The definition of Cloud Sprawl is “The unplanned, uncontrolled spreading of applications and services into the cloud for a company or other organization”.
With so many “as a service” options available, a lot of business users are bypassing IT entirely and can now simply purchase the services that they require to meet a business need. Why does this happen? Sometimes it is just for convenience, other times it is because IT is not reacting as quickly as the user would like. That’s right, your business user just thumbed their nose at IT. Purchasing “as a service” is easy, and can often be done “under the radar” of traditional corporate spending processes.
The impact of this behavior can be viewed as both a positive and a negative. Business users are able to have solutions faster, making them more productive. However, while there may be some short term benefits, the result can easily be multiple cloud solutions with no integration or overall management. Sometimes, duplicate functionality is implemented, and the business actually ends up paying for the same (or similar) solutions twice. Often, it falls to corporate IT to support these solutions that they didn’t select, don’t understand, and didn’t train on.
Imagine this scenario – different departments decide that they need to share files within their departments. One department selects Google Docs, another OneDrive, a third selects DropBox. All of a sudden, an organization is paying for three solutions that have basically the same functionality, yet don’t integrate. A savvy CIO would look at the situation and negotiate better discounts to use a single vendor.
How do you avoid cloud sprawl? As with any technology implementation, there is simply no substitute for good planning. Implementing cloud technologies is certainly no exception. The CIO needs to be proactive, understanding the business’ needs. IT has to be perceived as a technology “enabler” rather than an impediment. The best solution is to come up with a strategic cloud technology plan and present it to the business prior to cloud sprawl being born. Often, if the business knows a technology solution is coming, they are satisfied and excited to be part of the deployment process.
What if you already have cloud sprawl? Create a cloud application “portfolio”. As with any software rationalization process, understand who is using the software, and why. Work with the business to understand what features and functionalities are important, then embark on a process to consolidate vendors where possible.
In the end, proper planning is the key to avoid cloud sprawl. All technology projects require proper planning management and leadership. The cloud is just another delivery model for technology.