Cloud and mobile and big data, oh my! The real reason these technologies are so disruptive

Cloud. Mobile. Big data. IT sure is changing a lot these days, isn't it? Well, yes and no.

BOSTON -- Cloud. Mobile. Big data. IT sure is changing a lot these days, isn't it?

Well, yes and no.

There was lots of talk about the transformation in the IT landscape at yesterday's IDC Directions conference, most of it focusing on the aforementioned technologies. Analysts shared projections about how much these new markets will surpass established markets. And predictions such as "cloud is going to replace the client/server architecture," which IDC chief analyst Frank Gens made during his keynote, were commonplace.

Cloud, mobile and big data are all transforming IT, no doubt. But the biggest change isn't the technology itself. It's who controls the technology. Think about it:

Cloud: Is cloud computing really replacing the client/server architecture, or are we just talking semantics? There will still be servers, and there will still be clients. The real difference is that these servers will not be in your data center, and these clients will be smartphones and tablets that your users own.

Mobile: Employees have been mobile since the advent of the laptop. Mobility in and of itself is not new. What's new are the personal devices that enable a whole new mindset towards computing -- a mindset that doesn't involve IT. With the rise of apps and app stores, for example, "we're able to buy what we need when we need it, regardless of corporate policy or who's paying for it," said Danielle Levitas, an IDC group vice president.

Big data: Storing and analyzing data is not a new challenge for IT. The specific problem that big data seeks to address is storing and analyzing huge amounts of unstructured data, i.e., data that users create and IT doesn't control.

These trends are so disruptive not because of their underlying technologies, but because they take control away from IT -- an institution built on control.

We're entering a new era in IT. Some call it the "cloud era" or the "consumerization era." VMware and Apple prefer the "post-PC era." Gens called it the "third platform" (mainframe was the "first platform," and client/server was the "second platform"), and IDC program vice president Bob O'Donnell used the term "PC-plus era," because "we have a PC plus all these other devices."

Really, though, shouldn't we call it the " user control era?" It's not that IT can't or shouldn't worry about management or security anymore. That's still crucial. But as Levitas said, IT must realize it's a "delicate balancing act" between security and the enhanced productivity that this era enables.


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Balance is the key word. There is too much naive and irresponsible talk about consumerization. For F sake face facts. Most people in this economy are lucky to have a job, so give me a break about them walking and demanding X,Y,Z to break all the rules. All games must have rules. For sure the game is changing fast, but there has to rules that create balance. Please just 1 massive privacy exploit on CNN for a full week is all we need to get this industry to wake up to consumerization without rules at work BS.


I think the "walking in and demanding X, Y, Z" part of consumerization is overstated. A lot of times, users just figure things out on their own (like setting up email via ActiveSync), and IT has no clue. Users have more visibility into their technology than IT does, and that's really what this "user control era" is all about. IT needs to learn what users are doing without their knowledge, then help strike the right balance between productivity and security.