As enterprises have increasingly adopted cloud technology for large sections of their IT infrastructure there has been a corresponding change in the role of the IT department.
The use of cloud has also seen a rise in ‘shadow IT’ – many deals are done directly by business units with a chosen provider rather than by the IT department.
So the first step of a cloud strategy is often a simple audit of what services are already in use across the business.
This creates a different role for IT – it must act as a broker for different services as they are demanded by the business, not just specify, provide and maintain business services.
By accepting a brokerage role the IT department can begin to reclaim its strategic role.
This can mean better interoperability across the business, improved cost savings, better services and a clearer focus on security.
It also allows the business to properly prepare for the future and focus on development and business change.
One of the most famous large scale adopters of cloud infrastructure is Netflix. The video streaming service moved entirely onto cloud-based servers last year, as reported by CBR here:
The company said the move was made after it was hit by outages in 2008. This need for redundancy and reliability combined with the need to deal with the company’s explosive growth. Netflix said it would not have been able to rack new servers fast enough to deal with demand.
The move allowed it to open in 130 countries and support 21 languages. It now has 93 million members in 190 countries.
But this is not the whole story.
Although all its back office systems are run via third party cloud services when you actually watch a film on Netflix you are relying on the company’s own Content Delivery Network.
The company sends Open Connect Appliance boxes to Internet Service Providers which they host in local exchanges.
The boxes contain almost the whole Netflix catalogue – the basic box holds 100TB of storage – that’s more than three years of non-stop high definition video.
Each box is tailored to the specific area to which it will be delivered. Intelligent systems decide what to include and even if to include multiple copies of very popular content.
Netflix systems intelligently monitor demand and update the boxes almost daily with up to 7.5TB of new content.
Netflix claims 90 per cent of content is now accessed directly from the closest one of its boxes to the viewer rather than the wider internet.
Internet Service Providers can host the boxes in a local exchange and thereby hugely reduce stress on the rest of their network.
Of course not every business can invest in bespoke technology and place it in hundreds of locations around the world.
But there is a wider lesson in thinking strategically about the cloud. Netflix exploits the best of the cloud to provide instantly scalable systems to support its core business.
However it keeps tight control of this key asset which allows it to ensure best user experience, as well as give it control of the data created.
The benefits of such a hybrid platform give the benefits of the cloud – flexibility, instant scalability and world-wide availability but without losing the benefits of keeping control of key business applications.
This allows the business to concentrate on what it does best and allows the IT department to focus on optimising key business applications and ensuring they stay ahead of the competition.