Is Google your next data center?

Cloud computing is changing the way we think of the IT department

What stays inside

There are other IT activities that will remain in-house as well. These include data management and business intelligence-related functions, says May.

Moreover, says Keefe, "You're always going to have some things [in IT] that need to be looked after, nuances and pieces of technology that continue to change."

For example, IT organizations are likely to retain project portfolio management, including people who are adept at sourcing and staffing project teams, says Chris Barbin, co-founder and CEO of Appirio, a US-based provider of products and services for hosted environments such as and Google Enterprise.

"For me, it's my revenue-generating and customer-facing systems" that will remain in-house, says Aspen Ski's Major.

He cites a few reasons for this, including a current dearth of vendors that provide hosted application services for these particular disciplines. Even when players do emerge in those spaces, says Major, "they're going to have to come to me and explain why this is a great idea for me."

The evolving CIO

As a greater proportion of IT activities is handled externally, CIOs will see their roles continue to morph, though exactly how is uncertain.

"I think the technical CIOs are going to migrate over to these hosted companies" while CIOs who are more business-focused will continue to work alongside their business peers within customer companies, says Keefe.

Coty's Malangone foresees considerably more dramatic changes ahead for IT leaders. "What I think you'll see is the CIO role dissolving" while IT directors increasingly work one-on-one with divisional business leaders, he says.

If he's right, that kind of change will likely take years to play out. In the meantime, many enterprises will likely test the hosted services waters first before diving in headlong.

"I don't think the on-premise [software] business is going away overnight and I don't think it's ever going away," says Google's Glotzbach. "If we've learned anything in IT over the past 20 years, it's that nothing ever goes away completely."

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