Cisco Blogs

Cisco Blog > Cloud

Identifying and Solving the Cloud Sprawl Problem

An interesting read for me one day last week was the Wall Street Journal reporting on the exploding yet ungoverned use of cloud services by employees in just about every organization.  Referring to Rachael King writing for CIO Journal, author Steve Rosenbush outlines the potential for security problems and the surprising reaction of companies who start to understand how many cloud services employees are really using.

The facts of unregulated cloud usage are surprising, no debate.  A few months back I was talking to an industry analyst and I asked him how many cloud providers enterprise organizations knew they had, and how many were actually being used by employees.  He replied “probably 5 or 6” are known, and “maybe 10 or so are actually in use in total”.  “So maybe double?” I replied to confirm my understanding.   He nearly fell off his chair when I told him what we are finding in Cisco Services engagement, that it’s more like a factor of 10-15 than a factor of 1-2!  (as the following diagram shows)

Cloud Usage

There are two aspects to this problem I’d like to discuss in this blog, identifying the cloud usage and then both consolidating and tidying it up, with the aim of increasing security and saving you money in  the process.  I’ll also related this to two key services we offer in this arena, Cisco Cloud Consumption Services and Cisco Cloud On-boarding Services.


Read More »

Tags: , , , , ,

The Next Wave of CMX: Location Innovation, Scalability, and User-centric Analytics for Better Customer Engagement

Technology is a funny thing: it enthralls some, mystifies others. As evidenced by CES and NRF, there is no shortage of gadgets and dashboards these days to help businesses solve their every need. And it just keeps coming.

From an IT perspective, choosing the right tools to solve each technology challenge should involve a full evaluation the merits of feature sets, while balancing the (rapidly shrinking) budget.

But how often is IT allowed to do that anymore? Truth is, the business doesn’t wait. Flanked by consumer-mindset-driven employees insisting on using any tools that suit their fancy (hello, Shadow IT) and visionary execs eager to stay on top of visionary buzz words like Big Data and Analytics, IT often feels squeezed out from getting a seat at the table when driving the business.

The industry is witnessing a shift in IT budgets being moved over to LoB, a clear nod towards the business relevance of digital engagement.

In fact, 44% of mobility initiatives are now either completely funded or jointly funded by Line of Business (LoB) leaders.

Mobility is key. This is a great opportunity for IT to strategize and align to LoB interests to drive programs that allow LoB and IT to win together and successfully deliver business outcomes using technology.

Cisco’s Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX) sits at this sweet spot where the network, traditionally owned by IT, can help LoB with their painpoints: data analytics on customer behavior, statistics for operational optimization, and even customer engagement opportunities. To learn more about how this works, visit

And now, Read More »

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Why Shadow IT is Dangerous to Your Organization

Moving to cloud offers many benefits to organizations.  However, these benefits come with a corresponding range of new challenges for IT to address.  One of these challenges is what is known as “Shadow IT.”  Shadow IT refers to activities of members within an organization to secure their own IT resources without going through a company’s IT department.

There are many compelling reasons why organizations consider Shadow IT an important issue:

Security: IT resources outside the management of a company’s IT department are also outside of their control and policy management.  Many cloud providers offer only marginal security with their baseline service; to get better security requires an upsell and higher cost.  This means that sensitive company data and digital assets may be exposed without a company’s knowledge.  As a result, a company may be at risk in many ways, either through potential loss of customer data or failure to comply with industry standards and requirements.

Cost: When cloud services are purchased individually, they cost more.  A large organization can consolidate cloud resources needs across all of its departments to achieve volume-pricing discounts.

Efficiency: A group that purchases its own cloud resources may underutilize them.  When clouds resources are managed by IT, unutilized resources can be shared with other departments.  Such a strategy increases the efficient usage of cloud resources.  In addition, fewer resources are required across the company, resulting in lower cost as well.

Unified Management: When cloud resources can be centrally managed, their management can be consistent and unified across the company.  This enables IT to ensure that cloud resources are properly protected as well as simplifies tracking allocation and usage of resources.

There is a high value in eliminating Shadow IT.  However, it is clear that relying upon policies that prohibit Shadow IT activities is not enough to solve the problem.  In the blog, “Overcome Your Shadow IT Struggles”, cloud provider Presidio discusses the reasons why Shadow IT exists.  The blog also describes how you can provide compelling reasons for members of your organization to go through IT and use internal resources.

Another important facet of eliminating Shadow IT is selecting the right cloud services and provider.  It does little good to consolidate cloud access if the services IT brokers to the organization don’t provide enterprise-class security, performance, and flexibility as a baseline.

Learn more about how Hybrid Cloud and Cisco Powered cloud and managed services can transform your business.

Tags: , , ,

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.


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Governing the New Wild West….The World of Many Clouds

ID-10056513In many ways, the race to the cloud resembles the Wild West of the 1800s. The urgency with which business groups are rushing to adopt cloud services, often without IT involvement, resembles the race out to the western US of those looking for gold. With our customer engagements, we have found that there are 5-10 times more cloud applications being used than IT is aware of.

With this rapid rise in shadow IT, organizations are seeing their costs skyrocket as they lose visibility of how much they are spending on cloud services. For example, we worked with a business that discovered it was using well over 600 vendors (and wasn’t aware of 90 percent of them) and spending millions. Shadow IT has been forecasted by CEB to be as high as 40 percent above the IT budget.

The influx of investment in new cloud ventures is also leading to a land grab by cloud service providers, some which are on shaky ground. According to Gartner, only one in four cloud vendors will exist in 2015 due to acquisition or being forced out of business. This leads to risk for organizations that need to ensure continuity of their business applications. Finally, just as the Wild West was filled with dangerous towns and outlaws, cloud services carry business risks if organizations don’t have strong cloud risk and compliance strategies.

Despite this, organizations are keen to brave this new frontier to capitalize on the benefits of cloud. Cloud services help organizations become more agile, reduce costs, and can simplify IT infrastructure. However, to reap these benefits IT teams need a different way of governing the new territory of cloud.

Read More »

Tags: , ,