For years I have listened to CIO's and CTO's lament that their voice is being ignored by their line of business counterparts. Candidly, though often not publicly called out it is because they (and their peers) see them only as cost centers vs revenue generators. Well the time has come tired and weary tech execs to claim your seat at the big table and join the adults, and the vehicle that will carry you there is called...CLOUD!
Cloud services, whether Software-as-a-Service options like SalesForce.com or private cloud offerrings like VMware, create new opportunities (and risk) to propel the growth of every industry's business forward (or backwards) based upon their decisions over the next 5-10yrs. I recently spoke at a Madrona's investor's event and commented that if I was investing in a company, whether technology to consumer goods offerring, and anything in the middle or outside of it, that if the CEO did not have their CTO or CIO as a critical part of their executive staff...that I would not even consider investing in them. For some that might be considered an aggressive stance, but for me it is just matter of fact.
As virtualization hits the scene in the last decade, it started us down a path of creating a level of business agility in infrastructure and applications that has not been seen since computers first hit the business world. Companies to date has been fixated on the cost savings potential of the ubiquitous "Cloud". However, without being too mellow dramatic, I can confidently say that the real power of the cloud and services being built out around it whether any of the proverbial..."fill in the blank"...as-a-Service, is that it will provide a level of business agility and innovation never before seen.
Think about companies like Dropbox, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc., could they have been formed 20yrs ago, 10yrs ago, barely even 5yrs ago...no. Cheap infrastructure services enabled quick inexpensive start-ups who could innovate and succeed (or fail) quickly. Commodization of hardware has played a role in this effort, but cloud services whether software efforts from VMware, Openstack, Cloudstack, etc. or Cloud Services companies like Amazon, Rackspace, Azure, etc., have made cheap resources bountiful to experiment with, and this window of opt is creating whole new business models (and companies). Think about it...5-7yrs ago who talked about PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service), yet now Microsoft, Oracle, VMware, HP, IBM and even Cisco say they have a PaaS offerring that will be massively disruptive whether they really do or not.
Which brings me back to the dinner table...CEOs now more than ever have to sort their way through what this technology means to their business immediately and 5yrs from now. They do not have the option of conveniently waiting until everyone else adopts and then simply copy catting it as transformations can move so quickly that their company could be permanently crippled by the time they sort out what "The Cloud" means to them.
This is the window opening for CIO's and CTO's across the world...and the funny thing is that at least 75% of them seem to be trying to nail boards over it to keep it out. Embrace what cloud services can mean to your business agility and operational efficiencies and you'll find an adult leaning over and pouring you a glass of wine even though you still think your a minor. Okay, I might be carrying the analogy too far, but the point is still important. Cloud services, whether on premise software and hardware optimizations or off site, should all be considered. Just because CAPX seems safe and easy, does not mean it is the best. OPEX by its very nature implies business agility as you can align costs w/ the amount of business ramped out now vs some vague point in the future if successful.
Be willing to explore and definitely do not take vendors big or small at face value. The wonderful thing about cloud services vs the old days of large complex deployments is you can get a demo account or download a free trial version in many cases immediately and really understand what is real vs marketing. Cloud services have created a dinner setting for technical executives to leverage...lets hope over time more will take advantage of it for everyone's success.