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The Journey to Becoming an Enterprise Cloud Service Brokerage: From Shadow IT to Hybrid IT

As enterprise cloud use extends to public, private, and hybrid clouds, CIOs and IT leaders are realizing the need to evolve their IT business model to become enterprise cloud service brokerage (CSBs).

Cisco’s Scott Clark recently discussed the value of this new business approach for IT and highlighted that by adopting this approach IT can “provide the right private, hybrid or public cloud service, at the right time, and at the right cost.”

Most organizations are lagging behind in overhaul their business model and evolve into a CSB. Ovum came out with a report citing that only 50% of organizations participating had a cloud strategy in place and “only one-third or less of respondents said they have [cloud] governance, integration, or compliance strategies.” Read More »

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Pros and Cons: Do-It-Yourself Approaches to Monitoring Shadow IT & Cloud Services

Shadow IT is estimated to be 20-40 percent beyond the traditional IT budget. The ease by which organizations can purchase apps and services from cloud service providers (CSP) contributes significantly to this spending. This is an eye-catching number worthy of investigation—not only to identify and reduce costs, but to discover business risks. So, it is no surprise that CIOs and CFOs have started projects to identify and monitor unknown CSPs.

I often get questions from customers asking if it is possible for IT to monitor cloud service usage and discover shadow IT using existing technologies, and what the pros and cons would be.

The first CSP monitoring approach I am asked about is the use of secure web gateways. A gateway captures and categorizes incoming web traffic and blocks malicious malware. The benefit of this approach is that the gateways are typically already in place. However, there are several limitations in relying exclusively on this approach. Gateways cannot differentiate between a traditional website and a CSP which might be housing business data. They also have no way of discerning whether a given CSP poses a compliance or business risk. Most importantly, to use gateways to track CSPs, IT would need to create and maintain a database of thousands of CSPs, and create a risk profile for each CSP in order to truly understand the specific service being consumed.

The second approach I get asked about is whether organizations can use NetFlow traffic to monitor CSPs. Many customers feel that they can build scripts in a short amount of time to capture usage. Simply answered, yes this can be done. But organizations would face a similar challenge as if they were using web gateways. To capture CSP traffic using NetFlow, IT would need to develop scripts to capture every CSP (numbering in the tens of thousands). Then identify how each CSP is being used, the risk profile of the CSP to an organization, and how much the CSP costs to project overall spend. This is just the beginning. An IT department would then need to build reporting capabilities to access the information as well as continually maintain the database; and apply resources to this undertaking on a monthly basis to ensure the database was current.

The good news, Cisco has done this work for our customers! We have developed Cloud Consumption Services to help organizations identify and reduce shadow IT. Using collection tools in the network, we can discover what cloud services are being used by employees across an entire organization. Cloud Consumption includes a rich database of CSPs and can help customers identify the risk profile of each CSP being accessed, and identify an organization’s overall cloud spend.

Cisco has helped many IT organizations discover their shadow IT. For example, we worked with a large public sector customer in North America who was struggling to embrace the cloud, but were concerned about business risks. Employees were pushing for cloud services to improve productivity when 90% of Internet traffic was blocked by the organization’s policy. Despite these restrictions, 220 cloud providers were being used already and less than 1% were authorized by IT. Leveraging Cloud Consumption Services, the customer was not only able to manage risk, but also authorize future cloud services based on employee needs in a controlled manner.

It is a good practice for every IT organization to understand how employees are using cloud services and monitor usage on an on-going basis. I encourage our customers to determine which approach would work best for their organization; otherwise they may face unknown business risks and costs.

To learn more about avoiding the pitfalls of shadow IT and how you manage cloud services, please register to attend an upcoming webinar on Dec 11, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. PT.

 

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Take Out the Stress of Choosing the Right Cloud Provider

For many organizations, buying cloud services can be stressful. After all, as your business moves more and more into the cloud, you need to know your services and cloud provider are as reliable or better than if these services originated from within your own data center.

Buying cloud services can feel a lot like buying a car. How many of us really know what’s going on under the hood? We look at a few key stats like gas mileage and drive it around the block. Yeah, it accelerates and brakes. We know we’re safe and going to get relatively good gas efficiency. After all, cars have to meet certain standards. So in the end the decision comes down to price and comfort features such as how much we like the center console and cup holder.

But not all clouds are created equal. Low pricing and a fancy user portal are nice, but they aren’t what keep your business growing. Is best-effort service good enough for your operations? Can your organization afford to experience down time? Does your provider offer the flexibility you could get from other providers? Is your service truly enterprise-class?

The good news is that, just like there are standards in the car industry, there are standards for cloud. Services that are Cisco Powered, for example, have to meet strict requirements to carry the Cisco Powered logo. These requirements include certification and a third-party audit of every service to verify they deliver as promised.

You can learn more about what it takes to have confidence in your cloud provider from our partner, OneNeck. In their recent blog, “How to Reliably Offload IT Management to the Cloud,” they share a comprehensive list of factors to consider when choosing a cloud provider.
Selecting the right cloud provider and services doesn’t have to be frustrating and arbitrary. By understanding what comprises a reliable cloud, you can ask the right questions to ensure your provider is the best partner for your business.

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Cisco Announces Intent to Acquire Metacloud

Today, Cisco takes another important step towards realizing our plans to create the world’s largest global Intercloud – a worldwide network of interconnected clouds and cloud service providers.

Our intent to acquire Metacloud, an OpenStack-based private cloud-as-a-service company, advances our strategy and delivers value to customers—right now. Metacloud provides IT teams with another way to accelerate their journey to the cloud and to gain an on-ramp to the Intercloud. By catalyzing the creation of the Intercloud, Cisco can fundamentally transform how IT and cloud services are bought, sold, aggregated and consumed.

Cisco’s vision is for an OpenStack-based Intercloud that allows organizations and users to combine and move high-value workloads – including data and applications – across different public or private clouds as needed. Doing so easily and securely, while maintaining essential network and security policies as well as full compliance with local data sovereignty laws, is critical.

Metacloud deploys, operates and manages OpenStack-based production-ready private clouds in any customer data center. Together, Cisco and Metacloud will enable the creation of hybrid cloud environments that combine service provider public cloud deployments with remotely-managed OpenStack private clouds. Bottom line for customers: More agility for less money.

Our customers and partners see the value proposition clearly and have rallied around Cisco’s Intercloud vision and strategy over the last year. Many leading companies are working with us in the adoption of the Intercloud. Among them, key service providers and cloud providers, as well as important technology partners, including Dimension Data, Johnson Controls, NetApp, Red Hat, Sungard, Telstra, and VCE.

Metacloud will become a critical part of our Cloud Services portfolio under the leadership of Faiyaz Shahpurwala.

Stay tuned for more details in the weeks to come!

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Three Steps to Secure Cloud Enablement

I’ve been pretty forthcoming in sharing my belief that the security industry in general continues to struggle to transition from old ways to new, and that in today’s day and age we have to adapt quickly. The rise of mobile computing and communications (users, data, services) combined with increasing volumes of cloud services data traffic (from, to, and via) intersecting with the hacking community’s ever-increasing capabilities, all have made me more than a bit on edge.

I recently participated in an on-line webinar, teaming up with a cloud services provider and a cloud security solutions vendor. It would be indiscreet for me to name the companies in this blog or signal any kind of Cisco “endorsement,” but speaking personally, they are on the right track in a number of ways.

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