On the other hand, I think Carr is only half-validated by Gartner. He oversimplifies the world of IT when he compares it to snapping together online components to create an application. What his colleague did is fine for that person's purpose: to publish content. For example, I'm drafting this posting in Google docs and will publish it on the CIO website, which is powered by Drupal. No need for me to manage any computers or run a mini-datacenter.
However, IT organizations exist to manage process, not content. What companies offer is not one-size-fits-all service, but customized offerings aimed at satisfying a customer want -- which is all about process. Even MacDonalds, the epitome of a standardized offering, moves heaven and earth to deliver one's burger, when one wants it, in a convenient location at a familiar-looking store. That's miles away from generic components.
Consequently, while Carr is onto something, his prediction is superficial, and therein lies IT's future challenges. No longer responsible for drudge infrastructure, able to migrate work from talent-constrained operations groups, and freed up from pouring capital into undifferentiated IT infrastructure, IT faces fewer constraints, but greater opportunity, for the following reasons:
Operations hasn't really disappeared, it's just different. While IT won't have to keep servers up and running, it will still be responsible for the company's applications. Given that Carr's vision of generic snap-togethers is too simplistic, IT will still have applications it is responsible for. So the challenge of IT administration will still be present. One could even argue it will be more difficult, since all the easy stuff will be given to Amazon to do. Now you really do need A talent.
You can move the processing, but how do you move the data? Internal networks move at a minimum of 100 Mbs and often at 1000Mbs; on the horizon is 10Gps. While large enterprises can undoubtedly afford big bandwidth Internet connectivity, smaller organizations can't. There's a huge different between internal connectivity and external connectivity. Cioud computing will bring back the "last mile" problem with a vengeance. While one would like to be sanguine about the ability and willingness of telcos to see this as an opportunity, past experience does not necessarily raise one's hopes.
This raises the bar for what IT needs to deliver. It's freed up from a lot of low-payoff chores, so it needs to deliver what remains even better. More crucial, however, is what accompanies to shift to cloud computing: the change in what constitutes the role of IT. Removing capital constraints means that IT should become more creative, more able to attune IT to business processes, more able to support innovation. Reduced costs implies lower barriers to use. Forget the received wisdom that cloud computing means more standardized apps run by a cheaper ops group. Cloud computing means cheaper innovation, quicker time to market, and more prolific experimentation. IT is more important in this environment, not less. Put another way, the constraint on IT moves from hard capital (server and data center space) to human capital (inventiveness, creativity, and innovation).
Nick Carr got it half-right: IT is changing, big time. But he also got it half-wrong: IT is becoming more important, not less. Are you ready for your cloud computing future?
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.