Many IT organizations are continuing to fight the Bring Your Own Device onslaught, but there is another option, embrace it on the whole. This is the tactic Simon Phipps discusses in a recent post on InfoWorld. He portends that we move to a standards based system that allows users to install and run any application that falls within guidelines anywhere and on any device, including their desktops. Now this may sound like a security nightmare, but when you really think about it, open sourcing the IT infrastructure and allowing choice could save substantial sums in expenses down the line. IT groups would be able to focus on enforcing standards rather than enforcing lock downs on every desktop and device.
Phipps pulls from his experiences at Sun Microsystems where the standards idea was put into effect many years ago; of course it wasn’t based on today’s mobile, but the technology of that time. To make this work, he lays out a simple process: “It means selecting a basket of server-supported standard capabilities (IMAP, LDAP, PDF, HTML5, ODF, and so on) and telling people that anything that works securely with those standards is acceptable. It also offers the prospect of letting people use open source software that works with those standards, rather than having to buy everyone the same expensive proprietary software and instantly depreciating hardware, then manage them expensively until they are legacy systems.” Utilizing this set of secure standards allows savvy users to trick out their desktops and devices, but also allows IT to setup a base for those who don’t want any adjustments to start with.
This is an idea whose time has come. We all know what goes on with people’s desktops today, with installations of various messaging applications, shareware, etc. This has expanded exponentially on the device side as the entire ecosystem is designed around downloading, installing and updating apps on the fly. As we move more and more towards this type of ecosystem, the idea of IT managing each device and controlling what is on that device will become unsustainable. Moving to standards based implementation will not only save money, but will be the only way for IT to truly have a sense of control over the security around employee devices.
Open sourcing IT can be accomplished through processes that are already on the horizon, or as in my case already implemented, in many organizations. As my team works to continue to grow our enterprise catalog of apps for mobile devices, we could extend this catalog to include open source applications to be downloaded to the desktop. Creating this repository works to assist in the enforcement of the standards and allows IT to be a facilitator rather than a hindrance. Could this make IT a hero once again?