One of the drivers to moving to the cloud be that public or private is the promised reduced management overhead and cost savings.  Part of this comes from how effectively infrastructure can be utilised and so partially idle virtual machines can be consolidated alongside each other to get the most out of that infrastructure.  The other factor affecting cost is the cost of the IT team and what occurs to me is that the simple way to measure this is the ratio of IT professionals to the amount of infrastructure being looked after.

For example if you are a helpdesk specialist how many desktops/users do you look after and if you work in the data centre how many servers physical/or virtual are you responsible for?

The mission for Azure is one infrastructure specialist per 4,000 servers, however that’s a Microsoft target and there will also be IT professionals working for customers who will have to do some administration and integration work on them. How much extra work is need is going to depend on what sort of service you have opted for:

  • If all you are doing with the cloud is shifting your existing virtual machines to the cloud then who patches and maintains those virtual machines, the IT team in the customer business not the cloud provider. While this means a customer has no more ‘tin’ to look after , there are only small savings in the numbers of IT professionals employed by the customer namely the guys who actually work on hardware – a relatively small number of staff.
  • However if you move  a service to the cloud then the responsibility for managing the operating system  and possibly the service (if it’s off the shelf like SQL Azure, Office 365 including SharePoint and Exchange) pass to the cloud provider.  The IT staff savings in the customer will fall and while the cloud provider needs more staff to manage those services their expertise , software automation and scale make this economic for the cloud provider.   

However this doesn’t mean the end of the IT professional, but a shift from executing tasks which can be automated and scripted to such areas design work governance risk and compliance (GRC) and change management.  The increase in this work as data volumes and system capabilities grow will offset the losses in the routine work many of have to carry out today, and the fact that we simply don’t seem to be getting new people interested in working infrastructure.

So my question is

BTW Simon has a similar survey for desktops on his blog