Computer systems used to be sold to only the largest businesses as ‘closed’ proprietary data processing solutions. And the data processing department controlled the flow of information within the business and dictated the speed of change.

The data processing department evolved into the ‘management information systems’ department as service development was outsourced to 3rd parties who were able to recycle code and quickly introduce new services into businesses.

At the same time we saw a quiet revolution begin when Microsoft and Intel introduced the personal computer, making it possible for businesses to bypass the almighty management information systems department and purchase their own systems, complete with software. PCs rapidly improved, introducing exciting new capabilities into organisations.

Once organisations began networking their systems so that files could be shared, the issues of software compatibility and ‘closed’ data formats quickly became transparent. But the ternary of the data processing days and expensive legacy systems had been broken.

The client-server computing model was introduced, were higher specification PCs were used as servers. Reliability issues, highlighted how reliant users had become on their PCs as network failures and server crashes paralysed businesses for long durations, which brought attention to the true risks associated with these systems.

The birth of VARs and virtualisation

In light of this, value-added resellers emerged using a combination of innovative solutions and learnt best practice which took away the financial risks associated with the world of information technology & data centres. However IT was again centralised and remote from the point of consumption.

At this stage, virtualisation was limited as its main use was to enable organisations to consolidate systems and reduce costs. It wasn’t until the addition of new features that people started to really see the value in virtualisation. The proven increased availability of virtual machines, backups which could now be restored independently of physical hardware and systems that could be provisioned automatically resulted in growing numbers of organisations moving towards this technology.

Levelling the IT playing field

Due to the rapid growth and change in the IT sector, many organisations were now looking to acquire the costly and exotic hardware solutions that had previously only been required for specialist scale up or none stop operation us cases.

While this was seen as a costly move, it was becoming clear that it was a necessary one; this is where the value-added resellers came in to play again. Customers had more choice than ever and by helping them to identify the best types of solutions for their business. They enabled organisations to avoid making costly vendor mistakes, while helping them to implement complex technology which would not have been available to them otherwise.

As value-added resellers were working to implement best practices and drive down the cost of IT infrastructure, smaller organisations could still not afford the high start-up cost of virtualised infrastructure. The need for a more affordable solution resulted in the emergence of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers, through whom businesses could directly purchase services they required without the initial large investment.

With new systems provisioned within minutes of being ordered and the option to rapidly scale up or down as required, the flexibility offered by cloud service providers is of great interest to the business community. Today, questions are being asking in boardrooms about whether they should continue to run centralised IT operations internally or allow the business units to purchase exactly what is required, when it is required for the best price available as an operational expenditure.