Why you should drop staff who are not cloud savvy

CIOs may need to lose staff who are not prepared to move to new ways of working brought on by cloud computing

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CIOs may need to lose staff who are not prepared to move to new ways of working brought on by cloud computing.

Cloud reduces the need for on-premises datacentre facilities, thereby reducing the need for admin staff to manage such facilities.

But beyond the datacentre administrators, whose jobs may be on the line as more applications are moved to the cloud, IT directors may find some staff are stuck in a traditional approach to IT, which puts them at odds with the latest thinking on the role of IT in business.

In the past, IT may have been considered a business service that could measure its success through service level agreements (SLAs). But, as consultant Barclay Rae pointed out in a recent Computer Weekly article, SLAs are rather like a watermelon, in that even though on the exterior – the SLA dashboard – all may seem well with green lights, on the inside – the real service levels – alerts show red.

"It’s too easy to set up SLA metrics based around IT activities like telephone-support response, system availability and downtime, rather than agreeing realistic and useful measures of business value and success," said Rae. 

Users have higher expectations of internal IT because they are more tech-savvy. For instance, IT's role in governance and compliance has often been seen as a barrier to innovation, according to Intel CIO Kim Stevenson. "Rather than say 'no', IT can show the business how to achieve its objectives in the most secure way," she told Computer Weekly.

Since users are more adept at procuring their own IT equipment, commissioning software development for new applications and buying cloud-based services, Stevenson said IT's role needs to change.

Changing IT's culture

But this is leading to a cultural imbalance in IT, where some staff may not be ready or are not prepared to change.

Speaking at an event hosted by cloud authentication platform Octa, Gatwick CIO Michael Ibbitson discussed the changes the airport was making to its IT to take advantage of cloud computing. Describing job cuts in IT, Ibbitson said: "Some of the ex-BAA team were unable to make the change, but that was what we needed."

This was a result of British Airport Authority (BAA) selling its interest in the airport in 2010. 

Peterborough City Council has a strategy to use more cloud-based services, as part of a cost-cutting initiative.

The council's ICT strategy manager Richard Godfrey, who also appeared on a panel discussion at the Octa event, said: "Some of the people in IT won't be here in six months." 

The council is in the process of installing a delivery system using several cloud providers, including Chatter for collaboration, Box for document management and Amazon Web Services (AWS) for hosting server applications in the cloud. Such applications require a different mindset in terms of IT.

Gatwick's cloud options

For Gatwick CIO Michael Ibbitson, cloud computing offers the opportunity to fundamentally change how airport IT systems interoperate.

"Our next big challenge is to integrate using XML with Azure," he said.

Customer data does not need to come to Gatwick. Ibbitson said it should be accessible from anywhere on the network.

"We should be able to share data with ground handling staff and airlines using APIs and XML, which has a huge benefit compared with providing access over a VPN with firewall rules."

Likewise, at Gatwick, using cloud computing offers the airport an opportunity to integrate and interoperate with the airlines and other key services in a more seamless manner than the previous method of point-to-point integration over a virtual private network (VPN), which it would have been used previously (see panel – Gatwick's cloud options).

Cloud resilience

In the era of cloud computing, a team to manage the hard perimeter, which protects the company's data assets, may not be the best way to deploy an IT security resource. 

Peterborough Council's Godfrey said: "Why do we think our small IT team can provide more security than Box, which spends millions on security?"

The core strengths and weaknesses of Gatwick's internal IT has driven the strategy that decides what applications remain on-premises and what should go into the cloud.

Ibbitson recalled how flooding on Christmas Eve 2013 caused the airport's flight information system to fail: "Last year, we lost our flight information screens because we lost power. You need battery-powered screens and you need to enable passengers to access their flight information." 

As a result of the flooding, the airport has rolled out mobile flight information called FIS, built on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform.

Since it is mobile, cloud-connected and relies on batteries, FIS would not be affected should Gatwick suffer another power cut, assuming internet connectivity is not affected.

Network efficiency

Alistair Roberts, head of IT at M&CSaatchi, said he joined the advertising firm after his predecessor had made an IT jobs cull. 

Roberts has taken a fresh approach to IT, to mirror the way the business changes. Installation of the network limits how quickly the office can be operational, but Roberts now deploys low-cost servers, which are easier to install and cheaper than fully-fledged server infrastructure.

Those people who are unable to take a cloud-first approach to deploying IT may find they are left behind

From a cloud perspective he described the high costs involved in moving large multimedia files over a 400Mbps VPN link – a task that is core to the global ad agency's business.

"We were building network links and needed to look at other solutions because 400Mbps links are expensive. Google has a private cloud. We copied a 12GB file to Google Drive and it took 30 seconds, compared with 36 hours on our VPN," he said.

As Roberts, Ibbitson and Godfrey have shown, cloud computing is a core part of IT infrastructure. As a result, IT needs to consider how cloud solves real business issues, such as the 12GB file transfers at M&CSaatchi, or the use of mobile flight information delivered via AWS at Gatwick.

As Intel's Stevenson noted, IT needs to take a different approach. Those people who are unable to take a cloud-first approach to deploying IT may find they are left behind.

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