Private cloud is inevitable, but that doesn't mean the road is going to be smooth. One of the major roadblocks is going to be your own staff, so we can expect the same tar-pitted demise of traditional server and storage infrastructures as we experienced with the decline of mainframe computing.
Why not get out ahead of the curve, rip off the Band-Aid, and start to realize the substantial benefits of private clouds? We should all be so lucky. Truth is, substantial change is hard and is met with resistance.
During a private cloud panel I participated in last year at Cloud Connect, one audience member said it well: "I find it difficult to believe that people will act against their own self interests." He meant that the same people who are fat, dumb, and happy with their current infrastructures will be loathe to invalidate their current skill sets and make it possible for their employers to operate with fewer infrastructure pros. Instead, they'll convince their CIOs that this cloud stuff is a bunch of garbage. "We already have virtualization. Why would we create automation that would require fewer employees ... like us?" And so all sorts of artificial barriers are thrown up: Private clouds are too complicated, too expensive, too risky.
Problem is, the "baffle them with BS" approach generally doesn't work with today's CIOs. And the stakes couldn't be higher for CIOs. As we discovered in our research for our upcoming InformationWeek Report on Cloud ROI, the hybrid (and thus private) cloud is key to optimizing your organization's IT spend.
I agree with what Yoram Heller, VP of corporate development at Morphlabs, said to me the other day about private clouds: "If you're the CIO, and you're ignoring it, you're going to lose your job." Even if you don't lose your job, if you don't start down this road now, you risk playing massive (expensive, risky) catch-up once your app vendors start to have an expectation that their customers' infrastructure is automated and can scale up and out.
So what can you do to bring the staff along? There's no one thing, but as with any transformational initiative, it will require the personal attention of the CIO. Your infrastructure folks, unless they're truly visionary, will do one of three things: just go back to doing what they do (the "ignore" scenario); come back to you with all those reasons it's not going to work (the "barrier" scenario); or present you with the most expensive way of implementing a private cloud (the "buy big" scenario).
To achieve what FedEx, Zynga, Dreamworks, and other forward-thinking businesses are achieving through a balance of private and public cloud, IT staffers need active leadership in several areas.
>> Find a space for true believers. At a recent talk I attended, organizational change luminary Dan Heath cited a study that found that hotel guests are 26% more likely to re-use towels if, instead of getting the usual "save the earth" propaganda, guests are presented with a simple message: "Most guests at this hotel re-use their towels."
The point? Behavior is contagious. Heath went on to say: "If the norm is for you, publicize it. If the norm is against you, find a space for true believers."