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Citizenville: Newsom Argues Against Bureaucracy, Swipes At IT Departments 173

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Gavin Newsom, former mayor of San Francisco and current lieutenant governor of California, argues in his new book Citizenville that citizens need to take the lead in solving society's problems, sidestepping government bureaucracy with a variety of technological tools. It's more efficient for those engineers and concerned citizens to take open government data and use it to build apps that serve a civic function—such as Google Earth, or a map that displays crime statistics—than for government to try and provide these tools itself. But Newsom doesn't limit his attacks on government bureaucracy to politicians; he also reserves some fire for the IT departments, which he views as an outdated relic. 'The traditional IT department, which set up and maintained complex, centralized services—networks, servers, computers, e-mail, printers—may be on its way out,' he writes. 'As we move toward the cloud and technology gets easier to use, we'll have less need for full-time teams of people to maintain our stuff.' Despite his advocacy of the cloud and collaboration, he's also ambivalent about Wikileaks. 'It has made government and diplomacy much more challenging and ultimately less honest,' he writes at one point, 'as people fear that their private communications might become public.' Nonetheless, he thinks WikiLeaks and its ilk are ultimately here to stay: 'It is happening, and it's going to keep happening, and it's going to intensify.' In the end, he feels the benefits of collaboration and openness outweigh the drawbacks." Keep reading for the rest of Nick's review.
Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government
author Gavin Newsom, Lisa Dickey
pages 272
publisher Penguin Press HC
rating 7/10
reviewer Nick Kolakowski
ISBN 1594204721
summary A rallying cry for revolutionizing democracy in the digital age
Gavin Newsom has enjoyed quite a career in government: after serving two terms as mayor of San Francisco, he became lieutenant governor of California. Maintaining the status quo of our current political system, one could argue, is in his best interest. Yet in his new book Citizenville (co-written with Lisa Dickey, who’s collaborated with a number of famous people on their books), Newsom argues that government should take a backseat to citizens solving society’s problems via collaboration and technology.

“We have to disenthrall ourselves, as Abraham Lincoln used to say, of the notion that politicians and government institutions will solve our problems,” he writes at one point. “The reality is, we have to be prepared to solve our own problems.” The government structure that facilitates such troubleshooting, he adds, “makes use of social media, networks, peer-to-peer engagement, and other technological tools.” In other words, government should open up its vast datasets so that armies of developers and engineers can transform that data into software we can all use.

According the book’s thesis, it’s more efficient for those engineers and concerned citizens to take open government data and use it to build apps that serve a civic function—such as Google Earth, or a map that displays crime statistics—than for government to try and provide these tools itself. It’s easier for citizens to engage with their representatives via Twitter and online chat rooms than gather in a physical room, where voices can be shouted down. He acknowledges that collaboration and technology has its limits: there will always be a need for elected leaders to help manage things, and nobody wants every bit of private data open to widespread scrutiny (to his credit, Newsom acknowledges his own issues with making his official schedule and meetings public).

It’s even possible, he suggests, to make civic involvement look more like “Farmville” or an online game—the “Citizenville” of the title. While he positions this idea as more of a metaphor than something that should be pushed into a reality, he repeatedly suggests that a “mashup of gaming and civic engagement,” powered by “real physical rewards,” could get people to interact more fully with their communities.

But there’s also a significant threat to this vision of supreme interconnectedness: government bureaucracy, which moves slowly and hates releasing anything—such as statistical data—that might cause politicians embarrassment.

“Our government is clogged with a dense layer of bureaucracy, a holdover from an earlier era that adds bloat and expense,” Newsom writes. “But technology can get rid of that clay layer by making it possible for people to bypass the usual bureaucratic morass.” Social networks have made interaction with government a two-way street, forcing politicians to listen to constituent concerns well before the next Election Day.

Newsom doesn’t limit his attacks on government bureaucracy to politicians; he also reserves some fire for the IT departments, which he views as an outdated relic. “The traditional IT department, which set up and maintained complex, centralized services—networks, servers, computers, e-mail, printers—may be on its way out,” he writes. “When the computer revolution began, IT departments were truly needed, as people had no idea how to set up and use the new technologies infiltrating their work space.”

Things these days are different, he argues: “As we move toward the cloud and technology gets easier to use, we’ll have less need for full-time teams of people to maintain our stuff.”

Newsom was mayor, of course, when city network engineer Terry Childs locked down San Francisco’s FiberWAN fiber-optic network and refused to give up the password. Freezing the network also stopped government emails and payroll. After days of outside contractors trying—and failing—to break into the system, Newsom finally had to march into Childs’ jail cell and practically beg him to surrender the 28-digit code. Whether that experience slanted Newsom against IT departments in general is hard to tell, but it’s clear from the book that he’s embraced cloud services as the way of the future.

