IT Cloud Myths around Dynamic Demand (or the lack thereof….)

Today I read a great article that compared the adoption of cloud in IT to the adoption of open source.  In a nutshell, cloud is being resisted by IT groups much like open source used to be resisted.  Given my role on OpenShift and having been at Red Hat for several years, I’ve seen both forms of this resistance in the field.  In this post, I’ll try and debunk one of the most common IT dismissals of utilizing cloud:

I don’t have dynamic demand – cloud won’t help me

That is a tricky defense tactic because many people in IT believe it to be true.  To dispel this myth, I find it best to break demand into external and internal demand.

It is fairly easy to tell whether your company has dynamic external demand.  That usually boils down to whether or not you have seasonal demand (e.g. retail sites and Black Friday) or event driven demand (e.g. Superbowl ad).  Companies with seasonal or spiky production demand have an obvious use case for the elasticity of cloud but that is only half the story.

However, while relatively few companies have dynamic external demand, the vast majority of IT shops have an unknown dynamic demand internally: their own consumers and development teams.  But when first asked, they often believe this not to be the case.  The conversation usually goes this way:

Question: Are you giving your users all the resources they think they need?

Answer: No.  They always ask for more than they need and we don’t have the capacity.  The initial requests just aren’t reasonable.

Question: Is the process for getting resources easy or self-service or does it require a ton of justification and cost?

Answer: We have to make the process tough.  If we gave users what they asked for, we’d go broke!

Question: Do your users ever give back unused resources or do they try and hold on to them forever?

Answer: That’s just it – they never give anything back!  They would keep it forever if we didn’t watch them like hawks and claw it all back…

At that point, this is the question that often makes them re-think their initial assumption about not having dynamic demand internally:

Question: If you gave users everything they wanted and were able to recoup those resources when they weren’t used, would you have dynamic demand?

Answer: (long pause) Yeah…. I guess we would.  (long pause) Haven’t thought about it that way before…

I’ve had this same conversation play out time and time again.  Most of the guys on the IT side aren’t knowingly being malicious, but they have built a protective system over the course of years and have lost sight of what their users actually need.  They think that they are protecting users from themselves whereas in reality, they are eliminating themselves as a credible service provider.  Under-served users will just go directly to the public cloud providers and work around IT entirely.  This has been happening with SaaS offerings such as for years and the behavior will be no different with public cloud providers.

IT organizations that embrace these changes will more likely end up being a strategic partner with their users.  By leveraging cloud technologies instead of rejecting them, they can revolutionize the way they provide compute resources to their users and combine that with the valuable corporate data they already have.  Having worked in IT, I think this is underlying desire of many IT shops.  Unfortunately, the processes they have built for themselves are often working against that desire without them even knowing.  Those that will survive will need to change and change fast to maintain relevance.