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December 6, 2019

We Need to Talk About Cloud Sprawl

"Ensuring timely termination of cloud instances isn’t merely crucial to cost-effectiveness..."

By CBR Staff Writer

Cloud computing is booming. As revealed by IDG, 90 percent of organisations worldwide will have some aspect of their business operations running on the cloud this year, with the rest expected to catch up by 2021, writes Kevin J Smith, Senior VP at Ivanti.

Interestingly, experts have found that the UK is leading the way in this regard. In a recent report which sorts businesses into four categories based on their cloud adoption rate, Infosys classifies British companies as “Torchbearers” – the most advanced.

There’s no questioning the significant benefits of agility, collaboration and productivity when it comes to cloud computing, and the ability to spin up new cloud environments whenever needed is invaluable. Unfortunately, there can be too much of a good thing.

Kevin J Smith, Senior VP at Ivanti

Gartner observed that less than 30 percent of organisations have a documented cloud computing strategy which is a clear indicator that  organisations are splashing the cash on cloud applications without a clear plan to realise ROI. This consequently then leads to the costs and risks associated with cloud sprawl. With cloud computing so crucially functional to digital transformation, what can companies do to better manage their cloud investment and see tangible business outcomes?

Knowledge is Power

Let’s start with the basics – assessing precisely what the business need is for cloud. In order to effectively plan for cloud spend, organisations need to have clear insight into how its teams are using cloud services, what cloud capacity is needed to continue doing great work, which cloud instances are being used profitably and which are superfluous. A great tool that can help shed light on current cloud use is an IT Service Management (ITSM) solution – this is a precious ally which can be leveraged to capture and track all cloud instance requests. As a result, organisations should be able to keep a detailed inventory, with each cloud environment’s relevant attributes, and maintain it in such a way the landscape profile is constantly updated. These practices may seem tedious but they are the first steps on the journey to better cloud landscape management.

Chain of Command

No one likes to be the bad guy and say no – however, unrestricted applications are a real money burner. Ensuring IT budgets are being wisely spent means screening requests for cloud environments and sometimes rejecting them. Each new cloud application or platform should undergo a strict approval process. Requests should feature a short business case elaborating on why that particular cloud instance is required, how much it will cost and how it will benefit the business. Leverage identity management tools for access controls and privilege management, including what configurations can be authorised to whom and for how long. Speaking of authority and approvals, a business’s cloud landscape should have an owner in charge of managing cloud environments across their entire lifecycle. It could be an individual, or a group – for instance, a Cloud Approval Board. In general, IT leaders should take ownership of these processes as their skills and experience enable them to establish how, for example, a cloud solution can help the company meet one of its business objectives.

Perfect Timing

As teams continue to create, innovate and ideate, they will inevitably spin up cloud instances for short-term projects and, sometimes, these can be forgotten and left running once the work is completed with the cash register ringing along with them. That’s why establishing preset end dates on all applications is crucial to efficient cloud resource administration.  Businesses can simplify this process by deploying an automated solution which can independently enforce end dates based on policies and rights. This is not only functional to containing cloud spend, but also to ensure cloud-related activities don’t bypass stakeholders, who in this way can view relevant dashboards and have an overview of all cloud resources whilst running, and not just at the end of the billing cycle. Combining automation with identity management tools can also help ensure cloud-based apps are not running long after the employee who was utilising them has left the business or switched units – making those applications irrelevant. Ensuring timely termination of cloud instances isn’t merely crucial to cost-effectiveness, it also has a security aspect: automating application control upon staff offboarding serves to prevent security breaches or data thefts which may be caused by unmanaged ‘rogue’ applications or unauthorised access.

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The phenomenon of cloud sprawl is not showing signs of slowing down as experts predict global cloud waste will hit over $14 billion this year. It’s time for businesses to improve governance of cloud computing and make sure the resources they invest in fit in with their wider business plan. By forecasting cloud computing needs and erasing redundant cloud costs, companies can preserve budget for new emerging strategic and innovative tasks.

See also: Lessons from the Guardian’s “All-In” Migration to AWS

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