This morning I watched a presentation from EMC about new (VNX, ViPR) and future products (Project Nile). The presentation was quite interesting, especially the part about the VNX Lotus F1 special edition (I’m kidding of course)… but Nile lit up my curiosity and I think that it could be an intriguing product.

Shadow IT

The shadow IT phenomenon has always been present but now it is becoming more and more important. In practice, Shadow IT, refers to all those IT projects that are somehow hidden or out of control of the IT department.

Setting budget control issues aside of this discussion, shadow IT has a lot of negative implications for the enterprise. Shadow IT projects could create many problems, ranging from security leaks to, and potentially hidden, costs. In many circumstances public cloud is becoming a synonym of shadow IT and it’s to be blamed for that!
On the flip side Shadow IT, and more in general public cloud, help single users or teams to be much more independent, flexible and productive for their business and projects.

Why Shadow IT

I often use the slide in the following image to describe what has happened to IT in the last years.
esperienza d'uso ITIn the last 7/10 years (especially after the advent of the iPhone), consumer IT users saw a lot of improvements in the quality of their user experience. At the same time enterprise IT users didn’t notice many improvements to their desktop, applications and IT processes. The problem is that the enterprise IT user and the private IT user (the consumer) are the same person and, at the end of the day, he can easily compare what he finds at the office with what he finds at home!

So now you have this gap between your home experience and enterprise experience… and, the gap is getting bigger and bigger year after year.
This graph can also explain why employees want BYOD, tablets instead of PCs, dropbox instead of file server shares… and public cloud instead of traditional IT! It’s all about the user experience.

From the end user (team or department) point of view there is no way better than going to public clouds. You can deliver projects faster, with much more elasticity and with less upfront costs! They do not care about general IT problems and constraints.

Closing the gap

I think that CIOs and IT managers are well aware of this situation but they are still struggling to find a viable solution and regain control.
Providing a private cloud or a cloud-like experience to enterprise users is the goal but, in many cases, private cloud management platforms are still far behind Amazon AWS and difficult to implement.

Looking at the EMC’s website and at some videos that I found, it sounds like Project Nile (not a product yet!) is going toward that direction. Nile should provide a self service portal allowing end users to create their own storage resources. I guess that you can configure NAS filers, object storage repositories and, still guessing, dropbox-like services from a self service portal. Then all those resources are accountable and billable through a charge-back mechanism.

If this is the case I’m sure we can consider Nile a great step forward for private cloud storage. In fact it was presented as an easy to use friendly pre-installed/pre-configured box and not like an “open framework” where you need to spend a life and a day to get something work!

TCO is another key point. AWS S3, for example, doesn’t come for free and it’s not cheap after all (especially if you can calculate all the potential hidden costs associated with shadow IT)… anyhow, for the end user it is much easier to access and use public cloud storage than traditionally-provided enterprise storage.
On the other hand, If you can provide a nearly-out-of-the-box and easy to manage private cloud system it’s reasonable to think about a similar or better overall TCO when compared to public offerings.

Bottom line

Close the gap or lose control (and related budget), that’s the threat!
I know that it’s not easy but private (or hybrid) cloud is the way to go to improve the end user experience and vendors are beginning to show some interesting solutions.