Today’s IT forecast: cloudy with a chance of sprawl
How uncontrolled hybrid cloud growth can sabotage your business goals
Cloud computing is rapidly becoming the predominant IT service delivery mechanism as more enterprises realize its potential for digital transformation. However, as organizations try out different cloud platforms and configurations, it has become apparent that there is no “one size fits all.”
IDC estimated that in 2017 more than 85 percent of enterprises would commit to multicloud architectures “encompassing a mix of public cloud services, private clouds, community and hosted clouds.”[i] Different cloud solutions offer different strengths and weaknesses depending on which criteria are most important — cost, security, scalability, speed of implementation or other factors.
Current conditions: cloud sprawl
One of the biggest impediments to strategic management of cloud environments is “cloud sprawl.” It occurs when cloud computing resources are permitted to proliferate with insufficient oversight and planning.
As with many emerging technologies, cloud has not always been implemented as part of an orchestrated, end-to-end strategy. Early forays into cloud were piecemeal, sometimes starting out with trials in one area of the business. When different departments and lines of business within companies implement different cloud strategies to fit their individual needs, their infrastructures develop in silos with little to no communication between them. Researchers have found that enterprises on average use five public or private cloud platforms[ii] and anywhere from 300 to 3,000 cloud services, and that “shadow or rogue cloud usage…is often 10 times larger than IT organizations’ estimates.”[iii]
The lack of visibility into cloud usage puts CIOs and CFOs at a business disadvantage. They have no idea whether cloud resources are being used in accordance with company policies, or if they are being optimized to meet business goals. Cloud sprawl puts organizations at risk of:
- Unnecessary operational complexity and redundant services.
- Decreased efficiency because workloads can’t be transferred between clouds.
- Lack of enforcement for security measures and regulatory compliance.
- Sub-optimal supplier pricing because departments don’t coordinate.
- Inaccessible performance and usage analysis.
Changing headwinds: aligning cloud with business objectives
Now that cloud has been widely adopted for business-critical applications and services, it requires a more focused approach to management. The foundation of cloud success is having an integrated management framework that provides a unified view and orchestrated control of all your cloud resources and activities. End users, administrators and developers need access to a standard system of actions and resources regardless of where and with which cloud provider they reside. At the same time, they need to make sure those tools are sanctioned by IT, comply with industry regulations and governed properly.
A consolidated flow of information on usage is vital to administrators so they can make better business decisions about cloud usage. They need visibility into spending, with the ability to track costs by user, department or project, as well as a way to consolidate billing information from multiple cloud provider accounts.
Additionally, it’s also no longer practical to manage cloud without automation. Standard sets of processes and workflows can be built into your cloud infrastructures to ensure provisioning is done according to your business rules — automatically and quickly. This reduces risk and mistakes, improves speed to market and ensures that consistent policies govern the use of infrastructure resources.
Lastly, cloud environments need to integrate artificial intelligence and machine learning. This approach automates how organizations can adapt and apply business rules and policies, related to industry regulations for example, to their digital enterprises residing in the cloud. They’ll be able to rapidly create innovative business services. As a result, IT departments can access an ecosystem of products and services that can be readily deployed, but also dynamically managed to support their infrastructures and application workloads securely at scale in the cloud.
The right cloud management framework can reduce sprawl and allow organizations to meet objectives such as:
- Agility and responsiveness: Workloads can be moved between different cloud platforms, and resources such as virtual machines can be rapidly added, removed or modified as requirements change.
- Cost control and accountability: IT and business managers can identify who is using resources, where, and for what purpose, and build spending limits and approvals into cloud workflows.
- Transparency across business units: IT and business managers can get a better picture of technology usage across departments.
- Compliance, governance and security: Business rules, standards, data security requirements, industry regulations and more can be built into workflows so they are consistently enforced.
- Operational efficiency: Automated processes and workflows mean less manual intervention for provisioning workloads, setting up new environments and approving requests.
Sunnier days ahead
A successful cloud strategy requires new ways of thinking and a reevaluation of existing ways of doing business. The complexities and fast pace of today’s environment necessitate a more automated and disciplined approach, one which includes AI and machine learning. Companies need to move beyond old business models with siloed teams and systems to remove cloud sprawl and keep their businesses on track.
[i] “IDC FutureScape: Worldwide IT Industry 2017 Predictions”
[ii] “RightScale State of the Cloud Report 2018”
[iii] “Address ‘Cloud Sprawl’ Without Alienating the Business,” The Wall Street Journal online, June 10, 2014, http://deloitte.wsj.com/cio/2014/10/06/address-cloud-sprawl-without-alienating-the-business/