Employee Experience

The Accelerating Rise of Rogue Clouds

By Ben Goodman, Lead Evangelist, VMware Horizon Application Manager

This is the first blog in series on the Consumerization of IT, it's effect and how it can be managed successfully. It will be followed by a whitepaper on this topic.

Ready or not, your employees have gone rogue. It sounds scary, but it’s true. They’re turning to on-demand cloud services whether it be for a quick server deployment, easy access to online storage, some form of collaboration tools, or virtually any software that is delivered as-a-service. And it’s changing the very nature of the relationship between IT and the enterprise. 

This story published in CIO magazine shows how difficult a job it is for industry analysts to capture the real-world penetration of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) into the enterprise. After conducting a survey of senior IT managers, only 13 percent of respondents reported that IaaS deployments were running in their environment. Unfortunately, that number fell woefully short of reality and shows how out of touch many IT managers are when it comes to knowing what cloud services are actually being used by their organization:

"The actual number was double that, and that was only talking about IAAS," according to Galen Schreck, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research (FORR).

Even Schreck's anecdotal number underestimated the gap between how many cloud apps IT thinks an organization is using and the real number, according to Frank Gillett, VP and principal analyst at Forrester.

"Informal buyers" from outside IT buy IAAS twice as often as "formal" buyers inside IT, and the informals make five times as many software buying decisions as the IT people who are supposed to be in charge, according to Forrester.

And that, as analyst Schreck pointed out, is only infrastructure. While trends in that area of the market have been profound, the revolution ahead will continue to be mobile and Software-as-a-Service application delivery. Currently, it’s commonly known that people are bringing their own devices to work, but how many realize, as Gartner predicts, that application development aimed at smartphones and tablets will outpace PC development by a ratio of 4-to-1 in the next three years? And that in the same timeframe, 35 percent of enterprise IT expenditures for most organizations will be managed outside of the IT department’s budget? Many of these applications will be SaaS-based and they’ll run far outside the management control of many IT departments.

These two trends alone are going to prove to have a more profound impact on IT departments than anything we’ve seen before.

Why is this happening now, and at an accelerating pace?  The trends driving mobile and IT consumerization are quite similar to those that have driven the virtualization and “cloudification” of infrastructure. It comes down to speed, convenience, and low cost. It can take many weeks to provision servers, get access to new applications, or even allocate big chunks of storage. So why not turn to a SaaS provider if an identical service is available that can be charged to the corporate credit card – and that service can be delivered to most any form factor the end user desires? This trend is also supported by the fact that many operating system and Web browser neutral apps are on the way. With speed of delivery and an abundance of applications instantly at the ready, the barriers to entry for end users are just too low, and the benefits too high for them to ignore. That is why I call SaaS the “Gateway Drug” to the cloud.

At least that’s the perspective of the typical business user. And it’s why there are plenty of examples today of enterprises having a sanctioned public cloud, CRM system, or any number of other approved services running along with islands of similar rogue applications and services scattered throughout the very same enterprise. And most of these services are fully un-managed, leaving the enterprise blind about the users who are accessing these applications.

There are many implications to these trends for both IT and the business. First, how can IT stay relevant when much of the business is getting the IT it needs (or at least thinks it is) without the assistance of the IT department? Second, how does the enterprise ensure that its data is secured, that its policies are being enforced, and that regulatory compliance demands are being met with so much IT happening below the radar? Third, how does the business know it’s getting all of the value it should from all of these services?

There are no easy answers to any of these questions. However, in the weeks ahead, we are going to tackle these issues head-on, and hopefully shed light on how IT can regain full relevance and control of the IT within an organization, so that users get maximum benefit from their technology, maximum cost effectiveness, and do so securely with the proper levels of governance in place.

In our next post, we will cover some of the risks these rogue services create, and why it’s crucial for IT to regain governance over access to these services for that reason alone.

Follow Ben on twitter at @benontech.