That being said, Newsom does believe that online collaboration and sharing have their limits as forces for good. He’s not the biggest fan of WikiLeaks. “It has made government and diplomacy much more challenging and ultimately less honest,” he writes at one point, “as people fear that their private communications might become public.” Nonetheless, he thinks WikiLeaks and its ilk are ultimately here to stay: “It is happening, and it’s going to keep happening, and it’s going to intensify.” Privacy isn’t dead, but it’s definitely on life support.

Newsom also isn’t a starry-eyed ingénue: he knows that bureaucracy is firmly baked into how we do things, and he knows that all these shiny technological tools won’t necessarily make government more efficient overnight. However, he’s also relentlessly optimistic in technology’s ability to bring about change—even if that change proves detrimental to our current system.

You can purchase Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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Citizenville: Newsom Argues Against Bureaucracy, Swipes At IT Departments

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  • Hah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by schneidafunk (795759) on Monday February 11, 2013 @03:34PM (#42863295)
    Leave it to a politician to explain how the IT field is going to disappear. "As we move toward the cloud and technology gets easier to use", and who supports these technologies Mr. Mayor?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by geekboybt (866398)

      He's not saying it will disappear, but that it's changing. IT jobs will continue to exist, but they'll be moving to service providers rather than being kept in-house.

      And, frankly, this makes sense - if you pay provider X to host your mail server, you're paying them for both the hardware needs (which they can buy in bulk because they're bigger than you) and their expertise (as they're spending their days exclusively maintaining mail servers, while you may be building a webserver one day and fixing a printer

      • Re:Hah (Score:5, Informative)

        by jedidiah (1196) on Monday February 11, 2013 @03:42PM (#42863465) Homepage

        That's great. Trade people who work for you for people who don't work for you at all. They have their own boss and interests that completely conflict with yours. Unless you're really good a negotiating contracts with companies much larger than your own, you are likely just going to get screwed over.

        Trade your IT department for one which is much larger and even less responsive that has a contractual firewall and a corporate air gap separating it from you.

        • Re:Hah (Score:5, Insightful)

          by geekboybt (866398) on Monday February 11, 2013 @03:49PM (#42863597)

          You don't have to trade the whole department. But instead of hiring 5 administrators with various levels of expertise, you can hire 2 or 3 and let the experts deal with their systems.

          As for those other people? Of course they're not working for you. But they're working for their bosses who are working for your business. Believe it or not, there are companies out there whose sole purpose in life is not to screw you over. Trust is earned - let them earn yours.

          • Re:Hah (Score:5, Insightful)

            by h4rr4r (612664) on Monday February 11, 2013 @04:00PM (#42863783)

            They are working for your business and 10 others. They have no incentive to treat you any better, nor do they have any need to do better than the 4 hour response time or whatever the SLA says. The moment supporting you costs more than you pay forget about it.

            Not only do they have those employees but they also need to make a profit on them. So it will not be cheaper either.

            • Re:Hah (Score:5, Insightful)

              by heypete (60671) <pete@heypete.com> on Monday February 11, 2013 @04:58PM (#42864643) Homepage

              Not only do they have those employees but they also need to make a profit on them. So it will not be cheaper either.

              Google Apps costs $5/user/month (or $50/user/year if prepaid for the year) for a whole bunch of useful services (e.g. mail, calendar, sync+sharing, etc.). There's plenty of other companies that provide similar services at generally similar price points.

              I'm not really sure how any reasonable company can provide a comparable service "in house" for less money. Buying physical servers is expensive. Having trained staff configure them in a way that's geographically redundant, fault-tolerant, and scalable is expensive. Operating costs like electricity, connectivity, maintenance, upgrades, etc. are expensive. Spam is annoying for users and can consume staff time and energy, not to mention server resources. Google (or other similar services) has considerably more expertise in building and maintaining such systems than most corporate IT departments. Economies of scale make it more efficient for them to provide service to many business customers than having businesses each setup their own internal mail systems.

              By outsourcing relatively common, standard things like email and calendar, business IT departments can focus on more "core" things that relate to their specific business. A university I used to work for outsourced ~35,000 student email accounts to Google Apps, freeing up considerable IT resources which could then be used for more "core" university purposes like high-performance computing for research rather than having to deal with email. For academic institutions Google offers Google Apps at no cost, which is a major perk -- even with the paid services for business there's still a lot of room for cost savings and other advantages.

              Are there concerns about letting a third-party host important business infrastructure? Yes, absolutely. Are there benefits to such outsourcing? Yes. Should administrators seriously weigh the pros and cons of such outsourcing? Again, yes.

