What Can You Do About Cloud Sprawl?

The proliferation of cloud services has helped many IT pros spin up capacity on demand. But one consequence of the growth of these services is cloud sprawl.

That was the conclusion of a study released earlier this month by global integrator Avanade. Based on a survey of 573 C-level execs, 60 percent were worried about cloud sprawl. Twenty percent said it's impossible to manage all of the cloud services today and 25 percent said they have no central system to track and identify the cloud services that are in their organizations.

"It's causing some growing pains," said Larry Beck, senior director of cloud strategy at Avanade. "As the public cloud services are getting faster and easier and cheaper to provision, in a lot of cases, it's outpacing IT's ability to manage and control those things."

Twenty-seven percent reported that their companies' cloud policies already prohibit the use of cloud services but people are using them anyway. Yet there's no real deterrent to using cloud services. Twenty-nine percent said there are no ramifications to violating that policy and an additional 48 percent said they give nothing more than a warning for violating the policy. And a quarter of the executives said they don't really have an open line of communication with the departments and the business unit leaders.

"This is creating a bit of a chasm between them," Beck said. "In some cases, it might be IT managers' biggest nightmare -- where there is a path, an unchecked and unmanaged path to procuring IT services around the IT department."

Beck offered some guidance for managing this cloud sprawl:

First you need to define and communicate a very clear cloud strategy and one that is user-centric. As the shape of the workforce changes and employees become tech-savvy, more people than ever are able -- and determined -- to accomplish their tasks with or without the help of IT.

Once IT has communicated a strategy, organizations need to go out into the lines of business and conduct an audit and look for all of the cloud services being used. "They need to have a clear message, which is to say, 'We will not, as a result of this effort, shut off any of the things you are doing. But we need to know what they are. We need to be able to inventory those things, be able to ensure that we're not violating any laws or any governance requirements that we have. And even if we find those things, we're not going to shut you down right away but we will at least make you aware of them.'"

Next, organizations need to create a roadmap. A migration path will be required and there will be some consolidation. Consider those that have a number of file-sharing technologies, perhaps departmental applications all the way up to things like CRM systems, BI solutions and others. "There will probably need to be an IT consolidation of those things, again staying very user-centric," Beck said. "And if it makes sense for groups to have different tools then maybe they should maintain that."

Once the roadmap has been created, it is necessary to communicate the strategy in a positive manner -- "being able to be the hero, frankly, as opposed to being the villain."

Finally, enforce the policies you've created. "You have to enforce them. Otherwise, you may as well not have the policy," Beck said. "But you also, we believe, need to be on a path of refining that policy on a regular basis," considering the rapid pace of changes to cloud technologies. Hence, according to Beck, these polices should be revisited more frequently than on an annual basis.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on June 30, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


Cloud May Bring Improvements, But Now What?

A vast majority of cloud specialists within organizations using or considering cloud services see their initiatives significantly impacting one or more business processes, yet they aren't prepared to deal with those changes.

According to a recent survey conducted by The Open Group, 82 percent said their cloud initiatives will bring about such improvements to their business process, but of those, 72 percent have no idea how to adapt to those improvements.

"Cloud computing is primarily a technical phenomenon, but it has the ability to transform business," said Chris Harding, The Open Group's director for interoperability and SOA, in a blog post.

"Its lower cost and increased agility and speed of operation can dramatically improve profitability of existing business processes," he noted. "More than this, and perhaps more importantly, it enables new ways of collaborative working and can support new processes. It is therefore not surprising that people do not yet feel fully prepared -- but it is interesting that the survey should bring this point out quite so clearly."

The survey was based on an online poll of cloud specialists within global organizations ranging in size from under 200 to over 5,000 employees, The Open Group said.

The largest proportion of respondents to the survey, 43 percent, said the cloud is on their roadmap, while an additional 24 percent have only begun implementing cloud services in the past 12 months. Only 8 percent said they have no plans to implement cloud services.

The preferred model of cloud computing was hybrid, according to 45 percent of those surveyed. Twenty-nine percent favored private clouds and only 17 percent public clouds. The rest were unsure.

Cost reduction (21 percent) was the largest reason companies are using the cloud, followed by the ability to be more agile in providing new services (20 percent). Resource optimization (17 percent) was another key factor.

Among the biggest concerns about cloud computing were security (18 percent), integration issues (15 percent), governance (14 percent), the ability to cope with change (11 percent) and vendor lock-in (9 percent).

