Channeling the Cloud

5 Ways Microsoft Partners Can Block Cloud Sprawl

For a growing number of executives, the nightmare of "cloud sprawl" is quickly becoming a reality. Here's how to guide them through it.

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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 recent report 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 today.

"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 say there are no ramifications to violating that policy and an additional 48 percent say they give nothing more than a warning for violating the policy. And a quarter of the executives are saying 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, and this is certainly a service partners can offer to their clients:

  1. First you need to help your client define and communicate a very clear and user-centric cloud strategy. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Next, 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 customer relationship management systems, business intelligence solutions and others.

  4. Once the roadmap has been created, it's necessary to communicate the strategy in a positive manner. As Beck described it: "Being able to be the hero, frankly, as opposed to being the villain."

  5. Finally, set up a means of enforcing these new policies. "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 changes to cloud technologies.

Hence, according to Beck, these polices should be revisited more frequently than on an annual basis.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.