Real Tools to Manage Shadow IT

Arthur Cole
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Top 10 Technology Trends for 2015

It is the rare enterprise these days that does not have some form of shadow IT in its midst. If you think otherwise, maybe it’s time to do a little digging into what your business groups have been up to.

But while the consensus is that the enterprise should embrace shadow IT rather than fight it, there has not been a whole lot of guidance as to how this should be done, other than vague recommendations about becoming more proactive and transitioning IT to cloud brokerage.

Lately, however, the industry has started to see a trickle of actual solutions that enhance the enterprise’s ability to get a handle on shadow IT – not to combat it, mind you, but to help integrate it into a broader computing architecture.

One of the first things CIOs need to realize is that security is not the only threat that shadow IT (and I’m still waiting for someone to make the first leap into the obvious acronym here) presents. Equally disruptive is the likelihood of duplicate, and even incompatible, data stores and resource sets as individual units create their own environments to suit their own ends. This is where strong data governance can help, says Paxata’s Cari Jaquet. By pushing oversight off the infrastructure level and onto the data plane, organizations will be in a much better position to view the myriad ways that data is being utilized, no matter where it goes.

This is not as daunting as it may appear. Cisco Systems recently came out with the Cloud Consumption as a Service tool that provides an easily configured dashboard to monitor and assess cloud usage across a range of public, private and hybrid architectures. Based on the company’s Intercloud platform, the system identifies individual cloud deployments, application allocation to various clouds and even a personalized risk assessment for each deployment. By matching usage patterns with information in Cisco’s own database, the service can identify what kind of encryption tools are available at each host, what compliance levels they maintain, and whether your peers in the industry are getting equal, or better, service than you are.

BMC Software is also out with its updated Cloud Lifecycle Management (CLM) platform that offers monitoring and analysis of cloud operations ranging from top public providers like AWS and Azure all the way to container and PaaS services from the open source community. The upgrade provides new tools for detecting service disruption and tighter integration with productivity applications so users can coordinate their activities better without IT oversight. Ultimately, the goal here is to convert the autonomous or semi-autonomous cloud architectures that shadow IT engenders into a coordinated data ecosystem.

Many cloud services themselves are starting to realize that failing to give the enterprise some control over what employees are doing is bad for business. Everyone from AWS and Box to Microsoft and IBM is pushing the need for integrated hosted environments with full management control capabilities so that if a business unit or an individual requires additional resources, they can get them without pushing data or applications outside of approved boundaries. Many also have chargeback abilities and other tools to help IT keep track of who is doing what with corporate data and then assign costs and responsibilities as needed.

It’s probably a stretch to say, as many commentators are doing, that shadow IT is your friend. It can be highly beneficial if channeled in the appropriate manner, but it can also produce major hassles if left to its own devices.

In the end, it is up to the enterprise to prevent shadow IT from becoming your worst enemy.

Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.

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