              • Cloud (Score:5, Insightful)

                by fyngyrz (762201) on Monday February 11, 2013 @05:03PM (#42864711) Homepage Journal

                You have to be very naive to trust your data to "the cloud."

                So I doubt that anyone significant is moving to it. For the clueless hordes on Faceplant, already accustomed to handing over everything about themselves, maybe so... but the people who actually run things, and do big things... they'll be keeping their data where they have control over it.

                They don't trust it to the IT department, either. They're more likely to run, or own, the IT department. And they have your data. But you don't have theirs.

                • Re:Cloud (Score:4, Insightful)

                  by erp_consultant (2614861) on Monday February 11, 2013 @05:31PM (#42865125)

                  +1

                  I've been around long enough to see fads come and go. This "cloud" crap that we keep hearing about is just that...another fad. I can see some small and even medium sized companies embracing cloud computing...for a limited set of tasks. I work almost exclusively with large companies and none of them, and i mean none, are ready to dump their internal IT staff to just throw it up into the "cloud" and hope everything works out. There is simply too much at stake for them.

                  With any cloud based software you are trading power for convenience. You simply cannot customize cloud software the same way you can on premise software. Nearly every big company I have worked with does things a little bit differently than the next big company. So when it comes to mission critical applications, they are either going to build it in house or they will buy something that they can customize to fit their needs. And if it means they have to spend a lot of money to do that then so be it...shit needs to get done.

                  Riddle me this: if you were the CIO of Huge-Company-X would you be willing to risk the entire business, not to mention your career and reputation, to some flavor of the month cloud solution? No fucking way. If it's me I'm keeping my data in house where I have control of data security and things are done on MY schedule, not the vendor's schedule.

                  • Re:Cloud (Score:4, Interesting)

                    by icebike (68054) on Monday February 11, 2013 @06:20PM (#42865877)

                    I've been around long enough to see fads come and go. This "cloud" crap that we keep hearing about is just that...another fad. I can see some small and even medium sized companies embracing cloud computing...for a limited set of tasks. I work almost exclusively with large companies and none of them, and i mean none, are ready to dump their internal IT staff to just throw it up into the "cloud" and hope everything works out. There is simply too much at stake for them.

                    True. Anyone who has been around for a long while sees the same discarded technology pushed to the forefront again and again, often being forced to relearn the same lessons.

                    We hired service bureaus, then we got our own terminals, then we got our own mainframes, then we got departmental mini-computers, then company wide mainframes then PCs, then file servers, etc etc etc.

                    This isn't always bad, mind you. New technology can make old ideas better.

                    I've watched State government division directors railing red-faced in rage at an IT director that overwrote years of backup tapes.
                    I've also seen entire offices lose everything to a worm.

                    If data has that much value, no rational person would entrust it ONLY to cloud. Still I can and do see the cloud treated like a long piece of CAT5. Most rational cloud users only use the cloud this way, as a pathway to distribution, not as the ultimate or only means of storage. In this way it works fine.

                    What is missing is strong encryption of cloud data. When the feds can demand all of your data with nothing more than a rubber stamped national security letter, and you are never told about it, putting anything on the cloud without client side encryption is stupid.

                    Unless, of course that data is public knowledge anyway (stripped of private identifiers etc). And in that regard, much of government data is (or can be made to be) of this type. In which case the cloud is a good way of freely distributing it.

                    Just don't rely on it for storage.

                  • by dbIII (701233)

                    not to mention your career and reputation

                    The person who was in charge during the incredible fuckup of losing the White House emails is now in a managerial position at a data recovery company. At the C** level truly spectacular crashes and burns that would leave others with no job prospects are just spun as experience. Extreme risks or even actions with outright certainty of failure are taken with little effect on career.

                  • by kdemetter (965669)

                    One "solution' i can think of, is a private cloud.
                    In other words : you do have a "cloud" , but it's only company wide, with strong encryption.

                    The company keeps the data in it's own cloud, and still has a lot of advantages of the cloud.
                    They just need to maintain the cloud themselves, which does require some expertise.

                    • by rioki (1328185)

                      Drop the word cloud and you have many existing IT infrastructural. Sure it is called Exchange, Outlook Web Access and Sharepoint for example, but what's the difference? Sure Google Apps is interesting for small companies that can't really provide top notch IT for their company, but the private cloud thing is just empty marketing buzzwords.

                    • Exactly right and it helps to illustrate my point. Google Apps is alright for small companies but there are some trade-offs. It just doesn't have the power of the full Microsoft office suite of products (once you add on Exchange, Sharepoint and Active Directory) but it's pretty good if you can live with the reduced functionality.

