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Cloud initiatives require fresh thinking, ability to adapt

For cloud computing to be successful, IT leaders often must change their thinking, according to James Staten, cloud expert and global head of vertical market development, strategy and planning at Equinix Inc. SearchCIO caught up with Staten at the recent CDM Media CIO Summit in Boston to discuss the challenges IT leaders face when implementing cloud initiatives. Staten said that certain skills and legacy knowledge will always be in demand, but he suggested that IT leaders need to adapt to the shifting cloud environment or risk being replaced.

What are the biggest challenges IT leaders face when implementing cloud initiatives?

The biggest challenge that tech leaders face is assuming that the way they've always done it will apply to the new cloud [initiatives].
James Statenglobal head of vertical market development, strategy and planning, Equinix Inc.

James Staten: The biggest challenge that tech leaders face is assuming that the way they've always done it will apply to the new cloud [initiatives]. That is usually not the case. It doesn't mean that you're going to have to learn something completely new -- there are some things that you've done in the past that will absolutely apply -- but the way you did it is not going to be the same. That's the first thing: Just acknowledge the fact that the way things are done in the cloud is going be WAN-centric, it's going to be based on new protocols and new technologies, and you just have to adapt and learn how to do that.

The second big challenge is the emotional one, which is [thinking that] if you go and do this stuff in the cloud, then they're not going to need you running as much in the data center; they're not going need you to manage the Dell computers that they have anymore. Well, you might not have Dell computers in the future -- or as many of them -- but I guarantee you they need someone who understands server operating systems and understands application design. It's just getting comfortable with that transformation. That's something we can all relate to in any industry.

In manufacturing, there used to be thousands and thousands of manufacturing jobs. Now, we're replacing them with robots, we're replacing them with automation, and there's less of those jobs. Does that mean that if you were an expert in manufacturing you have no future? Well, if you take on some new skills and you learn how to manage the robots and how to put the workflows in place, that's actually a better job. That's how IT needs to think: 'How is my future going to evolve?' Even though you grew up knowing Cisco and loved your Cisco equipment, if you stay stuck in your Cisco skills, you're probably going to be replaced.

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What do you think is the biggest challenge IT leaders face when implementing a cloud initiative?
Properly implementing a DevOps model, preferably using tools that comes with your cloud platform (Amazon Web Services), that makes Cloud Computing a breeze once set up properly.
So first the biggest challenge is learning all of the cloud technologies and how they work and depend on one another. The second is mastering scripted architecture so you can create cloud environments to your specs. The third is automation and using the tools your cloud platform offers to automate as many IT processes as humanly possible. In essence, doing all of these things and setting them up, training your team, and documenting your processes will lead to DevOps. Apologies my first answer wasn't helpful at all so I figured I'd give it another shot.