A copy of the survey is available for download.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on June 30, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


Cloud Sherpas Targets Midwest with Beloit Acquisition

It looks like Google Apps reseller Cloud Sherpas is on an expansion binge. The company today announced its second acquisition this month, this time picking up Overland Park, Kan.-based Beloit Solutions Group for an undisclosed amount.

Atlanta-based Cloud Sherpas broadened its footprint earlier this month when it acquired Omnetic, based in San Francisco, giving the company a coveted West Coast presence. By acquiring Omnetic, Cloud Sherpas said it now has the largest concentration of Google Apps Certified Deployment Specialists outside of Google.

With offices in Austin, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., the acquisition of Beloit will increase that count of specialists and give Cloud Sherpas further penetration into the Midwest, where the company sees a large concentration of enterprises that are now Microsoft-centric.

"They've sold large accounts, which will be key for us as we target Microsoft enterprise customers in the Midwest," said Cloud Sherpas CEO Jon Hallet in a statement. "They also have deep technical skills and impressive business acumen, making them important long-term assets for Cloud Sherpas. We're excited to bring the entire Beloit team into the Cloud Sherpas fold, as we aim to work more closely with Google sales reps throughout the Midwest region."

Beloit's key customers include customers include Cosentino's Food Stores and the Midwest Air Traffic Control Systems.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on June 27, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


Verizon To Emphasize Terremark Cloud Services

Two months after closing its $1.4 billion acquisition of Terremark, Verizon Communications is talking up its plan to offer cloud services through the combined entity.

Perhaps most noteworthy is that Verizon has moved 40 of its datacenters over to the Terremark business unit. The new entity, called Terremark, a Verizon Company, now has roughly 50 datacenters throughout North America, Latin America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

The professional services groups that were working on helping customers secure their enterprises and migrate applications to the cloud were all moved over to Terremark. The security and risk compliance, managed and professional services are now part of the Terremark portfolio.

"We really feel we are in a great position," said Terremark President Kerry Bailey in an interview. "The market is moving in our direction to really help enterprises begin to migrate the right applications to this new IT delivery model."

Terremark had 1,100 employees; now it has several thousand, Bailey said, pointing to Terremark's strong and successful brand. "Terremark had a brand that was accepted in this cloud market, and in this new emerging area, our view was we've got an IT-centric brand, and we have Verizon, which is known for its world-class wireless and wire-line assets," he said. "That's how we will operate and we think it will be very complementary."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on June 23, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


Public Cloud Spending Forecast To Hit $72.9 Billion by 2015

Public cloud spending will reach $72.9 billion by 2015, up from last year's $21.5 billion, according to a report released by market researcher IDC this week.

That accounts for a compounded annual growth rate of 27.6 percent over the next four years, according to the new forecast.

Public cloud services will fuel other emerging technologies, such as mobile devices, wireless networks, big data analytics and social networking, said IDC senior VP and chief analyst Frank Gens in a statement.

"Together, these technologies are merging into the industry's third major platform for long-term growth," Gens noted. "As during the mainframe and PC eras, the new platform promises to radically expand the users and uses of information technology, leading to a wide and entirely new variety of intelligent industry solutions"

Spending for public cloud services is growing upwards of four times the rate of the overall global IT market combined, according to IDC. As such, IDC anticipates one of every $7 spent on packaged software, servers and storage by 2010 will be connected to public cloud computing, IDC said.

Among some other figures highlighted by IDC:

  • Public cloud services will account for 46 percent of new growth in IT spending across five product areas -- applications, application development and deployment, systems infrastructure software, storage and servers -- by 2015.

  • Approximately three-quarters of all spending on public cloud services will be spent on software-oriented offerings, while spending on servers and storage will largely come from Software as a Services (SaaS) providers.

  • Nearly 50 percent of public IT cloud services revenues will come from the United States in 2015.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on June 22, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


Dropbox Leaves Doors Unlocked

Dropbox warned customers of its cloud-based storage service that some accounts were exposed for several hours on Sunday. The accounts were accessible to anyone without the correct password.

The company said fewer than 1 percent of all accounts were exposed during a four-hour period. The exposure was the result of a code update to the software authentication mechanism of the service, in which a bug was introduced.

"This should never have happened," said Dropbox CTO Arash Ferdowsi in a blog post. "We are scrutinizing our controls and we will be implementing additional safeguards to prevent this from happening again."

The company is investigating whether accounts were improperly accessed, and account owners will be notified if there was unusual activity, Ferdowsi noted.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on June 22, 2011 at 11:58 AM5 comments


Federal CIO Vivek Kundra To Depart

The man who helped move the federal government to the cloud is moving on.

