Interop: Is The Cloud The End Of IT?

CIOs must accept that line-of-business workers will turn to online apps and services with or without their IT department's approval.
IT departments that stand in the way of user adoption of cloud-based technologies could soon be consigned to the dustbin of history, according to a panel of experts who spoke on a keynote panel Thursday at the Interop IT Conference and Expo in New York City.

"It's not rogue applications, it's people getting tired of waiting. There's a rogue movement that's all about how to go around IT," said Andy Schroepfer, VP for enterprise strategy at Rackspace Hosting.

Shroepfer and his fellow panelists noted that more and more employees are turning to cloud-based applications, such as those provided by Salesforce and other SaaS specialists, without official authorization or approval from their IT colleagues.

The reason: Workers can often access new applications and technologies more quickly from the Web, and they don't need advanced technical skills to tap online services. "Enterprise IT is delusional if they think they are competent," said Harry Labana, VP and chief technology officer for the Desktop Division at Citrix Systems.

"Anyone who thinks the data center is going to continue to run the way it does today is irrelevant," said Labana.

Panel moderator and BitCurrent founder Alistair Croll referred to this process as "the democratization of IT," noting that cloud computing is giving everyday employees in departments like marketing and sales access to a rich array of applications and services, on an as-needed basis. Croll noted that some workers are even using their own personal credit cards to access such services.

"That we're moving to an era of the democratization of IT is obvious," said Croll.

Instead of fighting the cloud, IT departments need to embrace it and realize they have a key role to play if their companies are to access cloud services efficiently and securely, said Randy Rowland, senior VP for product development at Terremark Worldwide.

"Suddenly IT gets involved and realizes they can bring best practices into it," said Rowland.

Indeed, "businesses need to have a Web site that doesn't crash when you are mentioned on Oprah's Christmas list," said Rackspace's Schroepfer.

Ultimately, organizations are going to adopt cloud services from the likes of Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others due to the economies of scale they represent and the new technologies they can offer, and traditional IT needs to understand it must forge a role for itself if it's going to be part of this new, Enterprise 2.0 era.

"The world is going to be more people centric, about what the user wants," said Labada. "Cloud helps accelerate that."

Interop, hosted by publisher UBM Techweb, runs through Oct. 22 at the Javits Center on Manhattan's West Side.