                      On top of that, almost every Fortune 500 company (I'm willing to bet ALL) have some sort of ERP system to manage their Payroll, Financials, Inventory, etc. SAP and Oracle are the bi

              • Re:Hah (Score:5, Interesting)

                by jbolden (176878) on Monday February 11, 2013 @06:00PM (#42865563) Homepage

                Universities in terms of functions like email are relatively standard and easy. It is easy to provide 35k students with email in house or out of house. Consider though the complexity of courseware, experimental labs, custom data sets and manipulation for research studies, the medical school and HIPAA / billing... What you are really saying is outsource these least complex 10%.

                • by heypete (60671)

                  Universities in terms of functions like email are relatively standard and easy. It is easy to provide 35k students with email in house or out of house. Consider though the complexity of courseware, experimental labs, custom data sets and manipulation for research studies, the medical school and HIPAA / billing... What you are really saying is outsource these least complex 10%.

                  Yes, precisely. Email and calendars are pretty bog-standard and can easily be outsourced in a way that saves money and resources for the university. These resources can then be used to better perform other, university-specific tasks.

                  The university I used to work for had Google Apps for student mail (high degree of satisfaction among the users, very reliable), Office365 for staff (high degree of dissatisfaction, unreliable -- Microsoft heard about the Google Apps for students and somehow came out ahead in th

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Because economies of scale never exist anywhere.

              And it's always best practice to outsource your mission-critical functions to external providers.

              Thanks for all that insight, I look forward to auditing your MBA program.

            • Ya so far I haven't heard any real IT outsourcing success stories. I mean small shops that don't have the resources/need for internal staff hire others to do IT work and that makes sense. But big shops that outsource it do not seem to have a good time. It ends up not being cheaper, service is worse, etc, etc.

              Maybe thinks will change but I doubt it since the whole thing with any kind of service isn't so much technology but people.

              • I cringe when I hear of small shops that host their own email. I've seen vets and dentists that run their own outdated, unpatched, backup-deficient exchange servers. Even for companies that have 50-100 people, outsourcing email can be a very good practice. It's cheap, relatively secure, and has a professional team behind it. Once you get above 100 people or so, have a real IT crew and budget, you have to really think about the cloud.

                When it goes down, there's basically nobody to call, and if MS or Goo

                • by cayenne8 (626475)

                  I cringe when I hear of small shops that host their own email.

                  Why?

                  It isn't all that hard to set up a nice secure little Postfix server and put a few rules in place to manage mail with your users.

                • by dbIII (701233)

                  I cringe when I hear of small shops that host their own email

                  It's actually not that difficult (if it's email only and you avoid crappy old versions of MS Exchange - you need at least two servers to keep that pile of shit moving mail 24/7/365) and it's also a superior solution if you have people with a habit of sending huge attachments to other people in the same building. Small offices typically have a less reliable and/or slower connection to the internet than large ones, which often makes full external e

              • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

                Ya so far I haven't heard any real IT outsourcing success stories. I mean small shops that don't have the resources/need for internal staff hire others to do IT work and that makes sense. But big shops that outsource it do not seem to have a good time. It ends up not being cheaper, service is worse, etc, etc.

                I've seen thi insourcing/outsourcing arguments go on ni th e35 years I've been working. FIrst the outsourcing advocates go on about the huge amounts of money to be saved. "We'll be able to lay off people and save so much money! What could go wrong?"

                The a few things have to be redone because of doing business in a non face-to-face manner. So maybe someone has to travel offsite to meet with the outsouced job business. Then some deadlines are missed, then you are told you are going to have to wait in line. S

            • by curunir (98273) *

              Not only do they have those employees but they also need to make a profit on them. So it will not be cheaper either.

              Believe it or not, when you get to the scale of, say, Google, you can make money off the employees and still offer service more cheaply than an in-house team. There are privacy issues to consider, but the economies of scale are definitely there that it can be cheaper.

              And those service providers also don't hold the passwords for all the routers and servers hostage because of a dispute with their superiors and agree to give the passwords directly to the mayor only after being arrested. Isolated incident? Perh

              • by Belial6 (794905)
                The city was intentionally creating a problem in that case, moreso than the admin. The city had a policy and a means to get the passwords. The admin was more than willing to give up the passwords through official policy dictated channels. The city had him arrested because they decided that they wanted to prove they could force him to give them up outside of the official policy. Sure, you could say that the admin was being an ass by refusing to let the rules slide. (After all, we all let rules slide now
                • by dbIII (701233)
                  I think it all really boils down to him making a manager's bit on the side cry when he asked what she was doing poking though somebody else's computer in the middle of the night - then reasons to "teach him a lesson" were found later. Office politics sucks in corrupt local governments and gets as primal as chimpanzees flinging shit.
              • by dbIII (701233)

                agree to give the passwords directly to the mayor

                In hindsight that part seemed to be there to provide a photo opportunity. Remember - one chance in front of a room of people, then directly to jail. The next form of communication was the mayor figuratively riding in on a white horse in front of the cameras to save the day from an artificial emergency.

