Cloud computing is now the preferred option for many enterprises, which is not surprising given the huge benefits it can deliver. A fifth of total IT budget spend is now directed towards cloud and more than two thirds of organizations are predicted to have a multi-cloud set-up by 2019.
While this bodes well for cloud providers, for organizations, after the initial adoption sprint, this is the point at which they may start to see "cracks" appearing. Whether an outage, poor performance of apps not built for cloud, cloud-sprawl, or different levels of service from vendors with individual SLAs -- a cloud environment has many moving parts to track. This has made the jobs of those in IT far harder. Today, we are moving past the initial choice of whether to adopt cloud or not, and moving into the realm of how to optimize cloud.
Companies need to be more aware of the responsibilities of being 'cloud-first'. (Image: Alex Kotliarskyi, Unsplash)
Balancing the freedom of cloud with security
Cloud optimization is not an easy feat for many enterprises -- it means achieving less cloud expenditure and better cloud performance, whilst guaranteeing a secure IT environment is preserved. Take, for example, the readiness of today's workers to "go rogue" when it comes to cloud. Though most just want to use the cloud services they prefer -- the ease with which applications can be downloaded and paid for means unmanaged proliferation of potentially risky services is a worry.
Furthermore, by using multiple clouds, each supported with their own SLA, many organizations have unwittingly surrendered control over their infrastructure. Cloud sprawl, dangerous applications allowing malware to roam the network, and documents in an unsecure public service are just a few of the risks of unrestrained cloud growth. These factors have an impact on ongoing costs, but also can affect the security of organizations' data. Organizations need to be able to find the right balance between enabling the workforce whilst ensuring costs and data security are controlled.
Understand and plug the gaps
To fight these problems and guarantee their cloud is running at maximum efficiency, CIOs must be able to constantly monitor their entire cloud infrastructure. Deep, real-time visibility into what software and applications are in place is essential. To accomplish this depth of understanding, organizations need an overarching layer of control that can deliver this intelligence to a central location. For most organizations, this will require skills and resources that they don't have in-house; it's hardly surprising that IDC expects the cloud services market to grow to $62.8bn in 2021 (a CAGR of 18%).
Once the CIO has this view, they can make better decisions to optimize their cloud environment; for example, controlling cloud procurement by closing loopholes in governance. This could take the form of an accepted application whitelist -- so the likelihood of downloading malware or viruses is reduced when employees buy a new application. With organisation-wide intel into how cloud is being used, CIOs can consolidate applications and create savings by guaranteeing cloud services are obtained centrally. This is particularly important to minimise the often unplanned spend that cloud can result in.
Data centers like this one host huge amounts of sensitive user data. (Image: ImgIX, Unsplash)
Preparing for the future without unexpected costs
When speaking of unexpected cloud spend, one of the largest factors is how rapidly consumption can spiral, leading to a surprisingly large bill from a vendor. Given this, a vital area of cloud optimization is being able to proactively manage and predict cloud consumption -- once again, this demands real-time visibility across the whole infrastructure. Forecasting costs and reducing the chances of an unexpected bill is significant, because CIOs usually have to allocate fixed budgets on a yearly or quarterly basis. Being able to precisely forecast expenses up-front helps to validate planned spend on infrastructure.
Ultimately, whilst the ease with which cloud can be adopted is an advantage, management of it shouldn't halt at adoption. While in the on-premise world, it was easier for organizations to keep track of the software being used, where, and by whom, cloud has turned this on its head. Organised, measured purchasing, and comprehensive management and reporting, will help CIOs to guarantee their cloud journey is one that brings real value back to the business. The nature of cloud means surrendering control can be all-too-easily done. For CIOs to get the greatest value from cloud, it is time to optimize.
— Richard Best, General Manager, Comparex UK