IT's New AAA

By John Burke
On Mar 19, 2014
Wednesday, March 19, 2014

IT has a new lineup to refer to as AAA:  Alignment, Agility, and "as-a-Service."

It's not that authentication, authorization, and accounting -- the old AAA -- are in any way less important or even completely solved problems.  It's just that, they are not at the heart of core issues for IT right now, the way they once were.  

Alignment has become an increasingly front burner issue over the last few years, as people more often asked the question:what is the value added by us doing our own IT, or doing this particular piece of IT for ourselves?   Where it becamse clear that there wasn't much strategic value in buiding a system, or perhaps even in running a system, IT increasingly turned to outsourcing, whether in the form of colocation for physical assets, or of COTS or outsourced development, or of hosted or managed or cloud services.  

This has been enabled by, and in turn driven, the flourishing ecosystem of "as-a-Service" offerings.  Where once there was mainly just software (SaaS), we quickly also got platform (PaaS) and infrastructure (IaaS), and rapid expansion in the kinds of offerings in each as well.  Enterprise applications, vertical-specific applications, productivity applications such as wrod processing and spreadsheets, all the way through desktops as a service (DaaS), unified communications (UCaaS) and even big data (BDaaS).  More than one person I have interviewed for this year's Nemertes enterprise technology benchmark has said their company now defaults to, do it in the cloud, and you have to justify why some workload should run on in-house resources instead.  It was when we saw this same kind of inversion of assumptions with virtual machines--when "virtual by default, justify physical" became the norm--that we saw data center virtualization rapidly accelerate.

The ability to do far more things in the cloud, and the acknowledgement that IT doesn't have to have direct control of implementations down to the rack-screws and power plugs in many if not most systems, sets organizations up to solve problems through the application of technology more quickly: agility.  Just as spinning up a virtual machine could take 90% of the time out of provisioning a new system in-house, so too can using SaaS or IaaS to solve a problem dramatically reduce solution times: agile IT in the service of agile pursuit of business opportunities.  

If, that is, the organization can get faster at selecting and vetting services and providers!  Several people in this year's research have described to me selection processes that take a year, sometimes more, in different solution spaces.  This is a long, long time in the aaS world, and in some parts of the business would leave a problem unsolved until the issue had become moot -- or, to put it more pointedly, left an opportunity un-pursued until it had ceased to be an opportunity.  Other people have described very nimble processes, on the order of 4 weeks.  IT (and with it purchasing and legal  and risk management teams) are going to have to rebuild the underlying structures and processes of buying services to support operating at that kind of pace, lest they themselves be replaced by ITaaS.

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