Life in the new world of IT delivered over the Internet

Martin Yates, the head of IT services at Deutsche Bank, is taking a serious look at how the bank might replace its internal email with services from Google. Speaking at Information Age’s Effective IT Summit in early February, he suggested that it might make more sense for email to be handled by a company that specialises in delivering email to millions of users over the web rather than for the investment bank to operate with multiple email servers around its global network.

Today, he said, there might be some questions as to whether Google is ready for Deutsche Bank (in terms of security, service-level guarantees and perhaps the fact that Google mail still carries a ‘beta’ label four years after its launch), but in principle Deutsche Bank is ready for Gmail (see ‘Quote/Unquote’ in the Insider section).

Such thinking is particularly prevalent among mid-sized businesses. They want to be able to take advantage of the kind of technologies they’ve seen bring benefits to large enterprises in the global economy – systems for managing the extended supply chain, handling online retail, dicing customer data – but without the pain of having to sink vast funds into IT infrastructure and its ongoing maintenance. A shift towards ‘cloud computing’ and utility computing promises to square that circle.

This month’s cover story looks in depth at the drivers and the repercussions behind that major structural change to IT delivered over the Internet from a multi-tenanted platform, and asks where it might lead as not just Google, Yahoo and Microsoft but SAP, Oracle, IBM, EMC and others embrace the new model.

It also points to a potential casualty of such moves: as SMBs, in particular, begin to source a greater proportion of their applications as services over the web, the requirement for the kind of senior IT management layer that has traditionally implemented and run their IT will start to evaporate. The evidence that this is already under way is there at organisations that have switched to a hosting service run by a close business partner. We talked to a handful of companies who once counted on the skills of an IT manager or IT director but who have now dispensed with the role.

Few would go as far as Nicholas Carr, the former executive editor of the Harvard Business Review, who argues that “the future of computing belongs to the new utilitarian”, as the IT industry follows the same pattern as the electricity industry in the 1920s and 1930 as it moved from local micro-generation to the centralised utility-generation of power. But the fundamental changes to the way IT is delivered are already starting to send ripples through the careers of IT management.

David Cliff

David Cliff is managing director of Houghton le Spring-based Gedanken, a company specialising in coaching-based support and personal development. Cliff is an experienced trainer, manager and therapist,...

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