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The Rise Of Shadow IT

When the business wants change so much that it's willing to go rogue on IT, is it misinformed, or justified? Consider this advice, CIOs.
Part Three: What's a CIO to Do?

So what's an enterprise IT professional to do? As it turns out, plenty. Good CIOs manage processes. But great CIOs ask the business to bring them problems, and then they try to solve those problems using technology. And in a connected, data-driven world, there's no shortage of problems to tackle. They just require different solutions.

Take a look at a public cloud provider. They have dozens of services--from compute, to storage, to message busses, to human APIs, to mailing systems, to payment.

Which restaurant would you rather eat at?

Resisting the variety they crave is deadly. But building a set of services they can embrace is great. Because when you build services, you don't give them access to the underlying components. You keep control of those.

And that's good for everything from governance, to licensing cost, to operational overhead.

Here's a concrete example: Storage. Most developers say, "I want a database." What they really want is a service they can query; today, that request is usually translated by IT (with its device-centric hearing) into, "I want a database server."

The architecture of a database depends a lot on how it's used. Cassandra is a kind of data store that supports fast injection of new data, for example. A traditional RDBMS is great for joining related tables together. Other architectures and tools work well for other applications--fast concurrent search results, large object storage, reliable, geographically redundant storage, and so on.

If, rather than spending a week deliberating and issuing a server, the CIO's team stands up a service, several things happen. First, the application performance will be better, because it'll be tailored to the underlying infrastructure. Second, the licensing will be easier, because there'll be a single set of underlying tools and the variety happens at the API layer, not at the component layer. And third, governance and automation is easier to manage because of standardization.

But this doesn't happen automatically. It takes a real effort of will for a traditional, bottoms-up, change-adverse IT team to see itself as the creator of services.

In other words, you need to switch from a culture of scarcity (where IT is a precious resource to be protected) to a culture of abundance (where it's an open tool for innovation) by building a rich ecosystem of services atop infrastructure you control--in both public and private cloud environments.

Rather than resisting change, IT executives need to embrace it—and appeal to basic human motivations with a little hustle, a bit of seduction, a dash of arm-twisting, and a sprinkling of raw terror. The rise of shadow IT is a topic we'll discuss during an upcoming Cloud Connect webinar on July 26th.

Alistair Croll, founder of analyst firm Bitcurrent, is conference chair of the Cloud Connect events.

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