The Upside of Compliance

There is a silver lining to the regulatory cloud

September 27, 2006

3 Min Read
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When it comes to regulatory compliance, there's no such thing as sufficient preparedness. While IT pros struggle with existing regulations, new ones loom. The powers that be in the European Union are rattling their sabres, promising new and more complicated rules, and other groups are endorsing complex sets of procedures. (See EU Compliance Looms for Stateside IT and ITIL Irritates IT Managers.)

All of this compliance activity threatens a domino effect for IT. First, it forces more work onto groups that are already pressured. It also could topple the budget in many shops, as managers must buy technology and services to cope with compliance demands. Indeed, it looks as if the trend is proving Gartner Inc. 's prediction that IT compliance spending will jump to between 10 percent and 15 percent of IT budgets this year. (See Compliance Takes IT Bite.)

The strain of working harder with fewer people, combined with the growing pressures of new technology and added spending, exposes IT pros to an unprecedented loss of control and potential conflicts with constituents.

"The IT department will be viewed as the really bad guys, because we will be blamed for the organization not being able to do what they want to do," one manager told Byte and Switch senior editor James Rogers last week. Another was even more pessimistic about getting any sympathy from end users: "The business couldn't give a crap about IT," he said. Talk about a potential minefield.

No wonder storage pros are complaining about compliance more loudly than ever. Steven Attias, chief information security officer of New York Life Insurance, describes compliance as "running on a treadmill that's constantly getting faster – and increasing in elevation at the same time." (See Compliance Remains Elusive Target and Fed Up With Compliance.)But there is an upside. Despite the inevitable suffering that compliance is causing, the trend is also driving progress. The demand to organize and preserve corporate data in a way that meets regulatory mandates is fostering progress in a number of areas. Here is a sampling, with links to recent news postings:

  • Consolidation: The need to make data more manageable is driving a move to reduce the complexity of IT infrastructure. (See State of Indiana Office of Technology.)

  • IT automation: As data centers consolidate, there's a move to ensure they can be managed by fewer human bodies.

  • Data classification: With the need to ensure rapid retrieval of specific data items, is it any wonder this area is taking off like gangbusters? (See Kazeon Gets $21M Venture Boost and IBM Fights Crime in Canada.)

  • Security: This goes hand in glove with a move to more manageable data.

  • Provisioning: Here is another area in which ITers desperately want better control, along with the ability to carve up storage, server, and network device resources as needed – without relying on their physical location. (See Voltaire Envisions Mondo-Provisioning.) Expect more in this space.

How can one be sure of further progress in these areas? The answer is that IT has become too important to take a back seat to the businesses it supports. As data volumes grow bigger and faster than ever, businesses rely more than ever on IT to cope with it all. Compliance may lay a minefield of potential conflicts with end users, but, in the end, it will force progress in technology and services.

— Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

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