Posey's Tips & Tricks

The Real Consumerization of IT, Part 2

In the first part of this two part series, I laid out what I consider to be three fundamental truths pertaining to the consumerization of IT. In case you missed that post, those truths were:

  • Consumers have become far more tech savvy.
  • The technology industry tries to appeal to a broader range of consumers by dumbing down tech products.
  • Corporate IT is turning users into consumers.

If I am correct about these fundamental truths, then it seems important to ask the question of how the full-blown consumerization of IT will impact IT pros.

I will be the first to admit that at first glance these three factors seem to be bad news for IT pros. After all, if consumers are becoming more sophisticated, technology is getting easier to use and corporate IT is becoming an automated, self-service environment, then why is there even a need for IT pros? If anything though, I think that these trends will make IT pros more valuable, not obsolete. However, I think that the role of the IT pro will change dramatically.

Let me give you a concrete example. Just yesterday I was talking to someone from a large corporation. The marketing department had a business need for numerous standalone SharePoint deployments (don't ask, I don't get it either). Setting up those SharePoint deployments was once a manual process performed by the IT staff. Today the process is largely automated. The marketing department uses a self-service portal to automatically deploy pre-configured SharePoint environments.

At first this prospect can be a bit scary for IT pros. It implies that in this case the marketing department is doing everything that the IT department used to do, but without the aid of IT. After all, the marketing department is effectively creating virtual machines and deploying SharePoint. However, there is one aspect of the process that is easy to overlook.

Although the marketing staff clearly understand how to use SharePoint and it obviously understands the concept of a virtual machine, that is probably about the extent of its enterprise IT knowledge. There is a lot going on behind the scenes that the marketing staff has no knowledge of. For example, the marketing people might know how much storage they have been allocated, but they probably don't know the details of the backend SAN configuration. Similarly, the marketing staff knows how to perform an automated SharePoint deployment that is based on a template, but I seriously doubt that it would know how to manually deploy a custom SharePoint farm and the corresponding SQL Server database.

My point is that even though corporate IT is turning users into consumers through the use of lightweight self-service mechanisms, the IT department still has a very important role to play. Going forward, there are some critically important tasks that will have to be handled by IT.

First, the IT department will have to be responsible for infrastructure management. Private cloud environments are complicated and it will be up to the IT department to keep it all running and to keep each tenant's environment secure.

Second, the IT department will likely be responsible for capacity planning and for policing resource consumption. Even if an organization doesn't use chargebacks, the entire private cloud system could break down if any one tenant is allowed to consume excessive resources. IT pros will have to perform ongoing capacity planning and they will have to keep close tabs on resource consumption. Of course any quotas that are put into place will need to be revised as business needs change.

Finally, and this is the big one, IT is going to have to handle policy creation and enforcement. In a private cloud environment, end users create VMs based on templates. IT is going to be responsible for creating these templates. Doing so is a huge responsibility. Virtual machine templates must comply with the recommended best practices for any software being used, while also complying with the organization's own security policies and any regulatory requirements. IT will have to make a lot of tough decisions about what constitutes an acceptable VM template, and then revise that definition as requirements evolve. Furthermore, IT will have to put mechanisms into place to keep the environment secure, to guard against policy violations, and to protect users from themselves.

In essence, my prediction is that corporate IT is going to continue to be important, but the types of tasks performed by corporate IT will likely evolve dramatically as the world transitions to private cloud environments.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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