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Cloud and the changing org chart

Shutterstock image: workforce organization chart.

Nothing rattles employees more than a changing organizational chart, and it's even more unsettling when it changes around a new approach to procuring and consuming IT.

For workers in the federal sector, where there are increasing demands on the budget, those unsettling feelings are compounded when employees are expected to do more with less to combat emerging threats, which can include anything from the rise of the Islamic State to the spread of the Ebola virus.

Piling on top of that, political debates that heat up around elections are invariably focused on increasing security, and that too can dramatically drive up resource requirements without a corresponding increase in budgets. So it's easy to understand why changes to the org chart are top of mind these days.

Given the rising popularity of capacity services (delivered as private cloud, public cloud or hybrid cloud solutions), many employees are concerned that their positions will be eliminated when someone else's equipment replaces all those humming, blinking servers, storage arrays and network devices in the data center.

Yet most on-demand implementers say nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, cloud-delivered capacity services might even call for the addition of IT jobs, such as chief cloud architect and cloud security officer.

Whether new jobs are added or not, capacity services allow for a refreshing refocusing of legacy jobs away from IT procurement and maintenance and toward the agency's mission, which is what most employees were hired for in the first place.

Is my job at risk?

As agencies find new ways of meeting mission requirements using IT as a service, the resulting organizational changes will not necessarily have a negative impact on an employee's position or responsibilities. Indeed, as security demands change in response to a changing world, buying IT as a service allows an agency to scale up without staffing up -- a crucial capability in time of war and asymmetrical threats.

The cloud: As evitable as changing weather

Cloud technology and the organizational chart adjustments that it brings might not be a choice much longer. The U.S. Digital Services Playbook is quite clear that "box hugging" (fiercely holding onto on-premises servers) is a thing of the past.

"Play 9" of the playbook instructs agencies to "deploy in a flexible hosting environment. [Federal agencies'] services should be deployed on flexible infrastructure, where resources can be provisioned in real time to meet spikes in user demand. Our digital services are crippled when we host them in data centers which market themselves as 'cloud hosting' but require us to manage and maintain hardware directly. This outdated practice wastes time, weakens our disaster recovery plans and results in significantly higher costs."

The playbook's checklist specifies, among other items:

  • Resources are provisioned on demand.
  • We pay only for the resources we use.
  • Static assets are served through a content delivery network.
  • Application is hosted on commodity hardware.

In other words, it sounds like cloud-based capacity services -- and the changes they bring -- are here to stay.

IT systems as a capacity-based service are typically delivered by a capacity service provider (CSP) under service-level agreements. The approach does not mean a loss of the IT officer's "engineering control" or a diminishment of that role's value or importance. In fact, using a CSP means the IT officer is freed from the task of checking and double-checking bills of material and instead can focus on defining the performance, capacity and functionality to be provided by the CSP.

Capacity services mean upgraded jobs, more meaningful roles, and more important and focused tasks. In other words, buying and consuming IT as a capacity-based service does not necessarily result in layoffs.

Certainly, the CSP assumes many traditional IT responsibilities in the switch to cloud-based IT. For instance, the CSP is solely responsible for ensuring that the bill of materials is sufficient to supply the requested capacity and for delivering, installing and configuring the necessary hardware and software components in accordance with established requirements and service delivery timelines. The CSP follows the agency governance models for deployment, maintenance, support and security.

In this way, the CSP leverages its expertise in ordering, delivering, installing, configuring and maintaining IT equipment as a service, and everyone -- from the CIO to the server, storage and network engineers and/or administrators -- has more time to focus on real engineering and project management tasks, such as defining workload characteristics, coordinating facilities preparation, reviewing and documenting functional requirements, and other planning activities related to the actual use of the capacity being ordered.

With a CSP in place, engineers have more time to be engineers. Experts who were hired to manage threats can remain focused on threats -- for example, building or modifying applications and systems to support the agency's mission -- and not be distracted by IT issues that are nor germane to their expertise.

Planning, budgeting and forecasting IT capacity becomes easier and less time-consuming, and that results in more accurate cost projections. IT procurement officers are not defensively overbuying IT capacity because the services can expand or contract on demand, with much shorter acquisition and implementation lead times.

CIOs who used to field calls about slow service or hobbled infrastructure -- tasks that typically take up 30 percent of their time -- can now focus on configuring workflows to accomplish core agency missions.

What's more, for federal agencies, IT capacity services make it easier to comply with a new legislative bill or even a single word in a legislative bill while keeping the focus on the agency's business mission and not on building IT infrastructure.

Finally, the cloud solution that the agency has access to, which is responsive and flexible, allows agency IT employee to stop chasing after the latest and greatest technology because the agency is assured that the delivered capacity, structured through a service-level agreement, meets the workload requirements within established budget parameters.

With a CSP acting as a technology and implementation partner, agency engineers and IT professionals can actually (finally!) do the jobs they were hired to perform.

New jobs in capacity services

Will the cloud actually create jobs? Indeed, it will. Here are two that are likely to be in increasingly high demand: chief cloud orchestrator (CCO) and cloud security architect.

The CCO's role will require coordinating with vendors and ensuring that the cloud components are assembled in an efficient way, including processors, storage and networking. The job description will also call for the CCO to determine which aspects of a business operation can be allocated to public clouds and which must be allocated to private clouds -- for example, the larger critical workloads of legacy financial and logistics operations that can't be supported on the x86 cloud infrastructure that's commonly offered today.

The cloud security architect will be tasked with ensuring secure operations, a necessity in any IT environment but uniquely crucial to cloud implementations.

About the Authors

Rob Davies is vice president of capacity services at ViON.

Andy Flick is capacity services program manager at ViON.

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