By Torsten Volk, vice president of product management, cloud, ASG Software Solutions

In enterprise IT, businesses have long had to reconcile high expectations with hard reality. Cloud computing’s tantalising potential promises to close the traditional gap between what a business wants and what technology can deliver.

On a PowerPoint deck, the cloud seems appealingly easy to deploy. Simply install and configure your cloud software, hook it up to the rest of your data centre infrastructure and, suddenly, your workforce is humming along, more mobile, agile, and productive than ever — and for a fair amount less than what you were paying for your legacy infrastructure.

In the real world though, a cloud deployment involves matching specific business processes to the right combination of applications: legacy and modern, infrastructure and data. Businesses do not always achieve their goals of improved agility, better reliability, and lower IT costs, and the pace of deployment is not always as turnkey as some would like.

That can foster disillusionment with the cloud and IT’s ability to provision cloud services. In fact, recent research speaks to the challenges some businesses have deploying the cloud, with 33 percent of global IT leaders surveyed citing difficulty integrating public cloud infrastructures with their existing architecture.

So, what is the solution? While there is certainly ground to gain in rethinking the relationship between IT and the rest of a business, four industry megatrends are having the biggest impact on bridging the gap between what the cloud promises and what businesses ultimately gain.

Workspace Aggregation
Workspace aggregation goes beyond simply virtualising the desktop by entirely abstracting the applications, content and data required by a specific business user. Users can access their workspace through any device — PC, tablet, or phone — in a consistent manner.

The workspace concept enables business users to further individualise their already role-based dashboards to receive the exact desired combination of online apps (Dropbox, Box, Salesforce, SugarCRM, Office 365, etc.), as well as virtual and physical apps that are located inside the corporate data centre, and traditional local apps. Modern workspaces can offer direct access to file sharing, IT support and, blending over to the next key trend, an IT service store.

IT Service Store
The IT service store translates the app store concept — one of the most successful models from consumer computing — to the enterprise. Especially when tightly integrated with workspace aggregation, the IT service store stands for a paradigm shift that enables business users to almost instantly request and receive the services they require.

For example, say that this morning your boss asked you to complete some basic design tasks that are not really a big part of your job description. All you have to do from within your workspace is search for “graphics software” and you receive a list of costly (Photoshop) and free (GIMP, Paint.NET) apps that can be used to complete the task. Once you make your selection, the app is automatically added to your workspace for instantaneous use. When the task is done, you can either decide to keep the new software or free up the license to save the company some money. More businesses recognise the incredible potential of the IT service store, with 25 percent planning to adopt this concept by 2017.

The Emergence of DevOps
DevOps is more than just a catchy buzzword — it is an organisational approach that is having a real impact on business and technology, from influencing IT hiring decisions to driving the growth of the platform-as-a-service market. It is also helping IT meet high expectations for cloud deployments by enabling faster delivery of new assets and applications. With developers and IT operations working hand-in-hand to evaluate and act on technology requests, teams can dream bigger about ways to make IT delivery faster and more satisfying for business users.

DevOps is a step closer to the service experience business users crave from IT, enabling better working relationships between both ends of the business and eliminating some of the skepticism that can result from cloud deployments that don’t meet expectations.

Data Centre Automation
The cloud’s cherished ability to ease IT delivery has also created a flood of service requests that can overwhelm traditional data centre architecture. And, without automation, cloud deployments can be sandbagged as analyst research from Enterprise Management Associates has found that 75 percent of cloud projects fall short of expectations due to the lack of data centre automation.

Automation can turbo-drive the data centre by enabling better and more consistent capacity, network and server lifecycle management. This, in turn, creates a stronger foundation to support cloud adoption. With the right infrastructure in place, cloud investments can begin to bear fruit sooner.

There are also signs that organisations now understand the value automation has to cloud projects. The worldwide market for data centre automation solutions has grown steadily over the past three years, in part because of rising cloud demands.

Businesses will continue to define their desired KPIs for cloud investments, and not every deployment will check the box on each performance metric. But, IT’s overall emergence as a service-led department, a shift that is driven in part by these four trends, will make conversations easier. And, with technology on their side, IT administrators will be in a better position to bring reality closer in line with business expectations for a more agile, productive and mobile workforce.