Consumerization And Cloud: IT Isn't Keeping Up

Citrix CEO in his Interop keynote envisions a policy of letting employees bring their own devices to work, and a world where IT's role is supporting, not controlling.
Moving into the realm of theoretical, in the march beyond the PC era, end users should be given skeleton applications built by IT, that end users then finish themselves and periodically adapt to a changing business. That is currently beyond the ability of IT to accomplish, but new programming platforms and paradigms are going to emerge in the cloud that make it possible. This is still a ways off.

It will still fall to IT to make information services secure--it always does--and that task isn't getting any smaller. In a world of consumer-driven IT, that means securing the applications and data themselves instead of devices. Many laptops, tablets, and phones will be traveling across networks, geographic boundaries, and even end users. Some of them will fall into the wrong hands. It will be impossible to secure client devices the way the static data center is, surrounded by walls and secured.

Templeton said it was Citrix's job to help IT meet the challenge of consumer-driven IT. "Don't fight it, feature it. Embrace the devices," he said. "We think there's an opportunity here to stitch it all together." Templeton is right on the money with that. Citrix is just one piece of the approach and one piece of the strategy, using its strength in end user virtualization for what Templeton describes as putting a mobile desktop "on any device in any cloud."

Citrix leads in the area of delivering personalized desktops--the same desktop across different devices, thanks to its variable client, Receiver. In the future, that desktop may be constructed by IT, but more than likely it also will include some personal components from outside the company, coming off various cloud servers.

The changes that are coming will reach deep into the IT organization, making it less of a technical device manipulator and more of a service creator, service assembler, and a hopefully human face on a large set of backend systems.

It's not just iPhone toting end users that represent the change coming to IT. Line of business managers are just as likely to go out the back door and use a credit card to pay for infrastructure in the public cloud, if it helps their unit push ahead in the business. In the new era, the only limit on how much computing that company employees may consume will be determined by their ability and willingness to pay, not IT's best estimate of what's appropriate for them to have.

In a press conference after his keynote, I asked Templeton how the personality of IT was likely to change, given the sea change occurring all around it. "It's the difference between someone running a factory and someone involved in sales and marketing," he said.

IT is going to struggle to cope with this change. If it fails, change will be forced on it by colleagues working in new ways, and vendors providing the tools to bypass IT. If IT succeeds, it will have changed itself.

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek.