Is your data center ready for the consumerization of IT?

Mobility and devices of all shapes and sizes are in the enterprise, so you'd better make sure your data center's equipped.

Everyone is talking about – and living with – the consumerization of IT in their enterprises. You know, the idea that consumer technologies, both hardware and applications, are heavily influencing and rapidly shifting enterprise IT. I mean, loads of folks are doing business on their personal smart phones and tablets. And their working their work in social media applications such as Facebook and Twitter, blurring the lines between mass communications and corporate communications and shifting the borders between internal and external.

At its annual Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, which just wrapped last week in Orlando, Fla., Gartner analysts told attendees that by 2015, mobile application development projects targeting smartphones and tablets will outnumber PC projects by 4 to 1.

The topic clearly has IT pros anxious. In a recent survey reported on here in Computerworld, 87 percent of the 750 survey respondents say their employees use personal devices for work-related purposes ranging from email and calendaring to texting to CRM and ERP. Eighty percent report that employees use personal smartphones and 69 percent say personal PCs are brought to work by employees.

The survey, conducted by Dimensional Research and commissioned by Dell KACE, also found that employees are bringing in personal machines running Windows (63 percent), Mac OS X (37 percent) and Linux (14 percent).

[ Free download: Crafting a successful BYOD and mobile IT strategy ]

The trend is troublesome, according to survey respondents. The majority, 82 percent, report they are concerned about the use of personal devices for work purposes, with the biggest concern being potential network security breaches (62 percent), followed by possible loss of customer enterprise data (50 percent), potential theft of intellectual property (48 percent) and difficulty meeting compliance requirements (43 percent).

By the way, Computerworld and its sister publication CIO magazine have just announced a new conference, CITE: The Consumerization of IT in the Enterprise Conference & Expo, which is to be held March 4-6 in San Francisco. Find out more here.

At the Garter symposium, attendees were advised during the opening keynote, given by Peter Sondergaard, senior VP at Gartner and global head of research, to “pursue simplicity by putting people and their needs at the center of design. You must dare to employ creative destruction to eliminate legacy, and selectively destroy low impact systems,” according to a press release put out by the research firm.

This over-arching theme of simplicity is aimed directly at accommodating a world filled with mobile and tablet computing, and IT should focus on keeping things so simple so employees – and customers – can do what they need to do on any device.

So, when you consider your next-gen data center, are you this march toward the consumerization of IT, and the need for simplicity? I’ve heard that many of the challenges data center managers may face in this new era of IT will be about establishing good processes and focusing on management and security. Makes sense, no?

Of course, it will be vital to ensure that your infrastructure is capable of handling load increases (the amount of data continues to expand, and anywhere, anytime access will only compound that). Not only will data be affected, transactions will sky-rocket: if your sales teams can track orders for clients while on the road, multiple times a day, that’s a lot of database pinging. It’s likely that every application will be affected by consumerization of IT.

I suspect for most organizations, data center support of mobility and new devices will evolve over time. Few can rip out and replace infrastructure completely. The near-term goal will be a mix of high-performance infrastructure in the back end, and mobile Web and mobile communication standards on the front end. Virtualization will play a key role, as will cloud computing. Security and management tools and systems will need to be included in the overhaul. IT automation will be critical to ensure workloads are balanced and server sprawl is corralled. IT automation will also ensure security and software patches are consistently managed. Monitoring and application performance management products and services must be included.

I’m interested. How are you prepping your data center for the consumerization of IT? What bests practices can you share? Where do you think the biggest obstacles will turn up? Regarding consumerization of IT, what keeps you up at night?

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