Why the Enterprise Cloud Needs Shadow IT to Succeed

Who is really responsible for cloud initiatives in the enterprise? Some say central IT, but studies show that is most certainly not the case. Enter shadow IT, which is very much alive and well in the enterprise.

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Further evidence of the tardy pace of the movement to private cloud is evinced in a recent report by the 451 Group called “Cloud precursor projects dominate enterprise agendas.” 451 Group has kindly allowed ActiveState to host and distribute a copy of this private report, which you can find here.

This report documents (Figure 4) how slowly the movement toward private cloud computing is progressing.

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Figure 4 (click to enlarge)


A full 55 percent of the 191 respondents are focused on standardization, consolidation, etc. -- in other words, basic virtualization. Only 6 percent are focused on automation, the hallmark of cloud computing, although 14 percent are creating a private cloud. This latter figure probably reflects that these respondents are using a similar perspective of what constitutes a private cloud as in the Rightscale survey, i.e., they assess their vSphere or System Center implementation as being a private cloud.

Given these survey results, it’s not surprising that, when analyst Tom Bittman surveyed 140 attendees at his session at the Gartner data center conference, a full 95 percent said their private cloud initiative was failing, as seen in Figure 5.

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Figure 5 (click to enlarge)

Why Private Cloud Initiatives Are Failing

As you can see, there are a litany of reasons that private cloud initiatives are failing (although I thought the funniest reason was advanced in the blog post’s comments, where one person said private cloud failure was down to “Using technology incorrectly.” Gee, do you think?

Frankly, the data from these three surveys is appalling. A decade -- a full decade -- after Amazon launched cloud computing with its Amazon Web Services offering, central IT is still puttering around with virtualization, and claiming cloud computing victory because they’ve got it working.

Even 84 percent of the Rightscale respondents who claim to have or be building a self-service portal for cloud services (Figure 6) are, in my experience, putting up a Web page that users can launch pre-configured virtual machines; useful, but by no means capable of creating, deploying and managing complex, multi-VM applications streamlined by DevOps practices.

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Figure 6 (click to enlarge)

To be honest, this makes business unit self-sufficiency in cloud adoption completely comprehensible. Whether you call it “rogue IT” (the highly pejorative term frequently used by central IT groups to refer to business unit self-adoption), “shadow IT” (the slightly more palatable pejorative term that still depicts self-adoption as somewhat disreputable) or “Type 2 IT” (Gartner’s formulation of new IT practices adopted outside the bounds of traditional Type 1 IT, which I wrote about recently), companies can’t wait for IT to get its act together.

Why Shadow IT is Alive and Well

These surveys illustrate why shadow IT is alive and well. Business units are under tremendous pressure to infuse what they sell with IT goodness. Ray Kurzweil, in his decade-ago best seller “The Singularity is Near” stated that we are at an inflection point in our society and, going forward, everything is going to be an information product or service.

Facing that kind of pressure, and served by a supporting organization that, at best, is stumbling toward computing environments that will support what’s needed, and, at worst, is dissembling about what it’s actually delivering, business units are going to turn to whatever solutions they can find to solve their today problems today.

Traditional IT may have a role to play in solving those today problems, but it sure doesn’t seem like it’s prepared to do so if these surveys are taken at face value.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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