Will worries of “shadow IT” derail cloud rollouts?

April 19th, 2012 | by Alfred Siew
Will worries of “shadow IT” derail cloud rollouts?
Enterprise
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The story is all too common.

Tired of clearing his inbox all the time because he only has 100MB of storage, an employee signs up for a Gmail account and forwards all his office e-mail to his private mailbox, which gives him more than 7GB of space and never bugs him to delete anything.

Separately, another employee, who hates it that his company does not let him read e-mail on the go, also forwards his office e-mail to a Google account, which can be retrieved easily on his iPhone.

The result of such exploits, common in so many organisations, is a breach of security and, in some industries where information has to be kept under lock and key, a breach of their compliance with local laws.

“Shadow IT”, however, is not only caused by rogue users in an organisation, but can be part of a poorly-planned cloud rollout that could compromise a company’s security and compliance, according to a survey conducted by HP Enterprise Services.

While cloud computing offers agility and fast response, the study revealed a worry among top executives that a “free rein” could lead to users tapping on IT resources that jeopardise the organisation they work for.

Some 42 per cent of senior business and IT executives said they were worried that their organisations were running non-IT sanctioned cloud solutions, while 24 per cent did not have a clear view of the cloud solutions running outside of IT.

The problem is expected to escalate, the survey commissioned by HP said, citing 74 per cent of business executives and 54 per cent of technology executives who expect non-IT sanctioned cloud use to be as high as 50 per cent by 2020.

Even as organisations rein in “server sprawl” by consolidating their servers in a grand data centre re-design, they are now beginning to worry about another problem – users starting up a virtual machine, doing stuff they are not supposed to with it, and then shutting it down without any administrator knowing about it.

The worry was reflected in the survey that included 550 interviews with business and technology executives in companies that had at least 500 employees. Interviews were conducted in February 2012 in several countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, China and Mexico.

If not rolled out well, cloud delivery of services in enterprises could bring compliance issues, said HP Singapore managing director Kelly Tan today, when presenting the survey results to the media.

She noted that such issues are still yet to be played out on a large scale, because many companies in the region are still in the early stages of delivering services over the cloud. Many are still struggling with the basic issues of rolling out cloud-based options while catering to existing systems, she added.

Indeed, the bigger focus now is on agility, which is one of the main drivers for companies taking up cloud computing, according to HP’s survey. Surprisingly, cost cutting, an oft-cited reason for going on the cloud, is only the third most important factor, and is ranked behind rapid application development and agility to respond to market changes.

“Cost is often overplayed,” said Tan, who noted that chief financial officers, who often hold on to the purse strings for an organisation, are now looking at cloud computing to offer more than cost cutting, as was the case a few years ago. “They are under pressure to innovate as well,” she explained.

HP’s answer to that? It unveiled a long line of new cloud offerings today, including a converged cloud delivery option that promises to let companies easily administer their private, managed and public clouds.

The company is also offering its first public cloud services that enable developers to easily come up with Web applications. Called HP Cloud Services, a beta of it will go online on May 10.

It promises pay-as-you-go convenience for compute resources, storage on demand and cloud content delivery powered by online delivery vendor Akamai. More details are at hpcloud.com/pricing.

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