Moving Beyond Cloud Sprawl: Decoding the Problem

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As we all are aware, cloud technology offers improved mobility, easier adoption, and flexible cost for as-a-Service business requirements of—platform, software, or infrastructure. With numerous organizations repeatedly witnessing the benefits of the cloud, its implementation is majorly driven by the constant development around 3 sectors, namely, networking, storage, and usability.

However, the ease of usage and adoption has resulted in cloud sprawls, led by a lack of visibility and management over the cloud computing resources. Cloud sprawl occurs when there is an unrestrained increase in cloud instances, services, or providers. It usually takes place when a business fails to manage and monitor individual cloud instances. For example, developers launch new workloads on Google Cloud or install a private cloud to beta test a new software version, but later neglect to delete the workload when it’s no longer required. Businesses incur enormous costs for public cloud computing, and the spike in unnecessary instances is proving to be costly for the enterprises. According to Gartner, through 2020, 80% of organizations will overshoot their cloud IaaS budgets due to a lack of cost optimization approaches.

HOW DOES CLOUD SPRAWL OCCUR?

Ease of Adoption and Deployment

The ease of the cloud is too appealing to ignore, and every organization today uses some form of cloud service. It has a low upfront cost and comes with low risk, which is why it is easier to rationalize the buy. As a result, various departments within an organization are downloading several cloud services multiple times, even when they are not necessary. It is estimated that each organization today uses 16 different SaaS applications daily as they are easy to deploy and consume.

Poor Visibility and Control

Scalability and flexibility are the two main reasons why organizations have adopted cloud. Scalability can move from an asset to a challenge if the costs of cloud services mount.

It’s difficult to monitor and manage every cloud instance when they are dispersed in every corner of the organization. IT teams need to adopt proactive monitoring tools to supervise the services used and deployed. Most development teams in IT organizations work in silos making it extremely difficult for an IT team to manage each brought in service. Shadow IT can be very risky when a department purchases cloud software without prior intimation to the IT team.

A recent study by Gartner on “How to Develop a Business Case for the Adoption of Public Cloud IaaS” discussed the topic: Is public cloud cheaper than running your own data center? The research states that cloud services can initially be more expensive than running on-premises data centers. However, cloud services can become cost-effective if organizations acquire the skill to use and operate them efficiently.

According to the report, a proposed workload migration of 2,500 virtual machines from an on-premises data center to the AWS EC2 would only start showing cost benefits over a period of time. The study charts the estimated on-premise and cloud costs over three years, and maps a steady decline in the infrastructure expenditure (from $ 400,000 to less than $ 200,000) due to the more efficient use of cloud solutions.

Once a business is aware of cloud sprawl, it needs to develop a specific measure to reduce the sprawl and even prepare a framework to stop such costly mistakes.

HOW TO CONTROL CLOUD SPRAWL?

Accountability for Decisions

Organizations usually push IT departments to manage cloud accountability. However, the process may be hindered as managing each cloud service across providers is strenuous for a single department. The organization’s leaders must hold all the employees accountable to control their cloud spend. Managers and team leaders (having access to cloud services) from each department need to follow procurement policies and budgets. These policies create processes for approvals before downloading cloud solutions and establish a clear role those team leaders and IT play in the cycle.

In cloud strategy and policies, businesses should enact a governance structure for provisioning and consuming cloud services based on the roles within the business. Role-based access control policies assist in developing a precise measure to curtail new services for the cloud procured. Identity and Access Management (IAM) should be implemented in places based on roles for applications and services.

 Following are the cloud policies forming the fundamental part to control cloud sprawl,

1. Implementing controls for automatic shutdown and de-provisioning of workloads after a specific time of non-usage.

2. BYOD policies govern how devices are used to access applications and other cloud services.

3. Policies for remote workers using VPN to access SaaS solutions.

Visibility in Monitoring

As accountability and policies are set up, organizations need to control their cloud spend. Before your organization can adequately track the overall cloud consumption, you must be able to see the location of your cloud solutions. Making stakeholders in cloud services responsible for the metrics needs visibility and the know-how of how these metrics will be collected and measured. Businesses use multiple cloud providers for different services, and monitoring each one of them using a single tool is currently not possible. Companies use numerous solutions such as CA UIM (Unified Infrastructure Management), Amazon CloudWatch, New Relic, and CloudMonix.

Constant monitoring of services is a significant key to curb cloud sprawl. These services include:

1. Applications

2. Computing

3. Storage

4. VM Instances

5. Security

6. All Other Infrastructure Components in an Enterprise Network

Regular auditing of the cloud will ensure that any proposed cloud changes are in-line with the businesses’ overarching security policies, compliance, and user needs. Auditing is a sequential process that involves identifying potential risks, accounting for updated security requirements and policies, locating vulnerabilities, evaluating controls, and building a risk assessment plan to address all such factors.

Define and Communicate Cloud Strategy

Cloud sprawl occurs when your business lacks a defined strategy for the cloud. Before your business addresses the question of cloud adoption, it is imperative to review your cloud strategy. A company must create an implementation plan and communicate the complete cloud adoption strategy and the agenda of policies to all stakeholders involved.

Having a role-based approach will assist in implementing a defined strategy for each department and bringing a higher level of integration based on cloud usage. It will help to establish accurate expectations upfront, ultimately leading to a seamless implementation process.

Building constructive communication across departments about the cloud will need a defined step-by-step process as outlined below:

1. CISOs must explain the elements of risk-based granular security policies/enforcements to business managers to define how business processes should and shouldn’t work.

2. CFOs and IT departments should have ongoing communication about protocols for funding that clearly defines mission-critical investments from executives supporting innovation and growth.

3. Managers and team leaders should be thoroughly involved in defining the cloud strategy. It provides them clear communication on defined policies and protocols, which must be intimated to the employees in writing.

TO SUM UP

Cloud is undeniably a solution for organizations that lack cloud policies and a monitoring mechanism by different departments. However, initially, when the business is beginning to shift its infrastructure, data, and application on the cloud, sprawl is bound to occur. It would invariably result in higher costs than on-premise solutions. But over time, as optimization and governance are implemented, the costs will reduce, bringing efficiency in the service. Strategizing cloud implementation will bring clarity to the steps used to manage your cloud spend, which is indispensable when it comes to reducing costs.

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