The Difference Between CoIT and BYOD: And the Impact for IT

There is quite a bit of confusion between CoIT (Consumerization of IT) and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). While these two subjects are related, they are not the same. To make things more confusing, the two terms are often interchanged. Yet, they have very different contexts and definitions. And the impact for IT organizations is significant. Read on…

Consumerization of IT (CoIT)

The consumerization of IT refers to a fundamental change in ‘how’ people use technology. It does not specifically refer to the devices they use, but rather how they work.

As people become more familiar with technology, they tend to use it in everyday life. The reciprocal is true too. Two common examples CoIT are Mobile and Social. In the mobile space, just about everyone has a mobile device. It could be a cell phone, tablet or laptop. Over the past 10 years alone, the number of mobile devices has increased astronomically. Today, there are over 5 billion mobile phones in the world and more than 80% of the world’s population has a mobile phone. Two factors contribute to this change: 1) The cost of the device has reached a point where many more people can afford to own them. 2) Devices are much easier to use. In the past, an IT person would need to configure the device and perform training for the user. No longer is that the case. Even a 4-year-old can operate a device today. In the social space, everyone is using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Users do not need an instruction manual to reach the site or operate the service. In fact, Facebook has over 800 million users today. It would take a large army of IT professionals to train 800 million users using the traditional model.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

On the other hand, BYOD is all about the device. Everyday users are more likely to use these devices (smartphone, tablet, laptop) today. The combination of price drops and ease of use contribute to the change. Due to the familiarity with these devices, users prefer to use them in their everyday work environment. The trend to use personal devices in a corporate environment started several years ago with the mobile phone. People preferred to use their own mobile phone rather than carry one for personal and one for work. With the advent of smartphones that evolved to checking email, surfing the web and the plethora of other applications available today. Tablets and laptops followed in the wake of smartphones.

Today, some corporate entities have fully embraced the concept by providing employees a stipend for their device(s) rather than issue a company-owned device. In other cases, companies pay the bill for the smartphone voice and data plans. The expectation is that the user is checking the device more frequently than they would a company issued device.

From the CIO perspective, I wrote about BYOD in: What the CIO Needs to Know About BYOD

Changes in How We Work

There is another factor that directly affects this evolutionary change. The organizations and people that belong to them are changing. There are two fundamental drivers: 1) The new workforce and 2) Changes in the technology solutions. By new workforce, I mean the employees that are entering the workplace today. Employees entering the workplace in the past couple of years are the first ones that grew up with a computer from birth to adult. Prior generations picked up computing somewhere along their upbringing or career. That single change provides a workforce that is far more comfortable with computers and electronic devices. They are much more adept at technology change and evolutionary shifts than prior generations too. This milestone is not one to underestimate.

Changes to the IT Paradigm

The general user base is not the only group that is changing. With the changes to CoIT and BYOD, the IT Paradigm needs a significant overhaul. The days of ‘command and control’ are over. The technology paradigm has reached a point where it can no longer be ‘controlled’. But it can be managed! That is where the paradigm changes. Today’s technology world is about setting boundaries, guidelines and frameworks. It is less important to create walls and fortresses. This applies to both the culture we set within the organization and the technology solutions we put in place. One example might be how to protect data rather than the device itself. If you can’t control the device, what are you going to do? You can’t just throw your hands up and give up. There are solutions.

Interestingly, this fundamental change to the way IT operates has significant ramifications beyond just CoIT and BYOD. Yes, making the shift is hard. We have spent 30 years building the methodologies and paradigms we work within today. Change is hard and takes time. But the opportunities for those that make the change are significant.

Bottom Line: CoIT and BYOD are different, but related. Both require changes to the fundamental operations of the IT organization. Those changes, while challenging, can provide significant value moving forward.

Could Data Centers Become Black Sheep?

Could they? Could it be out of Vogue to operate your own data center? Current developments in Corporate Social Responsibility and a maturing data center marketplace are starting to drive these changes.

