While much of the tech world reacted to the death of Steve Jobs, the facility-dominated audience at DatacenterDynamics seemed hardly to notice, even though Jobs changed IT in a way that will ripple through the data center industry for years to come. So great is the distance between IT and facilities that the facility side does often acknowledge how IT changes affect their work and their operations. Thus, even Dave Ohara, who once worked at Apple, could not offer a clear account of an encounter with Steve. And, of my friends and acquaintances, I considered Dave to be the most likely to have known Jobs.

The instance of IT driven change are too numerous to account. Blade servers, virtualization, and high-density computing are just three examples of IT-driven

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change. Facilities is often left to play catch up and clean up, with innovations that include hot aisle/cold aisle, DCIM, modularization, and containerization.

IT shows no sign of easing off the innovation cycle, with the cloud phenomenon being the latest example. To be fair, IT can't ease off because demand for more, faster, and higher reliability data services continues to grow, and Moore's law continues to enable even more powerful processors.

Of all these innovations, cloud seems to be the most likely to be a disruptive, rather than enabling, technology. Already we see signs that Apple will move the entire music distribution business to the cloud, further disrupting an already turbulent business. Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, and Yahoo are among the companies large enough to take advantage of the cloud, or to offer it as a service to others, or both.

For now hype surrounding the cloud has far outstripped the reality of true cloud deployments. Some vendors will even admit that many existing white cloud offerings do not really provide the scalability and reliability of a true cloud deployment. Still the success of these initial and limited applications indicates that a real sea change is underway. IT investment is moving towards the cloud and cloud providers, and power, cooling, and network ownership is moving to hosting companies that provide the best connectivity and the highest SLAs.


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In his blog, Schneider's Domenic Alcaro wrote, "While overall IT spending may be decreasing the percentage of the IT budget allocated to the cloud is increasing.  Increases can be seen in the usage of SaaS (Software as a Service, e.g., Salesforce.com), PaaS (Platform as a Service, e.g., Google AppEngine), and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service, e.g., Amazon EC2)." At the the 451 Group's Hosting and Cloud Transformation Summit, Antonio Piraino, formerly vice president research at Tier1, said that the percentage of respondents whose companies currently use applications that run on public cloud computing services has risen steadily from 11 percent in July 2010 to 19 in July 2011."

Should this trend continue, it will fundamentally change the IT-facilities relationship. For example,  IT and facilities will no longer compete for the same enterprise dollar, rather, IT will be the consumer of services from a customer-oriented facilities team, paying fairly for high SLAs. IT will be solely responsible for getting value from the enterprise dollar. Facilities, similarly, as host, will no longer report to the enterprise, but rather to a data center owner. 

Now I know that many professionals justly harbor suspicions about the cloud. Security concerns are very real, for example, and may never be fully resolved. However, the cloud industry has begun to spawn vendors who are working solving these issues. Many attended the Hosting and Cloud Transformation Summit. I recommend you visit the web site to learn more about developments in the industry and some of these vendors.

Growth in IT seems to be a given, whether cloud-based or not, with only economic growth as a limiting factor. Piraino drove home this point (see the slide) by relating U.S. corporate IT spending to fluctuations in the Standard and Poor's 500 Index. The continuing inability of IT and facilities to cooperate under one roof to meet growing IT demand suggests that the market is ready for a new solution.

In this matter, like so many others, cloud may be the disruptive force that changes everything.