Vivek Kundra, the nation's first federal CIO, is taking a fellowship at Harvard University, where he will serve as a joint fellow at the Kennedy School and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, the White House announced today.

Not only was Kundra responsible for moving the federal government to the cloud, but he also oversaw a massive datacenter consolidation effort. Kundra instituted a "cloud-first" policy earlier this year, saying 25 percent of the government's IT budget would be devoted to the cloud.

Overall, his efforts saved the government $3 billion in IT expenditures, said Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew in a blog post.

"He has cracked down on wasteful IT spending, saved $3 billion in taxpayer dollars; moved the government to the cloud; strengthened the cyber security posture of the nation while making it more open, transparent and participatory," Lew wrote.

Kundra will depart in August. No replacement has been named at this point, though Lew promised a "smooth transition."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on June 16, 2011 at 11:58 AM1 comments


Intermedia Acquires Zlago

Microsoft Exchange hosting provider Intermedia on Tuesday said it has acquired Zlago, a provider of similar services as well as virtual servers and hosted desktops, for an undisclosed sum.

The move comes just weeks after New York-based Intermedia itself was acquired by private equity firm Oak Hill Partners. Zlago is based in Washington, D.C. but has a nationwide presence through a network of channel partners.

While Intermedia hosts 320,000 Exchange seats, the company is not revealing the number of seats hosted by Zlago.

In line with the acquisition, Zlago CEO Michael Gold is now president of Intermedia, reporting to its new CEO Phil Koen, who was a former CEO of Savvis. During an interview, Gold said Zlago will facilitate Intermedia's move to offering more virtualization services.

"Virtualization is a huge market opportunity," Gold said. "Virtualization is core to the cloud, so the services that Zlago offers to date and others will certainly be added."

Intermedia will transition Zlago customers and partners, Gold said. Among other things, the control panel used by Intermedia to administer all of its products and services will be made available to Zlago stakeholders, he noted. "Some services will move over faster than others," he said. "Obviously, Exchange customers would be easy to move over."

Among other things, the combined company offers hosted PBX, e-mail encryption and backup services.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on June 15, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


HP Bursts into Hybrid Clouds

Hewlett-Packard Co. is looking to let customers create hybrid cloud services that extend internal private clouds to public cloud services.

The company today announced what it describes as a "dual bursting" capability that will allow customers to add capacity from outside cloud providers when they have a spike in demand for capacity.

Bursting will be applied to CloudSystem, HP's turnkey appliance based on its converged BladeSystem server, storage and network-based hardware, loaded with the company's Cloud Service Automation (CSA) software. HP launched CloudSystem back in January.

"We are going to allow customers to dynamically provision and harness IT resources, bursting and grabbing them from an external service provider. Or, [if] there are security or compliance concerns, they will be able to burst internally, as well," said Steve Dietch, HP's VP of cloud solutions and infrastructure, speaking at a press conference at HP's Discover conference taking place this week in Las Vegas.

The first partner that HP's service will connect with is Savvis. It is in technical preview now and is slated for availability later this year, said Nick van der Zweep, HP's director of business strategy.

HP is recruiting other partners, including those in its CloudAgile program, also announced Tuesday. CloudAgile is a program intended to give partners access to HP's direct sales force and network of channel partners to create hybrid cloud deployments.

"We are going to incent our sales teams to collaborate to do the right thing for the customer, regardless of where that solution gets deployed from a hybrid perspective, whether it be on-premise or off-premise," Dietch said.

The first partners announced to the program include Verizon, NaviSite, OpSource, Datapipe, Axcient, SHI and Harris.

Also at its Discover conference Tuesday, HP released two new cloud security services: Vulnerability Scanning which, as the name implies, scans nodes within a customer's cloud infrastructure, and Vulnerability Intelligence, a service that provides alerts on new threats, providing the means to react to those threats.

HP says it has offered these services to its largest outsourcing customers for years but now is delivering them as a managed service.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on June 07, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


Cloud Sherpas Acquires Omnetic

Google Apps reseller Cloud Sherpas today said it has acquired Google solution provider Omnetic for an undisclosed sum.

By acquiring Omnetic, Cloud Sherpas says it will have the largest concentration of Google Apps Certified Deployment Specialists outside of Google. Cloud Sherpas says it has migrated 800,000 users to Google Apps, while Omnetic has moved 100,000.