For many, this could be a discussion about the pink elephant in the room. Data centers have been, and continue to be a requirement for businesses around the world. We rely more heavily every day on systems and the applications they run. Those applications run on servers and use storage subsystems; all of which are connected with networking devices. Collectively, we call this the “IT Load” for a data center.

The root question is not whether a data center is required. The obvious answer is: Yes! The real question is: Do I need to operate my own data center? But we will get to answer that question in a minute.

Data Center Energy Consumption

Data centers are consuming a larger percentage of the world’s energy every day. Our growing appetite will continue to take a toll on natural resources. In 2007, the EPA issued (for some) an eye-opening report on data center consumption and potential areas of efficiency.

While the report is a bit dated (2007), the core data still holds true today. The majority of the report is focused on projections and potential areas of efficiency. In 2011, Jonathan Koomey issued an updated report on the findings.

In his report, he noted that data center power consumption did not grow as strongly as the EPA projected. By 2010, global data center energy consumption hit 1.3% while in the US that number rose to 2%. Those are still very significant numbers.

What is Missing?

To add more fuel to the figures, a significant number of “facilities” are missing. Most notably missing from these findings is the energy consumption by the myriad of smaller “data centers”. While many would not call them data centers, they still serve the same purpose of housing servers, storage and networking equipment. These are smaller closets, rooms and labs. It may be as small as a server and switch under a desk to a rack or two of gear in a closet to a 1,000 sqft room. It is much harder to pin down the power consumed by each of these smaller locations. If you consider that these are the common solution for Small and Medium Businesses (SMB), the aggregate consumption is significant.

Potential Impact

Increasing the efficiency of the physical data center is a great start. There are many opportunities to improve the efficiency of power and cooling systems. People have focused on increasing the efficiency of power and cooling systems for years. Many of the solutions are simple to implement and make a significant impact. While others take quite a bit of work, expertise and money. And there are many brilliant minds around the world that are currently working on this very challenge.

However, the largest potential impact may come from the IT load itself. For the majority of IT loads, the equipment is not used efficiently. Server, storage and network utilization figures are much lower than they could be. Servers are designed (from an energy perspective) for high utilization. One look at the power supply power curve for a server supports this. On the server, processor utilization rates commonly peak at 20-30% with average utilization in the 5-10% range. In addition, the current implementation rates for virtualization are still relatively low. The latest figures suggest that as many as 50% of servers are virtualized. Anecdotally, that figure still seems high. Regardless, pushing the implementation of virtualization to 80%+ would significantly reduce the overall power consumption…for the same IT workload.

Imagine reducing the US power consumption by a full 1%. The impact could be that significant.

Strategic and World-Class Expertise

Now back to the root question: Do you need to have your own data center? Before answering, two other questions will shed light on the answer. Is your organization in a position to operate your data center (100,000 sqft facility, 5,000 sqft room, closet, lab, etc) at a world-class level? Asked a different way: Is your organization willing to make the investment of installing a team of people to operate a world-class facility where it is their whole job, not just a line in the job description? Second, is operation of a data center strategic to your organization? We already covered that data centers are vitally important. So is electricity. Are you willing to make the investment in operating a data center that is unique and provides an advantage from your competition? Or are there alternatives that better fit the strategic direction of the organization?

The Solution

If you set personal beliefs, cultural norms and inertia aside, for most, the answer to these questions is no. There are viable alternatives today that offer the economics, flexibility and responsiveness. And the alternative data center providers do employ teams to ensure their facilities are world-class. Only those few with large-scale requirements or the uncommon corner case will still need to operate their own data center.

Cloud computing is just one of many ways to accomplish these objectives. Startups and others are already heading down this path unencumbered by cultural norms and inertia. The challenge for established organizations is how to effectively turn the corner.

Bottom Line: Most organizations are not in a position to efficiently operate a world-class data center and should look at alternative solutions. The data center provider market is mature and competitors are already heading down this path.