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.