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Cloud blurs the line between cloud brokers and CIOs

As cloud continues to expand its market reach, IT roles are forced to evolve -- including CIOs. And it starts with breaking down department barriers.

Cloud computing was so simple a few years ago -- it was as easy as signing up and paying the fee. The most common cloud services were software as a service, such as Salesforce, or storage, such as DropBox. And all of these had the ability to gather your own IT resources without having to go through internal IT.

Central IT has since put its foot down, acting as cloud brokers to the enterprise. Citing security and budget issues, most organizations now require departments to go through central IT to gain access to cloud services. Moreover, many departments are happy to hand over control and service management responsibilities to IT, as management becomes cumbersome.

This seems like a logical move. Traditionally, CIOs were tasked with infrastructure maintenance, including platforms for business applications. Therefore, when departments needed software to automate processes, they worked with the CIO to acquire hardware, software and data center space.

However, in many instances, departments had to wait months -- sometimes more than a year -- for central IT to get their systems in place. Many departments turned to cloud, which provisions as many application or infrastructure instances as they're willing to pay for.

Now, CIOs are once again tasked with service allocation. In this case, CIOs allocate cloud services. But will this turn into the same slow process that drove departments to the cloud in the first place? The answer really depends on the CIO.

How to become a better CIO in the cloud era

Some CIOs are controlling and make it difficult to obtain cloud services with layers of bureaucracy in place. However, smart CIOs use automated tools to provide cloud service catalogs to internal consumers and broker those services automagically . At the same time, CIOs can use these tools to control which services departments can use, and how they can use them.

So, CIOs have some choices to make. First, they must understand that putting up too many barriers is what caused internal departments to work around them in the first place. IT departments serve the business, and their ability to do that effectively is what dictates the value they bring to an enterprise. Many CIOs lost sight of that fact.

The ability to broker cloud services gives central IT another chance to get things right. CIOs need to learn to make cloud service usage as frictionless as possible with cloud service provisioning, management and accounting automation. Cloud brokering services are available, and in their fifth or sixth generation. Select the right technology for the job and make sure to put as much focus on customer service as the cloud technology itself.

The new and improved, cloud-enabled CIO is aligned with the business units, and understands that cloud service usage is more about serving the business than working around IT. CIO and central IT can no longer impede progress inside the business. Central IT should be the department that promotes business agility -- not stand in its way.

About the author:
David "Dave" S. Linthicum is senior vice president of Cloud Technology Partners and an internationally recognized cloud industry expert and thought leader. He is the author or co-author of 13 books on computing, including the best-selling
Enterprise Application Integration. Linthicum keynotes at many leading technology conferences on cloud computing, SOA, enterprise application integration and enterprise architecture.

His latest book is Cloud Computing and SOA Convergence in Your Enterprise: A Step-by-Step Guide. His industry experience includes tenures as chief technology officer and CEO of several successful software companies and upper-level management positions in Fortune 100 companies. In addition, he was an associate professor of computer science for eight years and continues to lecture at major technical colleges and universities, including the University of Virginia, Arizona State University and the University of Wisconsin.

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