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The Significance of Shared Services

This week, I am beginning a new series where I explore an important idea that has helped to shape IT in the modern era. What do we mean when we explore significance in an IT context?
Shared services are one of those very powerful ideas. Let me explain.
An Example of the Important Notion of Shared
A couple of weeks ago, I heard a speaker, Bill Thirsk, vice president of information technology and CIO at Marist College, speak about the private cloud shared services that Marist provides to many outside organizations. I discovered that the mission for Marist shared services was to engage in special projects with like-missioned organizations to jointly lower the overall cost of high performance technologies and services so affiliated participants might redirect precious resources to their primary mission. That mission statement is worth reading a second time. Hearing his presentation brought back a flood of memories and many related ideas.
Shared Has Not Stayed the Same
When I started in IT, my world was all shared services. I used the time-sharing option editor to create and change my programs and submitted compiles that ran in a finite set of shared regions. When testing, I used a set of shared CICS regions. Really, our world was all shared services. 
When distributed computing emerged, sharing was not part of the arrangement as with the mainframe. Servers began to pop up everywhere, providing great freedom to the developers but that also meant significant support and maintenance costs. Sharing emerged again as a topic as the operational costs of many servers became onerous. 
Early Distributed Shared Models
Virtualization of distributed server images made it possible to slow the growth of server propagation. This helped with Windows servers. However, mid-range UNIX systems became a space when service providers could offer a shared UNIX service with the goal of lower support and operational costs as compared to supporting the server in-house in your own data center. Among providers, IBM had a great hardware, firmware and software solution for this kind of offering and they labeled it utility computing. IBM utility computing quickly grew into a cloud model.  
Sharing had a Cultural Aspect
It may sound odd but sharing had different acceptance around the world depending on cultural factors. I remember working with a German colleague who told me that his customers had a strong desire to share servers when possible so they could keep expenses down and be stewards of the environment by not using power and other resources unnecessarily. His attitude surprised me, as I had not experienced this attitude in the U.S. at this time. If fact, sharing servers in the U.S. had many obstacles even when the economics of doing so were compelling. 
Sharing is Back in a Big Way
Shared services are now back in a big way. Of course, mainframes are sharing just as they always have with even greater capabilities with z/OS and diversity running Linux. Recently, IBM announced a new cloud-ready mainframe based on single-frame design. The new system “will bring the power of the IBM Z to an even broader center of clients seeking robust security with pervasive encryption, cloud capabilities and powerful analytics with machine learning.”
Mid-range shared models are thriving as well because the hardware, software and microcode has proven itself many times over to be safe and secure. IBM Power Systems technology is driving the ongoing acceptance of this approach which now uses a cloud model with powerful tools. What exactly is this cloud model? Put simply, cloud has two dimensions. For business leaders, cloud achieves lower costs through workload sharing with reliability and performance driven by on-going innovation. IBM POWER9 is the current generation of this technology which significantly out performs x86 technology. For technology leaders, cloud provides an environment to develop and deploy new applications that exploit digital innovations while utilizing existing applications and their data. This is how APIs are being used today to integrate IT environments.