The move by Atlanta-based Cloud Sherpas to acquire Omnetic will give it a West Coast presence, since Omnetic is based in San Francisco. Besides its Atlanta headquarters, Cloud Sherpas has offices in Austin, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

"The addition of Omnetic significantly enhances our presence on the West Coast," said Cloud Sherpas CEO Jon Hallett in a statement. "With an office and a highly trained staff in San Francisco, we can bolster relationships with regional clients and prospects, and with Google itself, which will be critical as Google introduces new products and programs for customers and partners."

Cloud Sherpas also pointed to Omnetic's customer base, which includes National Geographic, Dr. Martens, Design Within Reach, Mazda Raceway and the Schumacher Group.

In addition to providing integration services, Cloud Sherpas offers the SherpaTools IT admin tool for Google Apps, which the company said is installed on 16,000 domains accounting for 3 million users.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on June 02, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


RightScale Launches MultiCloud Marketplace

RightScale this week kicked off its MultiCloud Marketplace, aimed at providing a repository for buying and selling cloud management solutions.

The goal is to provide predefined cloud deployments, while offering the ability to customize them, the Santa Barbara, Calif.-based company said. Some of the solutions will be free, others available to RightScale subscribers and yet others for sale by partners. Enterprises can also create their own walled-off version of the marketplace to share their own pre-defined cloud deployments.

The marketplace is a clearing house for what RightScale calls ServerTemplates, which allow the server to dynamically configure itself to whatever role it's supposed to be in relation to other servers in the cloud. For example, you can have a Web server launch to absorb higher loads and it can automatically detect which load balancer it's supposed to be working with, which application server, which database and so on, explained RightScale CEO Michael Crandell.

"It's really a key part of automation," he told me. "It also makes launching more predictable and reliable because every time you launch that server, the same template is at work, and you only can change a few variables. You're not going to get different results on the fourth launch from the first one. So the reliability goes up and IT departments like it because the governance and control goes up because they know exactly what's running when a user runs a server."

The marketplace provides the ability for partners to offer their own solutions in the form of ServerTemplates. "The other thing that's new and unique in the cloud space is that these ServerTemplates, if you design them correctly, run across multiple cloud infrastructures, hence the name MultiCloud Marketplace," Crandell said. "That's very powerful because at the end of the day it returns freedom of choice back to the end user to choose which cloud infrastructure they want to use for their own reasons, at any given time."

Among the cloud providers RightScale supports are Amazon Web Services, Rackspace Hosting, Eucalyptus and Cloud.com. RightScale intends to support Microsoft's Windows Azure once a forthcoming release of its VM Role is made available.

Some partner ServerTemplates in the marketplace include IBM's DB2 database and WebSphere Web Server, and Zend has a collection of ServerTemplates that run a full PHP scalable Web site using Zend's PHP accelerator.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on June 01, 2011 at 11:58 AM0 comments


Is Office 365 Coming in June?

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said Office 365 will launch in June but company officials are not confirming that timing.

Office 365 is the successor to Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Services offering. It provides hosted Exchange, SharePoint and Lync along with integration to Office.

Until now, the company only would confirm that Office 365 would be available sometime this year but many have speculated it will come sooner than later. But Ballmer said in a speech last week that it will launch in June. Blogger Mary Jo Foley, who last week reported on the anticipated ship date prior to the Microsoft CEO's comments, noticed and tweeted Ballmer's comments Tuesday.

Ballmer disclosed the planned launch date in a speech given at the Confederation of Indian Industry Cloud Summit in New Delhi. Microsoft posted a transcript of his speech here.

"We're pushing hard in the productivity space," Ballmer said. "We'll launch our Office 365 cloud service, which gives you Lync and Exchange and SharePoint and Office and more as a subscribable service that comes from the cloud. That launches in the month of June."

A company spokeswoman said she is aware of Ballmer's comments but the company's official ship date remains "sometime this year." Of course, Microsoft often holds launch events in advance of the shipment of a product, so it's hard to say that Ballmer's launch date would equate to a release.

Microsoft released the open beta of Office 365 in April and, so far, reaction has been positive. Testers have indicated that for a beta, it appeared pretty clean.

"I would say 99.9 percent seems like it's ready to go," said Chad Mosman, principal consultant with MessageOps and an Office 365 MVP. "There are minor things that don't seem to work, and I'll be the first to admit it might not be working because maybe I'm not doing something right. It seems pretty functional."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on May 31, 2011 at 11:58 AM2 comments


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