CIOs and Clouds

Jan-Martin Lowendahl from Gartner started by observing that the well-known Gartner hype cycle curve looks a lot like the equally well-known Hokusai “Great Wave” print! Consumerisation, free services, and the death of distance can indeed seem like a “tsunami of technology” to those trying to manage information services in education. People, rather than organisations, now seem to be in charge and the traditional role of CIO as a “central dispenser of resources” can appear less relevant. Instead the CIO can choose to be a Chief Information Officer, focussed on the organisation’s processes and working at board level, a Chief Integration Officer, focussed on the organisation’s information systems, or a Chief Infrastructure Officer, focussed on the organisation’s infrastructure. With surveys suggesting that 64% of Higher Education Institutions expect to have replaced more than half of their infrastructure by cloud within three years, and 49% expect to have more than half of their services there, the second and third options do not seem to have much long-term potential, even if Jan-Martin considers these expectations to be optimistic. Although these changes are often motivated by a desire to reduce costs, it seems better to view them as allowing organisations to concentrate on core services, reduced time-to-deliver and using best of breed services. Commonly cited reasons not to use cloud services include keeping competencies in-house, legal issues around privacy and intellectual property, and that there are no suitable services. These often indicate that an organisation’s systems are too complex and monolithic and that a separation into infrastructure, information systems and processes – each separated into components – may be needed. Identifying and using standard identifiers, formats and protocols helps this division into discrete components, and makes it more likely that individual components can be considered separately for either in-house provision or outsourcing. This comparison can also take place between potential suppliers, creating a market through which best value services should emerge. Components should be structured as a service catalogue (containing a few hundred services specified in terms that IT deliver them – including storage, compute and (inter)national networking services), supporting a service portfolio (about ten services specified in terms that vice-chancellors buy them); a portfolio of projects should then be used to steadily evolve both the service catalogue and service portfolio, rather than needing “big bang” changes. Standards are the key to achieving this comparability and flexibility.

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