Don't fear cloudsourcing; it's the lesser of IT outsourcing evils

IT engineers grumble about cloudsourcing, but outsourcing IT services and apps to the cloud could prevent the dreaded systems integrator takeover.

Without doubt, the classic makeup of an in-house IT department is disappearing. It's less likely all the time that employees on the payroll are entirely fulfilling all of your organization's IT functions. But rather than pushing against cloudsourcing -- or outsourcing IT services to the cloud -- engineers will do better to become an instrumental part of the transition.

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Even though third-party service providers are probably already managing your printers and other peripheral technologies, IT engineers see any hint of using the cloud for services as the beginning of a slippery slope to a complete outsourcing of all IT job functions.

I disagree with this premise. If any cloud services are being assessed, they'll probably cover the boring, repetitive parts of your job that distract you from the skilled parts. For example, they could cover content filtering services for Web and email. If you choose your cloud services right, you could end up with the best job in the world -- an internal consultant to your existing employer. In fact, you can make it so that your position is instrumental in optimizing cloud services since you know how all the parts fit together. You know which legacy systems to talk to each other, for example, or how the Windows application servers pull their data from the DB2 mainframe.

I'm not proposing that you hoard your knowledge like some intellectual Ebenezer Scrooge; quite the reverse. You need to be the enabler of others whims (even the foolish ones), the go-to guy/gal who gets it done faster, better and cheaper. The goal of all this kowtowing is to fulfill IT's most important function -- the differentiator and innovator for its host organization within a competitive marketplace.

If any cloud services are being assessed, they'll probably cover the boring, repetitive parts of your job that distract you from the skilled parts.

Cloudsourcing to avoid the dreaded systems integrator

By selectively and tactically moving applications and services to the cloud, you avoid the real evil -- a strategic decision to outsource IT entirely. With the cloud, an IT department can cherry-pick the best third-party services to outsource without a systems integrator to fully take over.

Why avoid that take over? An integrator's business model depends upon meeting a service-level agreement (SLA) with the fewest people possible. To achieve total innovation beyond the contract negotiation is literally the enemy of profit; and trust me, no one does this out of the goodness of their hearts. So once an organization totally outsources, they end up with an IT estate that is obsolete the day it is deployed and a "partner" that has a vested interest in enforcing the status quo for the next three to five years. 

The bottom line is cloudsourcing is the lesser of IT outsourcing evils.

About the author: Glen Kemp is an enterprise solutions architect for a UK-based managed services provider. He designs and deploys network and application security tools, including access control, remote access, firewalls and other "keep the bad guys out" technologies. He is an experienced professional services consultant; delivering Elephants and not hunting Unicorns. He also a guest blogger for the Packet Pushers Podcast and Juniper J Net. Follow him on Twitter @ssl_boy.

This was first published in January 2013

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