Citrix Systems CEO Mark Templeton, on his way to this week's Interop conference in Las Vegas, took out his iPad at 10,000 feet and was connected to his personal desktop, the Web, email, and public cloud applications before his plane had reached 30,000.
He was making use of Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi, Citrix Receiver client software for the iPad, a personal desktop virtualized in the Citrix data center, and his public cloud applications of choice. Templeton used his personal flight to illustrate how we are leaving the age of the IT-administered PC behind and moving into a new era of cloud computing.
"In the PC era, we locked down everything and locked in rigid costs and complexity. In the cloud era, you buy only the services you need. You have opted in--not locked in--to elastic services," he said in an address at the Mandalay Bay convention center in Las Vegas. "This expands the role of IT."
As evidence of the transition, he said Citrix and other companies are moving into bring your own computer to work, with IT supporting the employee's preferred machine. And the next frontier is moving BYOC to "BYO-3," because few mobile workers are carrying just one device any more. Like Templeton, they carry a tablet, smart phone, and laptop.
Templeton's keynote highlighted a well-known trend toward the consumerization of IT, the proliferation of consumer devices such as the iPad, and the power those devices can access through cloud computing. But he also touched on an idea that's much less understood: how much this drive toward consumerization will change the IT organization itself.
Moving from a "locked down," protective attitude to a more open and service-oriented one is part of it. But the underlying personality of IT, not just its familiar profile in the organization, is going to have to change. That means moving away from being a resource controller and moving into the role of resource enabler and service provider. This may require more change, after years of training in the opposite direction, than many shops are ready for.
The long-term goal of IT should be to offload as much of its responsibility as possible onto end users. I don't mean that as badly as it sounds. The goal isn't to dodge responsibility so much as to share control with a partner inside the business instead of IT totally owning it itself.
End users should be allowed to provision servers for themselves from a shopping list of virtualized choices set up by IT. But to compose that list, IT will have to move its best design and configuration skills to the front of the provisioning process instead of the end, taking into account what the business is likely to want to do. To come up with sustainable server choices will require the combined effort of network managers and storage managers as well as server administrators, and don't leave out the chief security officer.
Once employees are using the list, IT will need to predict how much disk and server capacity needs to be activated, how fast that need will expand or contract, and how to achieve maximum utilization rates when the end users unpredictably activate their virtual servers and put them back to sleep. Virtual machines, spun up at the start of the day and decommissioned at its end, may move from one server to another in between. The emphasis in IT will shift from putting out fires and keeping legacy systems running to thinking and planning ahead, thinking holistically about pooled server, storage, and network resources, and designing optimum systems. That's possible today, though difficult.