A New Cloud: The Stealth Cloud?

You've heard of public clouds, private clouds and hybrid clouds, but is there room for yet another word in the cloud computing lexicon, a stealth cloud? That is, a cloud without the support of the IT department?

What is the Stealth Cloud?

The term "Cloud Computing" seems to have struck a chord in a way that ASP, OnDemand, SaaS and all the previous incarnations never have. Every analyst and journalist is blogging and tweeting about it, there are a slew of conferences and events, and a surprising number of books have already been published.

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With the explosion of cloud computing, there is now more than one sort of cloud as well. There are already public clouds, private clouds, community clouds, and hybrid clouds. In addition to these, I would like to propose that a new term, "stealth cloud", should be added to the lexicon. As the name suggests it does its job — quietly, unseen, and unnoticed. Essentially, the stealth cloud refers to services being consumed by business users without the knowledge, permission or support of the CIO and the IT department.

Consumers are Business People Too

Business people are embracing the ideas of cloud computing like never before. They can see immediate value to their business from the applications and services being offered. As the technology becomes easier to develop, there seems to be no limit to what is being provided in the cloud, much of which is packaged in a very compelling, slick user experience.

When the business user is provided with these elegant services as a consumer it is inevitable that they bring them to work. With services such as online backup, project management, CRM, collaboration and social networking all available through a browser, is it any surprise business users are signing up and ignoring the (seemingly) staid and boring applications provided by the IT department?

A while back a large U.K. central Government organization surveyed the IT infrastructure and discovered over 2,500 unsupported business-created applications on PCs and servers; MSAccess databases, spreadsheets, custom apps, on and on. Of the 2,500 that were discovered, a staggering 500 were mission critical. With the stealth cloud it is impossible to discover which applications or services are being used except by getting every user to "fess-up" to the IT department. Now why should they do that?

Why is it an Issue, and for Whom?

Stealth cloud computing sounds like a perfect way of reducing the IT workload and backlog of requests for systems as a form of "crowdsourcing." Thousands of innovative entrepreneurs are providing solutions, often quite niche, to business problems at little or no cost to the business. IT departments should see cloud computing as an ally, because embracing it will make them appear far more responsive to the business; however, stealth cloud computing seems to be having the reverse effect.

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