Change in the air. It’s palpable.
Those of us in the technology world are witnessing a transformation: A buyer-led revolution in how information technology is both produced and consumed. Smartphones and tablets are upsetting the PC order; social applications are impinging on traditional “workforce productivity” and communications applications.
And the infrastructure, the underlying electronic “institutions” that make all of this happen, are also undergoing a transformation that promises to reshape the boundary conditions of all the participants. The wave of disruption powered by virtualization, and now, cloud, is rapidly and dramatically reshaping how companies and organizations of all sizes purchase IT and who sells it to us.
Said simply, for the first time in a generation, information technology’s supply chain is in the state of serious disruption. It truly is an “Arab Spring” for the IT world and when it’s over, there will be a host of new companies driving enterprise technology. Don’t believe me? Let’s establish some historical context.
Most revolutions take time. There are always early revolutionaries who pave the way for the change in the system. Although we chart the Arab Spring to events in Tunisia just over a year ago, the underlying currents driving change in the Middle East are decades in the making. In our industry, the antecedents are also more than a decade old. VMware, the early power player in compute virtualization, was founded in 1998. Salesforce, the first big SaaS player, was founded in 1999. The iPod, the progenitor of the contemporary smartphone, was revealed publicly in 2001.
For those tuned in to IT’s golden oldies channel, there was a transformative revolution in the 1970s. It was called the PC.
At the center of these revolutions and disruptions, you will find end users who have a simple mantra: “We want what we want, when we want it, to get our jobs done.” Employers have to meet these goals. Yet their job can be doubly difficult: Companies and organizations are frequently locked into existing IT approaches and are now told to do more with less. Business leaders around the world are demanding that the current model of IT, one that has led to a multi-trillion dollar per year industry, become more responsive to their twin goals of business velocity and efficiency.
But today, at the beginning of what historians will someday call the “as-a-service” era of technology, there is a new mantra for Enterprise IT: Faster, cheaper, and pay only for what you use.
If IT providers do not supply what the end users want, the latter, like the brave individuals who took the streets of Cairo, Tunis, and Tripoli, will take matters into their own hands. Most often, the initial transformation happens as “shadow” IT. Bring your own device is shadow IT. Most SaaS applications start by bypassing IT and going directly to functional groups (managing sales through Salesforce or sharing through Box.net).
Think about it: Less than five years ago, people were questioning whether the iPhone was ready for the enterprise. In 2012, Apple is expected to sell $19 billion worth of iPhones and iPads to the enterprise, making iot the 25th largest IT vendor in the world. How’s that for a shadow IT movement?
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