Will we have turned off all of our IT equipment in 10 years' time? It is looking increasingly likely that some organizations won't run any internal systems at all in their own enterprise data centers, but will instead source everything from the cloud.
We are already seeing an increasing number of IT resources offered as a service. Software as a service is a maturing concept, and has already been through several iterations. The application service provider model proposed around the turn of the millennium was a precursor to this, and we are better at it this time around.
Other cloud-based services exist. Infrastructure as a service provides architectural resources such as CPU power, networking, and storage that can be accessed remotely. Platform as a service creates software architectures that can be built upon by third-party developers, and systems such as Salesforce are carving out a healthy market in this area.
Taken together, these developments represent an increasingly robust set of resources that in many cases will appeal directly to enterprise business departments. IT departments may therefore find themselves competing with these external providers, who will take advantage of the opportunity to offer services directly to enterprise business users, cutting the IT department's procurement team out of the process entirely.
These external service providers will be far more adept than most IT departments at offering high availability computing services. Their data centers will in many cases be better than enterprises could hope to achieve.
Facebook is a case in point. The company was leasing its data centre services from third parties for years, until it decided to build its own. It unveiled its Oregon-based facility in April, and released the hardware specifications under an initiative called the Open Compute Project.
In demystifying the data centre, Facebook further simplified the technical side of IT. It has optimized power consumption, computing density, and automation techniques. It has exposed, in a sense, the Emperor's new clothes, making it difficult for internal departments to complain to their own internal customers about the cost and challenges of keeping the engines running.
With software, infrastructure, and platforms being commoditized, traditional IT departments will find themselves increasingly threatened. They will find themselves running to catch up with third party providers that have the scale and the flexibility to provision resources instantly - and business managers may find it more appealing and less time consuming to simply go and rent the computing power and software that they need for a few tens of dollars a day.
Look out for a forthcoming Orange Business insight on cloud computing, which looks at the future of the IT department along with other important topics.
After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.