          • by afidel (530433)

            Anyone who thinks that's going to increase efficiency has NEVER dealt with government contractors, their sole goal is to extract as much money as possible from the organization they "support", not to provide any level of service let alone a high level.

        • Re:Hah (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Holi (250190) on Monday February 11, 2013 @04:23PM (#42864097)

          Because of these exact issues we are currently moving our mail back in house this year.

        • Re:Hah (Score:5, Insightful)

          by SoothingMist (1517119) on Monday February 11, 2013 @04:38PM (#42864345)
          That is exactly why the old main-frame days came to an end. People were tired of having to depend on anyone who did not report to them. Contracts meant nothing. Outsiders always have their own agenda and your mission and goals take a back seat to that. The cloud is nothing more than a return to the days of the main-frame. Bean counters really do think they will save money by centralizing services in the hands of third parties.
        • by rhsanborn (773855)
          Just like the local computer repair shop keeps a mechanic on staff just in case the company truck breaks down, right? And the dentist keeps a roofer on staff in case the roof leaks, right? Or he keeps a handy man on staff to handle the truck and the roof, but probably doesn't do either particularly well, because he doesn't do any particular thing all that often. This is the same thing. We have a commodity service that we can outsource for less money and almost certainly get better service. Not everything ca
        • by kdemetter (965669)

          It's depends from company to company : if you are a big company, it's better to have your own people in IT. You can still set up a cloud yourself to have the advantages.

          If you are a small company, then you may not be able to afford an IT department to set all of that up. So then using a cloud might make sense, in particular when using excess processing power of larger companies.

      • by swb (14022) on Monday February 11, 2013 @03:56PM (#42863721)

        Gavin Newsom is a big, swinging dick in San Francisco city government and he gets what he wants from his IT department, rÃpidamente.

        Once all his shit is outsourced to some "cloud provider", he's nothing more than yet another adulterer in San Francisco, just another entry in a vast database and he will NOT have his service expectations met.

        And then he'll have another IT department.

        • by hrvatska (790627)

          Gavin Newsom is a big, swinging dick in San Francisco city government and he gets what he wants from his IT department

          Newsom might be a big, swinging dick, but he hasn't been in SF city government for several years.

      • So you propose a model of work that is not unlike prostitution.

        Service providers only exist to help companies screw over workers.

        • by fyngyrz (762201)

          You clearly know very little about prostitution.

          Perhaps you're thinking of "government."

      • You assuming the IT job is just keeping an Email Server running. Sure we can could the email, but this allows the IT guy more time to focus on enhancing business operations.

      • by jbolden (176878)

        Lets take your example of mail. There are 2 aspects to it:

        -- Complexity of getting mail to work. That's been steadily decreasing.
        -- Complexity of policy regarding mail. Thing like storage, retention, information retrieval... That's been steadily increasing
        -- Complexity of integrating mail with new systems. That's the real problem with a generic cloud solution. As soon as you bring in something that needs more than a basic API someone has to write middleware. That middleware then becomes part of the

      • He's not saying it will disappear, but that it's changing. IT jobs will continue to exist, but they'll be moving to service providers rather than being kept in-house.

        The problem is that the whole large-scale outsourcing of government IT to private service providers isn't some kind of bold new prediction. It is what government has done since IT existed.

        Which, of course, is why one of the layers of bureaucracy that Newsome complains about in government exists -- that is, specifically, the layer of bureaucra

    • I am a supporter for Cloud Technology. However it is not the best tool for every job.

      IT job outside of all computer stuff is to support workflow.
      There are some parts of a Government/Companies/Not For Profit workflow that works nearly the same as everyone else, or at least across its organization. However Every Organization is different and it does somethings that is better or differently then the others, otherwise it isn't useful, and should just be condensed into one organization.

      Because every organizat

    • Leave it to a politician to explain how the IT field is going to disappear. "As we move toward the cloud and technology gets easier to use", and who supports these technologies Mr. Mayor?

      No shit. This was a bit dumb too:

      It's more efficient for those engineers and concerned citizens to take open government data and use it to build apps that serve a civic function

      Oh, you mean like that newspaper in New York did posting the locations of everyone with a registered handgun? Yeah, that went over well! This guy is a COMPLETE idiot.

    • by lennier (44736)

      Leave it to a politician to explain how the IT field is going to disappear. "As we move toward the cloud and technology gets easier to use",

      Explain it to the politicians like this: Outsourcing your corporate IT needs to The Cloud is the information equivalent of outsourcing your beef needs to Tesco.

      You might think that not having to pony up the cash yourself means it's a sure thing, but if you don't know your provider's track record, it could turn into a shambles.

