NoSQL: Shadow IT that could sink you

Get to know NoSQL before your CMO signs you up for an integration nightmare

In case you've been sleeping on Mars and missed the excitement, today's hot industry trends (HITs) in IT center around devices, the cloud, and data.

Specifically, we're talking BYOD (bring your own device); the big three among the ever-proliferating collection of cloud technologies: IaaS (infrastructure as a service), PaaS (platform as a service), and SaaS (software as a service); and big data, along with the concomitant collection of "NoSQL" technologies that support it.

[ Andrew C. Oliver answers the question on everyone's mind: Which freaking database should I use? | Also on InfoWorld: The time for NoSQL standards is now and 7 hard truths about the NoSQL revolution. | Get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. ]

Just about everyone with an opinion and a soapbox, including me, has broken down IT's options when it comes to the HITs: IT has to lead, follow, or get out of the way. More accurately, IT has to lead, ignore, prevent, or -- the most likely and labor-intensive alternative -- support them.

This is the easy stuff. What's been missing in most of these discussions is something central to IT's purpose and pay: integration. When it comes to integration, NoSQL is where the most important IT challenges reside right now.

Integration -- what IT does

Leave the HITs aside for a few moments and look at the array of technologies IT supports already. Up to and including the telephone system, what they all have in common is that they aren't isolated islands of automation. They're integrated, with each other and into the business.

Relational database management systems, for example, don't stand alone. They provide services (transaction processing and query processing) used by other components within the enterprise technical architecture. The same is true for every other technical platform, for the various databases and information repositories that reside on them, and for the applications that comprise the company's applications portfolio.

And they're integrated into the business. Email, for example, isn't just a technology IT manages. It's a service IT manages for the company, and it's integrated deeply into how the business operates. This is also true of every other application IT supports and, by extension, the technologies used by these applications.

Whether integration matters for a particular HIT is what determines how business departments will involve IT. If integration isn't important, they'll usually ignore IT and acquire the technology themselves, as they've been doing with Salesforce.com. If integration is important, they'll mostly complain that IT didn't anticipate their interest and have everything they now know they want ready and waiting for them.

Non-IT IT

As my InfoWorld colleague Eric Knorr wrote recently, most of the growth in IT spending is projected to occur outside the IT budget -- 90 percent was the number he reported, leaving 10 percent for IT to enjoy. That's growth, not total spend. As it isn't likely that business leaders are going to wake up, smell the coffee, and say, "Hey, as long as it doesn't go into the IT budget the checkbook is open for IT spending!" we aren't talking about that much money.

This doesn't make the number unimportant, but the picture is considerably more complicated than the "business is losing confidence in IT" conclusion so many commentators have drawn. The reason is that the (probably temporary) rise in non-integration is driving a lot of the trend.

Here's my projection: Of the non-IT IT spend, the lion's share will go to SaaS applications where the spenders don't care whether it's integrated. Salesforce.com will continue to dominate this category.

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