the past five or 10 years?

Steve Schoener: I would say it varies. In a lot of cases, for our customers, it's driven by the CFO and the corporate managers. They hear about it and think they can get cost savings; they think they can get higher availability out of it. Until recently [the CFOs] have been the people coming to us, or pushing the technologists toward cloud computing. We've been seeing more CTOs coming to us lately. Usually what they come for is slightly different than what the CFOs come for -- specifically around hosted applications. They're looking to outsource the order management system to get around power outages that have occurred in Boston recently, or other things like that. They'll have a very tactical look at it, whereas [the CFOs] may look at it for macro savings.

In a medium to large enterprise, what does a modern IT department look like? What roles are new, and what roles have become redundant?

Schoener: With the move to the cloud, especially if [companies] are outsourcing a percentage of their core infrastructure, they're pulling email administrators and people in those roles out of the organization. Storage administrators are making a big move to the cloud as opposed to managing storage on-site. You're still going see a large amount of desktop support; people still need [the] help desk. With our customers, specifically, they outsource those functions to us as well, but not all of them.

Network [connectivity] also becomes very important as you move to the cloud. So, we're definitely seeing a lot of networking work on-site. If all of your data is out of your location, if it's hosted in the cloud, your ability to connect with that becomes very important, and those skill sets do as well.

Have companies reassigned IT managers to other roles or did they eliminate staff completely?

Schoener: For startups, if they've got 100% cloud, they're less likely to ever really have IT staff. But in places that have existing IT staff, we're not really seeing them get rid of people specifically for the cloud.

What new roles are those IT managers taking on? How have their jobs changed?

Schoener: The cloud means IT roles will shift from hands-on work with hardware and installations to resource management, integration, capacity planning and technical architecture. As a result, IT roles will evolve from "systems admins" and "systems architects" to "cloud admins" and "cloud architects." This change creates new opportunities for IT professionals to learn new skills and grow within their organizations.

The movement to the cloud has caused internal IT staff to refocus their efforts to application management. They are forced to become more involved in the process of selecting which applications to host in the cloud, as well as keeping a close eye on how those applications are supported and integrated across the firm's environment. In many cases, they end up managing their relationship with the cloud service provider much like they do with ISPs [Internet service providers].

What's the biggest driver for cloud adoption in the financial services industry? And is that different in other industries?

Schoener: In general, you'll find a lot of drivers around cost savings. In financial services, you often see cost savings as the driver, but you'll also see high availability and disaster recovery driving the move as well.

I was on the phone with a client, and they wanted to get their order management system into the cloud so if there is a power outage and their office lost power, they could go to other locations with power and still place trades. In financial services, [availability] becomes more important than in other industries.

Do the cost savings and other benefits outweigh existing security and compliance concerns? Why?

Schoener: I think so. A lot of our customers in the alternative investment space are not huge headcount spaces, so they're trying to do as much as they can with as few people as possible. They're really trying to be lean and mean, and really outsource the functions they're not experts at.

Caitlin White is the Associate Site Editor for Contact her at [email protected].

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