      • by dgatwood (11270)

        You might think that not having to pony up the cash yourself means it's a sure thing, but if you don't know your provider's track record, it could turn into a shambles.

        I see what you did there.

    • Amazingly I had this conversation just last week with a number of politicians and their staffers. There is currently a trend in the govt sector to believe that they will be able to live with little or no IT staff, and just maintain everything themselves. This includes discussions of a magic future world where there is drag and drop workflow tools, and and the courts use CRM software and the cloud for everything. They really need to stop reading the BS sent from Oracle and IBM et. al. You're always going t

      • You don't realize just how bad government IT is.

        They already send out all work for RFP anyhow. Now they have to play politics with their internal IT staff before they are allowed to send out the RFP. Bribe them with new perks to not complain about not being allowed to _not_ do the work in house while saying they are studying the problem.

    • Not to mention that there will be a host of people you will need to configure, install packages admin permissions, develop apps. etc. Maybe you won't be plugging things in or managing virtual machines but there is plenty that will still need to be done.
    • because the 'cloud' let's you put all the labor where ever it's cheapest. I seem to remember a fellow named Marx talking about that, but all anyone can remember about him is two or three dictators borrowed his rhetoric for their pogroms.
  • by Great Big Bird (1751616) on Monday February 11, 2013 @03:34PM (#42863307)
    So the more we rely on cloud services, the less we need full time people to maintain them? BWHAHAHAHAHA!
    • by TrippTDF (513419)
      IT departments won't go away, but it will be less common for a small or medium sized business to have dedicated IT people, because the services the business relies on will not need full time people.

      For example, the onsite maintenance and administration time of Google Apps is much, much lower than using Microsoft Exchange. Google has an army of people maintaining the servers, but the end business doesn't have to incur this cost.
    • Re:IT Departments (Score:4, Insightful)

      by skids (119237) on Monday February 11, 2013 @03:57PM (#42863735) Homepage

      As of this moment 3 of our core systems people have been in an all day meeting with outside consultants hired to help them with a task which would not exist but for arbitrary the whims of a cloud service provider.

      Those seeking job security in local IT shops should welcome our new cloud-based overlords.

      • This. Also, larger firms have started further specialisation and outsources specific IT project tasks to service providers. My client hires test teams, infrastructure teams, architecture teams (partly employees as well), security expert teams, networking experts, migration teams, project management teams (no kidding).... so any IT project, even rather small ones, now have to involve 5 or more teams from various vendors. The communication and process overhead is staggering. On traditional small projects
    • Indeed. It's fascinating to see companies outsource / try to remove the various people in their companies with the greatest of problem solving skills. It looks like an attempt at a decapitation strike. Strange, since if companies went through with much of this outsourcing, they'd eventually collapse from within. They'd have giant security holes everywhere, with no one of any capacity to patch them up.

  • To the cloud! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 11, 2013 @03:40PM (#42863429)

    So we are supposed to take technology advice from the same guy who allowed Terry Child's to have so much control that he was able to shutdown government operations? Yeah, let's go ahead put that data in the cloud. That will solve the problem.

    • by Myrrh (53301)

      Interesting. So are you saying that if a person's last name ends with the letter "s", that person needs an apostrophe in his last name?

      For example, Brian William's?

      Bartles and Jayme's?

      Richard's?

      So if you're talking about one of these people being in possession of something, would you say "Brian William's's hooch" ?

  • by bitslinger_42 (598584) on Monday February 11, 2013 @03:42PM (#42863457)

    I know it's tough to remain objective in situations like this. I've been in some form of IT support or another for the better part of 20 years now, so this emotionally feels like an attack on me and my way of life. I'm trying to remain objective and consider his proposal, but damned if it doesn't sound silly. Servers don't run themselves, even when (especially when) they're in the cloud, and SOMEONE has to be around to help users when their laptop stops working. It's simply not realistic to expect secretaries, accountants, etc. to maintain deep technical understanding of their computers in addition to the deep understanding necessary for their respective fields. Don't get me started on expecting grandmothers to self-support!

    I'm sure IT support will change as a result of cloudification, but I also suspect that there won't be much of a net cost or headcount change, just a shift in how support is provided and where the resources reside. Companies using the cloud will have fewer server admins, but will most likely need more systems architects to manage the proliferation of interfaces and to ensure that whatever is built provides sufficient performance, cost, and stability for their customer base. Where these highly-experienced individuals with deep knowledge of the business will come from without the entry-level server admin jobs I have no idea, but I guess that's why I'm not a manager with a corner office.

    • by delcielo (217760) on Monday February 11, 2013 @04:06PM (#42863885) Journal
      I agree with you completely, and for the record I am an IT manager with a corner... cube.

