'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' No Way to Approach Cloud Computing

Ann All

I'm not a fan of "don't ask, don't tell" policies, in the military or anywhere else. Which is why I was so disturbed to see one particular response from some 50 CIOs and IT leaders participating in a Diamond Management & Technology Consultants survey on cloud computing.


As he writes on the CIO Dashboard blog, Diamond Management partner and CTO Chris Curran administered the survey by text messaging during his presentation at the recent CIO 100 Symposium & Awards Ceremony. When he asked what the business outside the IT organization is doing with cloud computing, 41 percent of respondents said they were "totally unaware." The other two responses were pushing IT to adopt (38 percent) and purchasing cloud services on their own (21 percent).


Yikes. So well over a third of organizations are essentially taking a "don't ask, don't tell" approach to cloud computing.


Users procuring cloud services on their own obviously can create unintended technological consequences, ones which could cost the company significant time and money down the road. But the "unaware" response (and to a lesser degree the "pushing to adopt" one) disturb me because they make it seem as if IT is willfully ignoring an opportunity to create a closer relationship with business users and create some real business value. It's especially troublesome if users see the cloud as essentially another variant of outsourcing.


One suggestion from Enterprise Management Associates, which I shared earlier this year, is for IT to offer its blessing for cloud experiments, assuming users agree to be transparent about their activities and to focus on non-disruptive systems and/or experimental applications. Monitoring what these folks do and why should yield insights that will help IT create more a more cohesive organizational approach to cloud computing.


Of course, that's assuming IT wants a more cohesive approach. That seems far from certain, based on some of the other responses to Curran's survey. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said the majority of their infrastructure would never be in the cloud. When asked to choose their most promising active cloud evaluations, 18 percent said they had none. Server capacity and horizontal applications were each named by 27 percent of respondents. Fewer folks said desktop capacity (10 percent), storage (10 percent) or industry applications (8 percent).

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Sep 8, 2010 11:12 AM Eric Novikoff Eric Novikoff  says:

I think the first wave of cloud adopters were the "garage entrepreneurs" who didn't have an IT department.  The next wave - which we're in now - is the intrapreneurs who have no use for the IT department and were alienated from it's slow and excessively centralized approach long ago.   This feels right to me since I was one of those intrapreneurs back when I worked at HP and couldn't get our internal IT to help with a rush CRM project.   Not only did I have to put together my own data center, but I also had to hire and manage a 24x7 operations staff to keep the application up and running.

So, I disagree that it's "troublesome" that today's corporate cloud users see Cloud Computing as IT Outsourcing.  They see it that way because that is what they need as intrapreneurs includes more than just server boxes, encompassing the entire range of services an IT department would offer - but they need it on-demand.  This may trouble corporate IT, but if my experience is any guide, they were already troubled beforehand, since HP's IT department fought my little island of IT when I built it - even though they couldn't offer what I needed.

In fact, I think IT should be heartened by the fact that intrapreneurs and a few Cloud providers see Cloud as outsourced IT.  The reason is that the next wave of Cloud users will be mainstream business users who need temporary or rapid deployment resources, and IT will have difficulty offering their services to these users cost-effectively.   Instead, IT will have Cloud vendors already trained and prepared to partner with them as an outsourcing adjunct to their services.  

In the meantime, SMEs will benefit from Cloud as outsourced IT by not having to build their own production IT departments.

Eric Novikoff



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