The number and range of specialist service providers to whom components of an organisation's technology could be outsourced continues to grow, as are the delivery models through which they are being consumed. Since it first came into the spotlight in the early 1990s, IT outsourcing has shape-shifted through the industrialisation of IT services, multisourcing, and now on to cloud computing.
Peter Dixon, Dimension Data's general manager for services innovation, believes that cloud's journey into the mainstream has been hastened by circumstance. "The pace of cloud adoption is being fuelled in no small part by the lingering effects of the economic slump. With capex investments few and far between, utility computing and consumption-based models are words on everyone's lips. Not only does cloud computing eliminate the need for CIOs to justify capital expenditure; it also eases the management burden associated with operating your own assets. This means that the efforts of scarce and expensive IT resources can be channelled into business-critical activities."Cloud computing has pitfalls
While the advantages of cloud are well accepted, it's not without its potential pitfalls. The prospect of paying only for the services you use, dialling consumption up and down as business needs dictate, and avoiding being locked into long term contracts may be appealing, but there are further considerations to bear in mind, such as governance, billing and chargeback, and the need to co-ordinate the activities and performance of multiple cloud providers.
No single cloud provider can deliver all the cloud services that a business may wish to procure; yet, the greater the number of cloud providers you deal with, the greater the potential risk and management burden.
Dixon explains: "If you are buying cloud services from multiple cloud providers, who's going to oversee all the moving parts? Each cloud vendor will have its own reporting and billing mechanisms, which will make obtaining an end-to-end view of service levels difficult and time-consuming.
"Not only do you need to manage your new suite of cloud vendors, there's also your existing, traditional IT outsourcing contracts and vendors to consider. Ensuring co-ordination and retaining control of this new ecosystem of sourcing models, technologies and providers is critical. Whatever combination of insourcing, outsourcing, and cloud-based services an organisation opts for, someone has to ensure that the pieces are working together effectively to ensure business service levels are maintained."Established organisations will change swiftly
Dixon believes that organisations with established and mature IT outsourcing functions will make the change more swiftly. "These businesses are comfortable and conversant with the concept of relinquishing a certain degree of control over their operations and assets and therefore may be quicker to adopt cloud services than those relatively new to outsourcing. They'll also be more likely to have a long-term partnership in place with a provider with whom they can chart an actionable roadmap forward, especially if the provider itself has expertise in cloud services.
Such a partner will already know the client's technology environment intimately and understand its risks. As such, it can assess the organisation's cloud readiness, plug any gaps and help make informed decisions regarding private versus public clouds. This takes away a significant burden on the internal IT team."
Dixon believes that in spite of the prevailing hype around cloud computing, it is in fact a step in the natural, ongoing evolution of the IT outsourcing discipline.
"Ultimately, cloud services will become commoditised to the extent that they'll be just another part of the technology outsourcing ecosystem that must be deployed, supported and managed, albeit under alternative contractual and consumption constructs," he says. "Nevertheless, putting in place an actionable cloud roadmap and a having competent partner at your side will go a long way to putting your cloud journey on the fast track to success."