      The benefits of cloud are not typically financial. For some small companies they can be, but not if you are of any significant size. The cost of a given cloud virtual machine is much higher than the cost of a local virtual machine if you already have any kind of server infrastructure. When I divide out the labor, data center costs, storage, backup, etc. I find it costs about 5 times more on average to pay for a cloud server, assuming you're using one of the leaders in the cloud provider space than to pay for your own VM.

      That extra 400 percent cost can go a long way to buying your own scalability. After all, it buys the cloud vendor scalability.

      I think the perfect fit for cloud, outside of the above mentioned small business, is in the 3rd party app space. It makes sense to me for vendors to offer hosted solutions in the cloud, instead of dealing with each client's personal hardware choice, configuration standard, etc. I'm a big fan of cloud in that regard, but too often it's just a stupid buzzword.
      • I think the perfect fit for cloud, outside of the above mentioned small business, is in the 3rd party app space. It makes sense to me for vendors to offer hosted solutions in the cloud, instead of dealing with each client's personal hardware choice, configuration standard, etc. I'm a big fan of cloud in that regard, but too often it's just a stupid buzzword.

        I agree with you to a point. Certain apps that are easily commiditized are great for hosting in the cloud. Especially where complex network configuration is involved (I'm looking at *you* Mobile Device Management). But there are many third party apps that seem like you could foist off into the cloud that just require so much customization, tweaking, and ongoing maintenance that you just can't afford to have them out of your control. Any engineering app for instance, and certainly any business management

    • Yes, I've worked in IT for the better part of 20 years, too, and I can say that, even in the realm of education, the worst bureaucracy is HR. Plain and simple, they make hiring qualified personnel almost impossible. In the 'old days' before the HR department, new employees were interviewed by the department's supervisor that needed that person. Regarding managers, the ones that are truly effective, and reduce bureaucracy, are the ones that stand up for their employees and assist them with their duties ra
      • by Bengie (1121981)
        Around here, HR shows prospective employees around, but our dept sends in our supervisor and two programmers to interview. HR only does very basic filtering and lets our department handle the rest.
  • by bodland (522967) on Monday February 11, 2013 @03:42PM (#42863461) Homepage
    Knows nothing to very little of IT. Most users think data moves about rainbow colored moonbeams farted out by hyper intelligent unicorns.

    “When the computer revolution began, IT departments were truly needed, as people had no idea how to set up and use the new technologies infiltrating their work space.” Change that to:

    “When the computer revolution was mature, IT departments were still truly needed, as people had no idea how to set up and use the new technologies infiltrating their work space.”
  • by tnk1 (899206) on Monday February 11, 2013 @03:47PM (#42863569)

    Given the benefits of having all that data, I wonder if companies would be quick to hand over their ability to control and monetize their business data so quickly to cloud providers.

    However, there is certainly an argument for most services eventually being hosted in some way, by providers, but in the end, if feels a lot like the managed host providers who won't let you even see your equipment when it is installed, don't let you make changes, and charge you through the nose for adjustments.

    In the end, I think that the best solution may be to take the commodity parts of the infrastructure and move them to the cloud providers, but maintain a small stable of experts in the IT needs of your particular field on staff to interface with the providers. That calls for the minimizing of IT staffing in-house, but not it's complete reduction to project management.

  • Sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday February 11, 2013 @03:52PM (#42863649)
    Sure, the IT departments of the 1990s aren't going to be the IT departments that we need today, but we rely on computers much more in 2013 than we did in 1995. In many places, if the computers are down (or the network is down) work simply cannot be done. A great example of this is at a bank, if the bank's internal network goes down, tellers cannot really process your transaction, they can't let you know if a check will clear, they can't add the deposited funds to your account. The best they can do is write you up a paper receipt and add the funds to your account whenever it system comes back up. An IT department is CRITICAL there to fix the problem ASAP, because otherwise the bank might as well stick a closed sign up. There are many other businesses that when the network goes down the business simply cannot function.

    Yeah, everyone knows now how to stick an ethernet cord in your computer. Sure, most companies will have several people who know how to install RAM. How many of them though know how to fix a server when it goes down? How many of them know how to restore from backup? In 2013 it is true that an average (good) IT guy will spend less time having to do things in an average day than back in 1995 simply because hardware and software is much more reliable than it was back then and so less time is spent on maintenance and fixing minor issues. But when you have a failure of some component, having a well-trained and well-equipped IT staff is absolutely critical.
  • Aaron Swartz (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sunderland56 (621843)

    Aaron Swartz certainly "sidestepped government bureaucracy with a variety of technological tools". Look what it got him.

