Simple Observation May Be the Best Means of Controlling the Democratization of Data

B. Shimmin

B. Shimmin

Summary Bullets:

  • IT leaders have begun to realize it’s impossible to completely lock down the use of external, unmanaged cloud services.
  • My hope is that as vendors seek to control the use of external data sources, they bear in mind that the means of gaining control may be compromise itself.

Shadow IT just got real. Or, at least, it’s well on its way to legitimacy now that IT leaders have begun to realize it’s impossible to completely lock down the use of external, unmanaged cloud services like file sharing and synchronization. Already vendors are seeking to capitalize upon the opportunity inherent within that realization. Consider Cisco’s recently introduced Cisco Cloud Consumption Service, which quite literally discovers and continuously monitors unmanaged cloud services. The idea is that by closely watching the use of such services, an organization can at a minimum identify security vulnerabilities and better manage (read: control) costs.

It may seem like an odd, maybe even newfangled notion to simply watch something rather than contain and control that thing. But, that thought has actually been with us for a while. Back in the 60s, when new ideas like Zen Buddhism began to sink into the public consciousness within the United States, a Japanese gentleman named Shunryu Suzuki gave his students the following bit of advice:

“Even though you try to put people under control, it is impossible. You cannot do it. The best way to control people is to encourage them to be mischievous. Then they will be in control in a wider sense. To give your sheep or cow a large spacious meadow is the way to control him. So it is with people: first let them do what they want, and watch them.” – Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice

Control in a wider sense is the important outcome at play here and clearly what Cisco has intended with its new cloud service, which can do some interesting things like consolidate disparate but overlapping cloud services and analyze infrastructure impact arising from their use. Those goals seem familiar. Within the sphere of enterprise data and analytics, a major market disruption is currently underway with users demanding and gaining (of their own accord) access to a wide array of data sources that are in no way under corporate control.

But, that’s not what IT wants. Data integration projects work best when batch processing (normalizing, transposing, blending, etc.) data from known (often internal) sources with the intent of dumping everything into a highly governed data warehouse. Thankfully, companies that specialize in data integration are thinking in the right direction, as with Informatica’s newly launched Big Data Management, a platform that takes into account the fact that enterprise users seek out their own data sources from outside the company. Solutions like this are also taking shape within horizontal technology providers like SAP, IBM, and Microsoft.

My hope is that as these vendors seek to facilitate but control the use of external data sources within user-friendly analytics tools like Tableau Desktop and Qlik Sense, perhaps they’ll take Cisco’s approach and bear in mind that the best path to the democratization of data is through compromise, something a little less constraining that still allows control in a wider sense.

About Brad Shimmin
As Principal Analyst for Collaboration and Conferencing at Current Analysis, Brad analyzes the rapidly expanding use of collaboration software and services as a means of improving business agility, fostering employee optimization and driving business opportunities.

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