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Cloud Service Reins In Shadow IT

Netskope aims to help companies control rogue use of cloud applications by employees.

IT executives contending with cloud application sprawl have a new tool to help them get a handle on things.

Netskope emerged from a year of “stealth mode” this week, introducing its own cloud-based service designed to give companies deep analytics about the cloud applications their employees are using, and thus enable them to better guide that usage. It also revealed two big name customers --Vegas.com and Universal Music Group --and released a ranking of the most enterprise-ready cloud apps.

The goal of Netskope’s service, CEO Sanjay Beri said in a phone interview, isn’t to snuff out rogue use of the cloud by business units and individual employees, but rather to help rein it in just a bit. Beri said CIOs have been at a loss as to how to handle the proliferation of cloud apps being used outside of their purview, and Netskope offers a simple piece of advice.

“Let them go shadow IT because it enables them,” said Beri, “but make sure they’re doing it in a safe way.”

At the heart of Netskope’s service is a database of more than 2,600 cloud apps, all of which have been analyzed by the company’s research team and assigned scores intended to indicate enterprise readiness in seven areas, including identity and access control, certifications and compliance, and encryption.

That analysis was the focus of Netskope’s year-long stealth mode, during which the company “learned a hell of a lot about cloud applications,” Beri said.

With its launch, Netskope released its first quarterly cloud report. The report essentially summarizes the current vendor rankings in its database, which it calls the Cloud Computing Index. In its first rankings, Salesforce.com topped the list, followed by Box, CrashPlan, Amazon Web Services and Easy Vista. Workday, Syncplicity, EVault, Zoho and NetSuite rounded out the top 10.

[Read how it's time to change the old enterprise security focus on restricting end-user activity in "Information Security Strategy: Stop Punishing End Users."]

The report doesn’t name the lower-ranked vendors, but it does indicate that the top-scoring app categories were ERP, document management and security, while the poorest performers were in software development, marketing and productivity. The key differentiating features between the highest- and lowest-ranked apps? Top apps ranked much stronger in the areas of audit logging, granular role-based policies and separation of customers’ data.

Netskope’s report also identifies areas where cloud apps excel, as well as areas in which they’re lagging. For instance, 87% of cloud apps offer disaster recovery and business continuity functions, and 85% backup data to a separate location. Conversely, just 24% provide encryption key management, and 29% offer data classification function.

By providing that kind of information--as well as details about how employees are using apps, and how those apps are performing--Netskope hopes to help its customers make better decisions on what to allow.

Most importantly, said Beri, “We want them to say yes to the cloud.”

Netskope brings together a lot of industry experience, with a number of longtime networking and information security veterans among its executive ranks: Beri is a former VP at Juniper Networks; Ravi Ithal, the company’s chief architect, worked at Palo Alto Networks, Juniper and Cisco Systems; Krishna Narayanaswamy, chief scientist, is a former distinguished engineer at Juniper Networks; and Rajneesh Chopra, Netskope’s VP of product management, worked at both Juniper and Cisco.

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