The Dangers of Unmanaged Clouds

Cloud computing is becoming pervasive, and IT needs to take control now or risk exposing enterprises to threats and loss of data control. The unchecked spread of unmanaged clouds is a recipe for disaster.

April 4, 2012

3 Min Read
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Cloud computing is taking the business world by storm, despite the efforts of those looking to enforce data governance controls and maintain the integrity of IT operations. In many cases, shifting processes, applications and data to the cloud can be a smart business move. However, without due diligence and proper planning, businesses could be opening themselves to previously unforeseen threats.

Nevertheless, the seduction of cloud services proves to be something far too difficult to resist for business units seeking agility and speed, especially when internal IT balks at meeting the apparent needs of a business unit. The contention between internal IT and business units has led to an explosion of unmanaged clouds, which reach across corporate departments and outside of the view of internal IT--a situation that can be summed up as a recipe for disaster.

A recent survey by Forester Research, sponsored by BMC, highlights how pervasive the problem of unmanaged clouds has become. Forester polled 327 enterprise infrastructure executives and architects in the United States, Europe and Asia Pacific, and discovered some unsettling trends. Forester’s key findings include:

*58% of respondents run mission-critical workloads in unmanaged public clouds, regardless of policy.

*In the next two years, 79% plan to run mission-critical workloads on unmanaged cloud services.

*Nearly three out of four respondents, 71%, thought that IT should be responsible for public cloud services.

*72% of CIOs believe that the business sees cloud computing as a way to circumvent IT.

Brian Singer says his company commissioned the survey in an effort to confirm what BMC was hearing anecdotally from customers. "Cloud and software as a service (SaaS) are in enterprises in a big way," he notes, "and we wanted to see how IT was dealing with them."The survey indicates that IT is losing control of the situation and becoming less relevant to business operations, at least as far as the cloud is concerned. Simply put, if a business unit can get what it needs from a cloud services provider, it will most likely circumvent IT and IT policies to gain access to what is viewed as mission critical computing services.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for internal IT departments: 81% of respondents said that a comprehensive cloud strategy is a high priority for the next year. Nonetheless, the question remains: Will internal IT manage that cloud strategy, or will it be supplanted by a different corporate entity? "This is a wake-up call," Singer says. "They know that this is going on and they understand that cloud is a way to go around monolithic IT."

Traditionally, cost has been a major driver in the C-suite, yet the cloud is even shifting perceptions there as well; survey respondents placed a much lower priority on cost and escalated the importance of higher availability, faster delivery of services, more agility, and options and flexibility.

While the research indicates that traditional IT may have a rough time combating cloud adoption, there is still hope for IT to remain relevant to the business units supported. The researchers recommend that IT takes a three-pronged approach to getting a handle on cloud implications:

*Build trust with the users and create a better user experience: Have an honest conversation about needs of the business, incorporate business requirements into a cloud strategy, and demonstrate progress toward them.

*Shift from unmanaged to managed public cloud services: Many cloud vendors allow IT operations to monitor and manage services. This will help mitigate the risk and complexity that unmanaged clouds now introduce.

*Develop ways to provision and operate internal services so that users get experiences similar to those they get from outside. This requires more automation to rapidly deploy solutions.

It is imperative that IT gets control of cloud services and overcomes the perception that the cloud is a way to subvert monolithic IT. Much like the dinosaurs, IT will have to evolve or perish, at least when it comes to the cloud.

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