When you work with various cloud vendors, it usually creates a complex environment. Having a proper strategy in place is absolutely necessary to seamlessly manage your cloud environment. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.
Enterprises are rapidly adopting cloud computing without having a strategic plan in place. In many growing organizations, employees are turning to cloud technologies without even obtaining express permission from the company. And often, they deploy cloud computing services without involving the IT department. Such poor policy enforcement usually results in a chaotic situation that leads to misallocated expenses or worst, lost efficiency.
A 2014 CIO study indicates that enterprises have an average of 461 cloud apps running in their organizations, which is an estimated 10x more than the assessment of average IT teams. In fact, most of the SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) apps are being used outside the control of organizations’ IT teams. All these factors create a “cloud chaos” where employees overlook IT policies in order to find a viable solution to their problem.
A well-crafted IT plan is what enterprises require in order to properly integrate, manage and secure their cloud in today’s cloud enabled world. In fact, this lack of planning was one of the most talked-about topic in the 2015 Hybrid Cloud Summit.
Multi-Cloud Chaos and Shadow IT
As said, organizations often find themselves in multi-cloud environments without having a formal plan and strategy in place. The problem is more acute than we realize initially. Enterprises are fast adopting cloud computing because it is easy to deploy and has numerous advantages to offer. But what they fail to realize is that it also leads to shadow IT, which can pose numerous security threats.
Despite the identification of this problem, it is almost impossible to stop the expansion of shadow IT model as cloud adoption grows. Why? Because it works fairly well for many applications in almost all enterprises, even if not for all.
The risks associated with shadow IT heighten as Hybrid Cloud enters the scene. Organizations design their data security and compliance policies in such a way that their business data (including their own information and that of their suppliers and customers) is stored securely within a controlled environment. When users bring in a hybrid cloud workflow without formal IT approval, they usually violate security requirements of the organizations’ highly structured applications.
Many organizations are using hundreds of different SaaS applications, without comprehending the seriousness of the situation. How many SaaS applications do you use? Maybe Google Drive for business intelligence, Dropbox for file sharing, GoToMeeting for conference calls, Jira/Basecamp for project management, Oracle for managed cloud, Salesforce for CRM, and so on. The list is almost never-ending… and so are the security risks.
In most cases, organizations and employees fail to realize what they are getting into. In fact, many overlook the fact that as SaaS providers offer more applications and integrations, it increases the likelihood they are merging the organization's internal data with data from one or more of those applications. Most issues develop at this stage but usually come into light too late, after the application has been deployed. We have heard many horror stories caused by data merging, violating the organizations’ security and governance policies, and making them vulnerable to hacking and security threats.
It is therefore essential to have a proper strategy to manage your hybrid or multi-cloud environment.
Bringing Order to Cloud Chaos with a Formal Plan
There are certain factors to consider when you are trying to eliminate or at least control cloud chaos. The most important one is to have a formal plan in place. How would you manage your traditional data center project? Of course, you’d start with a detailed plan. Apply the same approach for your cloud environment – think how you’d like to acquire, manage and use different cloud services.
Auditing is the first step. Before you start with data management and monitoring cloud services, you have to identify the services your employees currently use. Test how secure they are; security should be the essence of your cloud plan. There must be close collaboration between your IT team and other departments. Set clear goals, something that you can quantify and achieve, when planning your cloud computing initiatives.
Also put emphasis on data integration. For this you will need a roadmap along with a comprehensive plan to identify the complexities and data integration risks. It might cause profound technical and organizational challenges but its importance can’t be stated enough. Everyone in the room must have an unambiguous understanding of what lies ahead. And for that you need to know what you already have. So, a better approach is to include blueprint information about your legacy architectures along with your target architecture when planning your hybrid cloud environment.
Map out the data that can move to the cloud and data that stays on-premises, based on your data security policy. Also, define the dependencies existing between these two groups.
Leveraging Management Tools
Sometimes having a formal plan is not enough. You need something more to ensure success in hybrid cloud implementation. Enter multi-cloud management tools. The right mix can help you monitor performance and cloud usage, and cut costs seamlessly across multiple environments.
If you are considering multi-cloud management tools, there are three families of tools available in the market – provider-native management tools, third-party API governance and cloud service tools, and cloud brokers, which are again third-party cloud management platforms. These cloud brokers help you source, compare, negotiate and procure cloud services. They can even handle your organization’s cloud integration, accounting and management responsibilities.
Regardless of the cloud management methods you are using, make sure you are choosing an integrated tool suite to help you automate cloud management across both public and private clouds. It is better to use platforms that eliminate the need to have vendor-specific interfaces. Look for a tool that allows for workload optimization, access controls based on workflows and roles, image provisioning, cloud usage metering and billing, etc.
Remember, no cloud management tool can eliminate all the complexities from your cloud environment if you fail to have a solid cloud strategy to support them.
The widespread growth of cloud technology has introduced us to some intense challenges. Although it seems like it, nothing is simple in the cloud. But having a solid plan in place, backed by analytics and effective tools can help. Cloud success, after all, is not just about sharing data and easy deployment, but how effectively and securely you can do it.