Shadow IT Looms Larger in Age of the Cloud

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Private Versus Public Cloud Computing

A plethora of applications are being considered for the cloud, but it may take at least another year before cloud computing goes mainstream in the enterprise.

Shadow IT exists in many forms. Whether it's a workstation attached to the network by a developer or a full-blown application that some department has decided to fund on its own, the existence of shadow IT systems goes back to the days when the first PC was smuggled through the back door of the enterprise.

Fast forward to 2012 and it looks like the size of that shadow IT phenomenon is about to get a whole lot bigger thanks to the rise of cloud computing. Whether it's in the form of a software-as-a-service (SaaS) application or infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), anybody with access to a credit card can now fire up an IT service.

The reason this is happening with more alarming frequency is because end users are frustrated with the level of service they get from the internal IT department. This is no one's fault in particular; it's just that the nature of the way existing IT systems are managed makes it difficult for the internal IT organization to adroitly service the demands of end users.

Unless some decisive steps are taken in the near future, Ken Won, director of cloud software product marketing for HP Software, says it's pretty clear that shadow IT is going to soon spiral completely out of control. Because the IT organization can't really beat those external services, the only real option is to join them. IT organizations need to master and deploy their own internal private clouds in order to arrest the growth of shadow IT in the cloud, says Won.

Most IT organizations, however, appear to want to take their time making this transition. Private cloud computing not only involves new technologies, it alters the way IT is managed. IT organizations naturally want to go slow in order to make sure those new processes are secure and stable. But the reality, says Won, is that they don't have as much time as they might like because each passing day the shadow IT problem in the cloud grows larger.

Won says HP is working with a number of IT organizations to help jumpstart private cloud computing adoption. As a rule, IT organizations are good at maintaining systems once they are built. But in terms of building new systems, the track record of most IT organizations is decidedly mixed. That means that many of them are simply not going to be able to build the applications and systems that are needed to dynamically deliver and manage IT services without some outside help. And as Won notes, time is not on the side of the internal IT organization.