There is a major shift happening across the technology landscape for both vendors and IT professionals alike, but change in tech is the one thing we can expect. CIOs today must sharpen their cloud literacy and evolve toward more agile and scalable environments, which also means they must prepare to relinquish some control. We must embrace the shifts in order to adapt to employee’s needs and market changes.

Ten years ago, a savvy CIO when asked, “How much does your datacenter cost?” would smile and respond, “Nothing, it’s included in the rent”. His/her peers would snicker, knowing they too had just moved their on-premise servers and storage offsite for a nominal fee, eliminating their power, cooling and facility costs.

As the years have passed, companies have replaced uni-tasker servers with blades and virtual machines. The virtual desktop dream came and went unrealized as workstation costs tanked and the new normal become a mobile, flexible workforce with laptops. Tape drives are now the VHS of the swing generation of technologists, and we can all wave a fond goodbye to big drive arrays, racks of lead-acid batteries and finicky AC systems.

Fast-forward to 2019 and the technology forecast is ‘cloudy’ (pun intended). Even today, Microsoft raises an eyebrow if they have a customer running an on-prem Exchange environment. Their price-hike last October for desktop and server licenses was indicative of an intentional break in the traditional enterprise model. Storage has been trending toward zero for years (thanks Google); and all the traditional vendors, who want to still be in the game, are scrambling to make cloud plays in order to survive. Even your ISP is getting in on the action – cloud PBX anyone?

Technology leaders of cloud-only companies have drastically different obstacles than those CIOs managing blown hard drives and Microsoft EA audits, and traditional CIOs must be cognizant of what they can learn from a digital company. Visibility, accountability, and control are all difficult, if not impossible, in a day when anyone can sign up for a free-tier account and run with it for their entire team – no IT geek required. Budgeting is also complicated – renewal dates, growth projections and pricing tiers have CIOs chasing discount levels and conforming to a vendor’s quarterly and FY targets.

If you have an in-house development team, publish some sort of software, or have a customer facing application chances are you are acquainted with AWS, GCE or Azure. Remember your linux admins? Chances are they now have DevOps titles and are way more expensive.

We have come to a time where CIOs can ask, “Why pay for a rack of servers and licenses when I can pay a low hourly rate and get an iron-clad SLA?” But a lesson to those CIOs now asking this question – when the bill comes every month it’s much like tallying up all your Starbucks trips and lunches out; it adds up quick. Controlling your cloud spend has become a rapidly growing hobby among technology practitioners. CIOs must manage their frontline developers who aren’t connected with the budget and have no problem spinning up and subsequently abandoning expensive servers; only to find these months later (oops).

When you can store unlimited amounts of data for under ten bucks a month is there a market for people trying to sell you a few terabytes of physical storage? We can make all the arguments about security and uptime and reliability but can any of us do better than Google? Microsoft? Or Amazon? At the end of the day, it comes down to how willing we are to give up control. Either willingly or unwillingly, individuals and institutions are all part of a fundamental shift in how IT does business. If it’s not this wave or the next, eventually you will have to ride the wave or take a walk in the sand. But you know what? Shift happens. Let’s welcome it.