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A critical aspect of all Information Technology is responsiveness. If an application, a system, or an IT management team isn’t responsive, users will conclude that whatever or whomever they’re dealing with either doesn’t work or doesn’t care. And it’s only a matter of time before they start looking elsewhere for satisfaction.
At the dawn of IT, users were incredibly patient by today’s standards. The “glass house” where the mainframe lived was eventually seen as a fortress. Those in charge could maybe get to writing a new application sometime this year or next. Users waited because they had no alternative.
All that changed when the minicomputer, client server computing, UNIX, and the PC all appeared in succession. Users saw increasing numbers of choices. They could get the apps they wanted on departmental minis and eventually their own PCs, stifling the growth of mainframe computing.
A similar scenario is now playing-out with cloud computing where computing resources are available with the swipe of a credit cart. IT responsiveness is now measured by cloud standards. An enabler of this responsiveness is the sheer scale that the major cloud services providers have amassed that enables users to spin-up and spin-down resources at will and on their own, often without having to ask a gatekeeper.
Spurred-on by the popularity of public cloud computing, we now see IT vendors offering their solutions on an as-a-services basis. In other words, rather than sell a box of electronics as a box, they now sell it as a set of subscription-based services. Users pay monthly based on consumption as they would pay for computing power running in the public cloud. Typically, the vendor will also install, support, maintain and “keep the lights on” as part of the service.
But there’s a cautionary tale worth considering. Back to the mainframe which was once considered by its creator to be so big and expensive that only a few would ever justify paying for it. In fact, it couldn’t scale. Yes, you could make it bigger, run faster, do more things with it, but at a cost that wasn’t necessarily measured in dollars, but in people as well. It took human capital to deliver mainframe services. When enterprise IT got bogged down with all of the things they had to do more and more of, they became unresponsive to the needs of their fed-up users.
Vendors and users of subscription services need also to be aware of the impact of the need to scale on responsiveness. One measure of an IT system is whether it exhibits acceptable performance as it scales to meet increasing demands. The same relationship holds true with the people managing those systems. Users of subscription or as-a-service offerings need to know how the vendor will respond to both the technical and personnel demands of increasing scale that will come from increasing numbers of services users coming to them with increasing workloads. So, before you sign that subscription for an as-a-service solution and redeploy your resources, understand the depth and breadth of your as-a-Service team.