IT worried over unmanaged 'cloud sprawl'

Rise of easily-deployable public cloud services causing grief for tech administrators who find it "impossible" to manage disparate cloud services within company, new survey finds.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor on

The rapid rise and ease of adoption of public cloud services is creating concern for businesses where 60 percent of IT executives cited worries about cloud sprawl within their organization, according to a new global survey released Thursday.

In addition, one in five said it was "impossible" to manage the disparate cloud services, revealed the survey which was commissioned by Avanade.

The business technology solutions provider noted that with the barrier to entry for many cloud capabilities continuously lowering, public cloud services are becoming faster, easier and cheaper to provision.

Some of these services are "so easy to use" that they are outpacing the IT department's ability to manage and control such services, resulting in a "cloud sprawl" or unmanaged spread of public cloud services inside the enterprise, Craig Dower, president of Avanade Asia-Pacific, explained in the report.

"As is true with many forms of technology innovation, consumer technology has a way of secretly creeping into the enterprise and leaving IT in the dark. Today, public cloud services are no different," Dower pointed out.

Conducted by Kelton Research between March and April 2011, the survey polled 573 C-level executives, IT decision makers and business unit leaders from companies in 18 countries across North America, South America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. Within Asia, respondents from Singapore, Japan and Australia were surveyed.

According to the report, 35 percent of Japan-based respondents said it was impossible to manage the disparate cloud services within their organization, followed by 30 percent in Singapore and 26 percent in Australia.

Japan was also the most worried, among the three Asian economies, about cloud sprawl with 80 percent indicating such concerns compared to the global average of 60 percent. Some 73 percent of Australian companies and 60 percent of Singapore-based respondents had similar concerns.

IT bypassed in cloud adoption
The report found that one in four, or about 27 percent of Singapore respondents "personally purchased" a cloud service without the knowledge of their IT department. Globally, one in five or 20 percent of respondents bypassed IT to provision cloud services.

And while about 60 percent of companies worldwide had implemented corporate policies prohibiting such actions, only one third of companies in Singapore had similar guidelines, the survey added.

According to Avanade, the findings could be attributed to the general lack of "real deterrents for purchasing cloud services by stealth". It further noted that 47 percent of Singapore-based executives said there were "no ramifications whatsoever" to discourage stealth implementation of cloud services, while 33 percent deemed any notification as "little more than a warning".

Globally, 29 percent of companies said there were no ramifications for personal purchases of cloud services while 48 percent regarded the company policies as merely a warning.

The survey also revealed a "communication chasm" across the globe between users and their IT department, with one quarter of executives saying they did not have open communication with the department or business unit leaders that might be provisioning their own cloud services.

Elaborating on this, Dower noted that beyond policies, managing cloud sprawl within the company requires "real cooperation" and dialogue between IT and business.

He added that it is important for companies to define a user-centric cloud strategy which can meet the needs of the user as well as ensure the security of the company's data.

"[It will then be] much easier to have open dialogue in discovering what cloud services are already being used, where the gaps are, and what new technologies the company should leverage to drive business value," he said in the report.

Additionally, companies should conduct a "cloud audit" for IT to collect and survey information on where cloud is being used in the enterprise and identify potential governance gaps.

Cloud computing maturing
According to the report, 74 percent of enterprises globally are using some form of cloud services, a 25 percent increase since 2009. Avanade also noted that cloud computing has reached its "first milestone as a mature technology", attributing this to three indications this year. First, companies are increasing investments to secure, manage and support cloud. It found that 64 percent of companies were investing in training new and current employees to increase expertise in cloud technologies.

Second, there is growing adoption and preference for private clouds, particularly where critical, differentiating internal operations and customer services were concerned. Some 43 percent of companies globally had already deployed private cloud service, while 63 percent planned to do so in the future, the survey revealed.

Last, businesses are starting to see cloud as a revenue-generating service. Avanade said companies were moving beyond internal employee-facing cloud services to use them with external customers, with the mandate to use cloud computing to deliver new products and services to customers coming from the C-suite. It found that more than one in five C-level executives said cloud computing would increase revenues.

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