By now, you’d be hard-pressed to find an organization that isn’t leveraging the cloud in some capacity as part of its corporate infrastructure. It’s become about more than access and productivity – cloud solutions have become the linchpin enabling a range of mission-critical enterprise activities to take place.
However, this technology hasn’t come without its share of headaches. As use of the cloud continues its pace of expansion – the global cloud service market is on track to reach about $555 billion by 2020, with an expected compound annual growth rate of more than 17 percent – problems are beginning to emerge, particularly when it comes to cloud sprawl.
This issue is becoming more common in the enterprise community, especially as companies continue to migrate resources from on-premises environments to cloud-based platforms. But what exactly is cloud sprawl, and how can decision-makers determine if it’s impacting their organization?
“Cloud sprawl involves the uncontrolled and unmanaged use of cloud services.”
According to TechTarget, cloud sprawl involves the uncontrolled and unmanaged use of cloud services. However, despite some similarities, this isn’t the same as shadow IT.
“Similar to server sprawl or virtual machine sprawl, cloud sprawl usually begins when an organization fails to adequately monitor and manage individual cloud instances,” TechTarget contributors Margaret Rouse and Stephen Bigelow wrote. “Cloud sprawl can also refer to the proliferation of Software as a Service (SaaS) instances … or any other online service for which an organization creates and pays for new user accounts, but doesn’t actually use them.”
There are a number of problematic factors at play with cloud sprawl, including management of resources and data as well as cost.
For instance, cloud sprawl can contribute to inconsistent and unorganized data throughout a business if different departments are utilizing different cloud or SaaS services to perform the same actions. Data might have been updated within one platform but not another, which can create considerable confusion and loss of productivity.
Research released in 2014 from Avanade supports this. A survey of 750 IT administrators operating in nine countries found that cloud sprawl is to blame for considerable inefficiencies. Overall, 61 percent of companies identified cloud sprawl as a main cause of ineffective processes, TechRadar reported.
However, one of the biggest issues with cloud sprawl is the potential for monetary loss. This is especially relevant with SaaS and public cloud services that are paid for on a monthly basis. If these are not being put to good use, it’s tantamount to throwing money away.
“[T]he proliferation of unneeded cloud instances can be costly for an enterprise,” Rouse and Bigelow pointed out.
While shadow IT and cloud sprawl are different, research shows that these issues are definitely related. Shadow IT practices can considerably contribute to cloud sprawl, particularly when employees sign up or utilize online services not previously approved for use by the IT department.
Cisco’s Stephen Speirs found that there is more unauthorized use of cloud services than many enterprise leaders realize. Overall, Cisco Services Analysis found that only 20 percent of the cloud service providers used within a company are authorized. The remaining 80 percent are unauthorized platforms that fall under the shadow IT umbrella – and are making the issue of cloud sprawl that much worse.
“This explosion in unregulated, ungoverned cloud usage, as a consequence of the ‘shadow IT’ problem, is no surprise,” Speirs wrote. “It’s not a surprise to us when a company knows about 10-20 cloud providers in actual use – only to find via the Cisco Cloud Consumption Service that in reality their employees are utilizing in excess of 200 cloud service providers – most of which are unknown to the central IT organization. This has been dubbed as ‘cloud sprawl’ ungoverned, unregulated cloud usage.”
Thankfully, there are a few strategies and solutions enterprises can employ to prevent cloud sprawl and regain control of all of their IT assets. One of the best approaches here is to have the right tools in place to ensure proper management of these platforms is possible.
Currently, HP Enterprise is a leader in this arena, offering helpful solutions to aid in the fight against both shadow IT and cloud sprawl.
HP Enterprise recently introduced HPE Helion Managed Cloud Broker, a service that enables organizations to consolidate and better control the provisioning and access to cloud services. With Cloud Broker in place, IT leaders can gain the visibility they need to manage traditional IT assets as well as public and private cloud instances.
“HPE’s unique managed services-driven approach unifies all enterprise cloud resources together, giving our clients a single view of their IT activities and helps businesses accelerate innovation in an orchestrated, secure and cost-effective manner,” said Marshal Correia, vice president and general manager, Enterprise Services, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise India.
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