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3/1/2012
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15 New Rules For IT To Live By

The old IT rulebook is obsolete, but the new one that accounts for the rise of mobile, social, and analytics hasn't been written. Consider this a first draft, so your revisions are welcome.

No. 8 | Think of 'data center' as a result, not a building

Server virtualization has been one of IT's great ROI success stories--a mere 8% of respondents to our Global CIO Survey say they have no plans to increase its use. But far fewer IT leaders are pushing beyond virtualization to rethink the data center's role. About a fourth of respondents plan to rearchitect their data centers this year, and 20% already have. When it comes to using public cloud infrastructure, 26% have major plans for this year, but 38% have no plans to use public cloud services. Just 11% have a major public cloud implementation in place.

Consider what Flextronics was able to accomplish with Microsoft's Azure public cloud platform for one small but strategic computing initiative. Even if the public cloud isn't the answer, and it often won't be, you need to consider it as an option.

Replicating the flexibility and responsiveness of the public cloud in-house, a highly virtualized private cloud is a viable long-term strategy. FedEx built a major new data center in Colorado as a private cloud environment. CIO Rob Carter calls the servers, storage, and networking "workload agnostic" computing--servers that run, say, route optimization software at peak planning times could run financial software at other times. It wasn't easy, as FedEx had to rewrite apps so they run on one common platform of equipment, databases, and middleware. But the value is that it gives FedEx a new level of operating flexibility, which Carter expects will help IT move faster on new initiatives. For now, Carter doesn't see a business need to ship computing capacity to a public cloud, but the infrastructure was built in a way that keeps that possibility open.

No. 7 | Build a cloud-friendly IT shop

It's not that every app should go to the cloud, but IT should consider the cloud for every app, and it needs policies that make it easy to add such software services. Yet less than half (47%) of the 511 tech pros who responded to our 2012 State of Cloud Computing Survey said their companies are using or plan to use cloud services in the coming year. Just over a fourth have no plans to use cloud services.

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Those using cloud-based apps like them--81% say they're better or equal to in-house options. Despite the fact that such apps can be launched more quickly at lower cost, IT organizations often wait for business units to push for them. IT needs to build models for purchasing, integration, monitoring, compliance, and support. Among companies using cloud apps, 47% rely on custom coding using the vendor's API to connect internal systems to cloud-based software, rather than using an integration platform. To track cloud app performance, just 28% use their own advanced monitoring tools. A shocking 24% don't monitor their cloud apps.

Avnet CIO Steve Phillips has told his IT team that every software RFP must consider at least one software-as-a-service option. To move a $26.5 billion-a-year global company, it can take that kind of directive from the CIO. Security concerns and compliance rules might scuttle using a cloud app, as could pure economics (monthly subscriptions aren't always cheaper than conventional up-front payments and maintenance fees). But cloud software shouldn't be overlooked because IT doesn't have sound operating procedures around it.

No. 6 | Get ready for 'bring your own cloud'

After initially resisting the movement, most IT shops are finally at peace with BYOD (bring your own device). Some CIOs are evangelists for it. If you own an iPhone or Android phone, most IT shops will put your work email on it, and the company might even help pay for the phone service.

Now IT shops need to ask themselves how they'll respond when the BYOC (bring your own cloud) wave starts to crest. Think of these as personal clouds. Apple's iCloud, for example, offers users 5 GB of free storage to access documents, music, and photos from any device, and Apple's touting its new Mountain Lion operating system as the first Mac OS X release "built with iCloud in mind." Dropbox, which has 45 million users, provides 2 GB of free storage space. Google has long been rumored to be planning a storage service, but with Google Docs, it already offers a cloud-based option for collaborating and putting loads of content online.

IT organizations can resist and then succumb, or they can help their companies' employees figure out how to deal with these personal clouds. "I envision we'll end up with a private Dropbox or iCloud or SkyDrive or something that can also integrate with a public cloud in some fashion," says Johnson, the CIO of Pacific Northwest National Lab. And if PNNL builds that kind of in-house service, it could very well need a way to include both professional and personal data, he says.

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