They say that these are not the best of times
But they're the only times I've ever known
And I believe there is a time for meditation
In cathedrals of our own
Now I have seen that sad surrender in my mother's eyes
I can only stand apart and sympathize
For we are always what our situations hand us
Its either sadness or euphoria
-- From Billy Joel's "Summer, Highland Falls"
In working with Oracle customers every day, I'm seeing a common thread running through many internal IT departments: Nephophobia. That's right, fear of clouds. In this case, I'm talking fear of clouds from a technology perspective (I'm admittedly having a bit of fun here and mean no offense to anyone with a true fear of clouds).
The fear shows up through either resistance or an avalanche of "what if" or "what about" questioning. I suspect that the cause of that fear is rooted in the fear of change, as in "what happens to my job"? So this post is for all those folks in all those internal IT departments faced with moving to the cloud, whether it be SaaS, PaaS, Hybrid, or whatever.
You are spot on in recognizing that your world is changing. All the things you've spent your time doing - patches, upgrades, general maintenance - they're all going away. The cloud vendor will be taking over that work as part of the service to which your institution will subscribe. But, as those tasks disappear, new opportunities arise. Some examples:
Network administration: because your users are interacting with off-location servers, the performance of your own internal network becomes even more critical in a move to the cloud.
Integration: as much as the major enterprise application vendors would like you to stick with one platform, odds are you won't. You'll probably mix two or more vendors plus some in-house applications. Getting all these apps to talk to each other is critical.
Development: one of the keys for enterprise application cloud vendors is that, in order to scale (and thus make money, because cloud services are a volume business), the business processes have to be pretty basic so they can be easily shared across multiple industries. If you work with an institution that has unique transactional and/or reporting needs (I see this frequently with public sector organizations), there will be some custom development involved. Extensions, bolt-on applications, unique reporting...all will live on to some extent, although probably not as much as you've seen in the past.
Mobile: everyone wants mobile and the cloud provides a great platform for delivering mobile applications. So all those things about network administration, integration and development? They apply here as well...maybe even more so.
All this discussion notwithstanding, let's get to the root of it: this type of change can threaten your job. It's scary. So what do you do? Update your skills to stay relevant. The key to making a living in IT over the long-term is to be continually learning new things. If you don't make the investment on your own, you'll find yourself on the outside looking in. So do it. Dig into this cloud thing. Learn the technical underpinnings. Figure out where you and your IT department fit...how can you add value? And feel the fear go away.