But with greater power, comes greater management complexity – Richard Morrell, Cloud evangelist and architect at Red Hat

the new dawn of computing

We’ve moved into a brave new dawn of computing power. The agile, dynamic and ever growing nature of Cloud services from a myriad of sources has enabled us to harness capabilities that we could only have dreamed of ten years ago. The ability we have now to spin up compute power, would traditionally have meant either the acquisition of a huge amount of unaffordable servers, or servers we couldn’t justify owning or leasing to satisfy the needs of a department or short term business requirement. How this feels like a distant memory now.

Gone are the days of trying to second guess the annual or long term storage requirements for non sensitive data. No longer do we need to work out how much rack space is going to be needed and how to service that need from a property and physical management perspective.

Now we can go to the Cloud in its most native sense for almost every aspect of outsourced IT. From Salesforce.com to Amazon, Microsoft Azure and OpenShift to services from Verizon, Rackspace and many others, we have the simplicity and promise of lightning fast connectivity and always on capability. We are truly now the masters of a brave new world able to deliver services and solutions to match the growing expectations of both our internal customers, our users, and our customers. We can now provide an agile world that offers mobile capability and even more dynamic user experience, that some might even say is turning into a necessary service for many of our customers in this competitive world of always on computing.

Cloud Sprawl

The emergence of associated “cloudy” services, the ease, simplicity and necessity of these to be part of business as usual Cloud computing across CRM, Storage, ERP and to bare the resources required in the Cloud have meant that organisations offer many services located in disparate platforms. Thus  leading to greater complexity. To turn a blind eye to the problem of Cloud sprawl is not an option.

To build out and keep spinning a proper management plan for adopted services, the CIO and CTO need to have complete visibility of authenticated users, exposed services, data types and interfaces used by, or for, Cloud services. Where sprawl continues unchecked, the governance, compliance, legal and financial risks associated with loss of data, or orphaned hosts creates a potential security headache and accompanying risk of fines and bad publicity.

At the very least, organisations will need to implement a risk register, or use a management platform like Red Hat’s CloudForms technology to keep track of this information. Increasingly, audits at many large 40+ user networks are only revealing that some departments have adopted unauthorised Cloud services when the finance department identifies purchases made using company credit cards. In other words, the IT manager is only made aware  after the event that a new Cloud service has been adopted by a developer, manager, project or department.

Keep Sprawl in Check to Stay on Top

On its own, sprawl should not be a reason to put off Cloud adoption. Indeed you could say that management and safe transit of all Cloud services into a sanitised process allowing upstream audit of assets, data types, privacy classes, connected platforms, protocols and development environments returns authority to the IT director without reducing functionality or growth opportunity.

Implementing a workable plan now is the smart option, heading off unexpected (and uncomfortable questions), and ensuring that the needs of users are aligned with your risk management appetite.  The idea behind the register is not to push your IT away from scrutiny and management of assets, but to make it a routine part of  your daily operations and to track any resulting data in transit.

Sprawl is a pain, but it’s a healthy sign of computing growth. Keeping it in check has to be the aim. The very nature of emerging services will keep the IT director on his or her toes for years to come. How he or she manages that level of expectation and burgeoning ambition into a sanitised and safe delivery model will be the aim of those wanting to be on the top of their game.