Is Cloud the new Outsourcing?

Remember Outsourcing ? That lovely accountancy-based exercise where you'd dump your entire infrastructure and staff onto a 'professional' outsourcing company who would then transform it into a wonderful, springing gazelle of a platform, train your staff and suchlike. In reality, what happened is that they froze the platform at whatever crap level you bought in at, and charged you through the nose for making any changes. Nasty. A lot of badly ran outsourcing deals have subsequently been reversed out. 

Even worse was the outsourcing deal where the jobs went offshore. Usually to a part of the world where labour was 'cheap' and lots of folks were qualified to do what you did. A commoditisiation of IT skills if you like. And what you found was that the stellar performers you were shown in the pre-bid talks were not in fact the team you'd get, and in any case, most folk in that offshoring hothouse would move jobs every 9 months and double their pay in any case. I've heard of some companies having so much difficulty retaining offshore staff that salaries are now a significant proportion of European salaries, with old-fashioned perks like Company cars thrown in. And lots of training. So. Much cheaper ? Not anymore.

And so companies get a little smarter, start hanging onto their Europe/US based technical leads, offer better pay and conditions, and quietly start pulling stuff back inhouse. 

Those promised cost benefits, control benefits and headcount reduction turn out to be fools gold. 

Now today, the self-same professional companies are now offering 'cloud' services. You know - enterprise google mail/lotus live/MS Azure and such like, ran in data centers sprinkled across the cheaper parts of the globe, and relying on the self-same IT professionals who cocked up your outsourcing/offshoring deals. With even less control over the infrastructure - you dont even know which country your data is in, let alone which server. This will make the 'discovery' part of any legal or 'freedom of information' action just so much harder.

I've stood back for a few years and looked at this stuff with a somewhat cynical eye. After all, there are formulaic processes for running good IT teams - look at ITIL. Servers aint complicated. Data centers arent complicated - the client I'm working for right now has dozens. The self-same 'professional' companies seem to have a 'pay em peanuts, treat em like crap' mentality towards their staff which hardly engenders a considered quality approach.

What appears to be complicated is that at C* level in most companies, have a complete disconnect from reality, swallow the utter b*llsh*t spouted by their IT vendors (and the IT vendors wonder why we dont trust them!) and seem to follow whatever short-term, quick win goal will get them their quarterly figures and bonus. Utter, complete, shallow short-termism.

The victory of presentation over content. Shiny baubles tomorrow versus delivery today. 

One of the refreshing things about working for the client-who-cannot-be-named is their complete aversion at every level to host their confidential client information outside their own premises, network, control. Okay, I'd love an intranet version of Skype for this client, but that wont happen. Fine. But what does happen is that there are no sudden changes in policy because a hosting 'partner' (and let me snort out loud at that overused IT phrase) suddenly changes direction.

For all its faults, client-who-cannot-be-named are in this for the long term, and not some shiny bauble.

All of which leads me to the sad conclusion that my long-term partner vendor - IBM - seems to be spending all its marketing roubles on a campaign to compete in the cloud space. Apparently happy to cannibalise its existing on-site customers. Perhaps this approach works in the land-of-the-quarterly-earnings-event-horizon - the US - but perhaps over here in more conservative Europe, this approach could be handled hand-in-hand with on-site packages (such as Notes).

For instance, if you had to run such a integrated environment - cloud-based vendor mail and enterprise mail, mixed applications between Domino and AD, and suchlike, wouldn't it be nice to have a central point of identity management for all this? We think so.