Cloud Musings: Is Shadow IT Best for the Cloud-Based Enterprise?

I woke today thinking I should share my mixed ramblings on the future of IT, but I then realized that there is nobody in my family and friends that wants to read it or really cares about this topic. Lucky for me, we have the internet and blogs.

Before we look forward, let’s just take a moment and look back.

I have been working with IT for 35 years. In this time, the internet, cell phones, etc. have all emerged and become ubiquitous. When I was in my 20s, I remember being passionate about all-things technology while also calling mainframe developers and operators "dinosaurs." Now that I look back, they had mostly busy and productive careers and are now enjoying their retirement, and by my prior definition, I am now the "dinosaur." At least being a dinosaur brings perspective.

One observation is that IT is like fashion. Things go out of vogue, but they usually come back if you wait long enough. Mainframes use to be the ubiquitous technology for running large organizations. They were a large, built-for-purpose pieces of tech that shared the available resources in a multi-tenanted use case.

Now, organizations are moving to cloud, which are a collection of commodity hardware and abstraction layers that is built for purpose and is multi-tenanted. See the resemblance?

Paying for the system is similar too. Mainframes had charge-back costs; for cloud, they are pay-as-you-go.

While mainframes have now taken the form of cloud, there is one change that is different. Because of cloud’s low startup barrier and cool service capabilities, it creates a greater opportunity for shadow IT.

One of the things we face as IT professionals is the idea that IT departments know best or have operational procedures that reduce risk. The efforts of the business side to retain its own experts or use its own tools outside of IT approval is called shadow IT, and it’s considered a bad thing.

Well, as cloud providers fight to add greater and greater value to their offerings, they keep adding operational capabilities. These include security, monitoring, backups, and automated deployments. The list goes on. So if the cloud provides all the necessary evils and the business feels it has more directional control when it has its own IT personnel, then I am beginning to see how shadow IT may actually be the future of IT.

Implemented the right way, shadow IT can become an important part of a successful cloud-based enterprise. Business problems need solutions, no matter what source they come from—and if a shadow IT solution is the best fit, what can you do? It’s often looked down on as being inefficient or insecure, but shadow IT can bridge gaps quicker and more effectively than traditional IT approaches.

OK, you can start ranting at me now about why this is a bad thing or how I don't know jack, but for some organizations, I am sure this is already an agenda.

About the Author


Mike Hastie
Chief Technology Officer

Mike has been with Prolifics since 2006. He has over 20 years of IT experience covering project management, enterprise architecture, IT governance, SDLC methodologies, and design/programming in a client/server and Web-based context.