March 07, 2012, 6:50 AM — A solemn crowd of IT executives filled the main hall of the Hyatt Hotel in San Francisco today, ready to hear what they already knew: the coming of seemingly unmanageable consumer tech gadgets to the enterprise.
Will IT lose its power edge to the consumer? The main message at the Consumerization of IT in the Enterprise Conference and Expo, or CITE, is that it's already happening. If you're not preparing for this sea change by now, you're late to the game.
"We're just a couple years away from [the consumerization of IT] being the dominant model," says Dion Hinchliffe, executive vice president of strategy at Dachis Group and keynote speaker. "We're already more than a third of the way there."
Consumerization of IT, which basically means employees' desire to have companies support consumer devices, really began to pick up steam with the arrival of the iPhone a few years ago. The pitch has reached a crescendo with the wildly successful iPad. (Apple is expected to announce the next-generation iPad later this week.)
Cisco Systems has seen its total employee mobile device count grow 52% in 12 months. By December last year, Cisco had 50,538 mobile devices on its network: 8,144 iPads, 20,581 iPhones (up from 2,266 two years ago) and 12,290 BlackBerry phones (down from 13,611).
These devices are part of Cisco's BYOD, or bring your own device, mobile landscape. BYOD is a sub-trend of the consumerization of IT, whereby employees buy their own devices for personal and work use.
One of the side benefits of BYOD is the cost savings derived from employees paying out of pocket, in the neighborhood of 17% to 22% in Cisco's case. "We don't pay for it, and our users are happier," says Lance Perry, vice president of IT, customer strategy and success, at Cisco. "Isn't that a beautiful thing?"
But BYOD doesn't mean consumerization of IT is a free lunch. CIOs face many concerns, ranging from mobile device management to data security. Given the newness of the trend, as well as the relative immaturity of enterprise solutions, CIOs must find ways to tackle these challenges.
Tony Lalli, infrastructure architect at Bank of New York Mellon and a CITE speaker, has taken a "bubble" approach to managing data on consumer devices where you isolate the app, data and services, usually through virtualization, from the local device rather than managing the whole device. He also sees remote desktop on an iPad as bridge to a more tablet-friendly solution down the road.
On the security front, Lalli says mobile consumer devices has forced IT to re-think remote access. Interestingly, he points out that traditional VPN solutions, where users log into a virtual private network and gain access to corporate data, are just as leaky as today's remote access consumer devices.