U.K.-based international managed service provider Logicalis, which has highlighted the problem, calls it "crowd sprawl." Seduced by easy-to-purchase and quick-to-install cloud applications, individual teams and business divisions are finding and deploying their own cloud solutions as a workaround to everyday challenges.
CIOs don't have to look far to see the effects of the movement, which also has been dubbed bring-your-own-cloud (BYOC). Employees are tapping into free Google Drive space, free Dropbox space, and free Box.com space -- giving themselves more than enough online room to store confidential customer sales and other mission-critical data outside the company firewall and outside of IT's control.
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Inexpensive cloud applications that don't require corporate approval are walking through the door unchecked as well -- from CRM to email to marketing automation. As the situation develops, poorly managed end-user cloud purchases and deployments make for fragmented, redundant, unmanaged and inefficient cloud-based outsourcing decisions with little or no input from IT.
The root of the problem is underuse of internal servers, says Logicalis. As Windows became widely adopted and developers created applications specifically for the Windows OS, an explosive number of physical servers were needed to run individual applications on a 1:1 basis. The addition of X86 servers for application development, testing and QA, all running at low utilization, resulted in a physical server sprawl that demanded lots of racks, power, cooling and, in general, was an environment that became costly and difficult to manage.
Virtualization offered a one-to-many solution that over time resulted in fewer racks, less power consumption, lower cooling requirements, less floor space in the data center and a much easier-to-manage ROI.
Yet use of virtual environments is still hovering at under 20% today, because virtual servers allocated to temporary departmental projects are rarely reclaimed and reallocated when the projects are completed, according to Logicalis. As a result, substantial server space remains underused. Without the right management tools and processes in place, this problem goes unrecognized by even the most experienced data center managers, the company said.
This leads IT professionals to mistakenly believe they are out of space and to deny new departmental IT requests. Departments are forced to find their own solutions, often leading them to adopt easily accessible public cloud offerings. "We've managed to move from physical to virtual, which introduced virtual sprawl, and now from virtual to cloud," said Kevin Gruneisen, senior director for cloud and data center solutions at Logicalis. "But without proper management and strategies in place, moving to the cloud in an unchecked manner will result in cloud sprawl and a less relevant IT organization overall."
To avoid cloud sprawl and its inherent dangers and costs, CIOs must strategically plan and manage their cloud environments. CIOs should take four critical steps to help mitigate the looming IT crisis, says Logicalis:
1. Develop a strategy. Without proper planning, the cloud will become nothing more than an extension of the problems it is being employed to overcome.
2. Create a customized cloud solution. Whether it is public, private or hybrid, the cloud should be tailored to the company's specific business needs, because the cloud is not a one-size-fits-all opportunity.
3. Determine where cloud solutions will reside. Also decide how they will be operated, to help control the otherwise unmanaged expansion of cloud resources.
4. Assign a manager. Someone must manage the cloud that's been created to avoid the out-of-control clutter that once existed in unchecked physical data centers as well as the spiraling costs associated with that.
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