  • Before anyone goes and aggros the concept of government, try to remember first that government (as intended, anyways, prior to the inevitability that concentrated power attracts the corrupt) is supposed to be the gigantic lever by which the public can accomplish massive tasks that were too big for communities or individuals to do by themselves. Folk get together, agree on a solution, and contribute to it... and no matter what form that takes, you've just defined a government. That said, the nature (and sp
  • It seems disingenuous for a politician to complain that corporate IT is too complex and too slow to adopt new technology when it's the politicians that put into place the policies that make IT so complex and slow to adopt to new techology. Sexual harassment laws and fear of lawsuits make us install firewalls and content filters, fear of violating privacy laws make us install IDS systems, restrict mobile devices, limit access to data, etc. Entire careers have been built around ensuring SarbOx compliance fo

  • Does he not understand that "the cloud" is centralized servers? Who maintains them?
  • I haven't read his argument, just the summary provided here, but it's not clear to me that he's that far off. Fundamentally, our economy, our education systems, our corporate structure, and most assuredly our laws and regulations are stuck in the industrial era. By that, I mean that those structures are reactions to the problems encountered in industrializing: jobs had become less secure, cities had become crowded and crime-ridden, even basic jobs required literate employees and the like. Right now we are i

  • "The mainframe era ended"? Really? Then why is IBM having trouble keeping up with demand for them... and I hear that every ten years or so, when I hear the era is over.

    The cloud? Tell me, what's the difference between the cloud and a time-shared mainframe? The only answer is that you've got a cluster of seriously high-powered servers instead of one high-powered box.

    Move all your govenrment stuff to the cloud? Well, recently the UK decided it would *not* be doing that, because whichever cloud they were talki

    • by rk (6314)

      For me anyway, you do your credibility a good service just by spelling HIPAA [wikipedia.org] correctly. Everytime I see someone trot that out like they know what they're talking about but spell it "HIPPA", I just laugh at them. It's stupid, perhaps, that I use that as a metric, but it seems to be a high bar in these sorts of discussions. :-)

  • Despite his advocacy of the cloud and collaboration, he's also ambivalent about Wikileaks. 'It has made government and diplomacy much more challenging and ultimately less honest,' he writes at one point, 'as people fear that their private communications might become public.'

    Not much more challenging. They just need a way to encrypt communications between two people. Like, say, PGP.

    Come to think of it, why doesn't everybody have a PGP-enabled email system these days? Why aren't there common email clients - particularly web-based [stanford.edu] ones - that use PGP?

    Note that this may not block individual attacks, but it should prevent mass cable intercepts.

    • Not much more challenging.

      Note that this may not block individual attacks, but it should prevent mass cable intercepts.

      It is much more challenging when all your data is in the cloud. You're communications might be secure, but if the low-level tech hired by the subcontracted firm that supports the datacenter for the company that the government has hired for "the cloud" decides to download all your information, then it doesn't matter how secure your communications are.

  • by msobkow (48369) on Monday February 11, 2013 @05:08PM (#42864817) Homepage Journal

    I am perpetually amazed by the blinding stupidity of people who think that if only you move "to the cloud" there is no more configuration or maintenance to be done for applications.

    Just who does this fellow think maintains those cloud services?

    The underpants gnomes?

    • We can safely assume you are not a marketing drone and therefore are not well-versed in the prevailing MBA cloud-marketing horseshit.
  • by Un pobre guey (593801) on Monday February 11, 2013 @05:15PM (#42864897) Homepage

    'As we move toward the cloud and technology gets easier to use, we'll have less need for full-time teams of people to maintain our stuff.'

    Gavin Newsom, present. This guy is a political diva. Don't pay attention to him. His book and his overall schtick are pure self-promotion. In California, "lieutenant governor" means "guy who has no duties whatsoever and is there in case the governor dies or something."

    • 'As we move toward the cloud and technology gets easier to use, we'll have less need for full-time teams of people to maintain our stuff.'

      Gavin Newsom, present. This guy is a political diva. Don't pay attention to him. His book and his overall schtick are pure self-promotion. In California, "lieutenant governor" means "guy who has no duties whatsoever and is there in case the governor dies or something."

      Definitely. It's pretty much thinking like a one year old playing peek-a-boo. The thinking is that if I don't see it then it's not there. Those full time teams are still there they just don't work for you specifically anymore. And you're still paying for all of their time that they devote to you.

  • Cloud technology has its place and it's here to stay without a doubt. The benefits it brings in a more connected world is undeniable. Just how much or how little to leverage it is debatable. But from what I see the greater population within "Citizenville" is just simply not technical enough to make needed technical decisions. They're savvy yes, they use the tools creatively yes, but everyone is still just not as technical as I they'd need to be to in order to be self sufficient. His attacks on IT likel

"And do you think (fop that I am) that I could be the Scarlet Pumpernickel?" -- Looney Tunes, The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1950, Chuck Jones)

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