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.


This explosion in unregulated, ungoverened cloud usage, as a consequence of the “shadow IT” problem, is no surprise to us in Cisco Services.  My part of Cisco Services has been offering the Cisco Cloud Consumption Service to help our customers – based upon network measurements – know exactly what cloud services employees are using and exactly how much (based upon data transfer) they are using each provider. Bob Dimicco and Nick Earle have written about this in good detail.  It’s not a surprise to us when a company knows about 10-20 cloud providers in actual use – only to find via the Cisco Cloud Consumption Service that in reality their employees are utilizing in excess of 200 cloud service providers – most of which are unknown to the central IT organization.  This has been dubbed as “cloud sprawl” – ungoverned, unregulated cloud usage.

To clamp down on this usage in a draconian fashion will more than likely have serious business impact.  Project progress could slow down, innovation will almost certainly be curtailed, and customer commitments could be missed.  And the IT organization will be put under even more pressure.

Cloud sprawl, however, results in unnecessary IT costs for the organization.  For example, in our analysis, we typically find that many organizations have multiple, small contracts with public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services.  We sometimes find that some of these contracts are still being paid for, but no longer used.  And in almost all cases we find that by consolidating these contracts, the customer will be able to negotiate a better deal with the same vendor or a Cisco Powered Cloud Provider.  Additionally, Cisco Powered Cloud Providers will offer additional benefits, including for example additional security, local data center sites, disaster recovery and options for higher service levels.

 “Hold on”, I hear you say.  “It’s not that simple – such consolidation means we need to migrate applications, workloads and data between cloud providers.  We also need to think about rationalizing our cloud services portfolio.”

Fear not, Cisco Services has a solution to help you address the need for consolidation and rationalization of cloud services.  We offer a range of services to address the challenges of Cloud On-boarding.  Cloud on-boarding is the process of identifying, prioritizing and selecting which application workloads will be migrated to the cloud, and executing upon those migrations. On-boarding – essentially a migration process – is therefore the final major step to realizing the investment in a cloud infrastructure, and as such is a key step that must not be under-estimated in the rush to “release” the cloud service to end customers and users.

Cisco Services offers a range of on-boarding services.  We leverage best of breed automated – and agentless – migration SaaS applications, wrapping these together with the requisite support and professional services to mitigate customer risk, increase cloud operations productivity and, for enterprise customers, accelerate the adoption of cloud within your organization or (for service providers) by your customers.  Cisco Cloud On-boarding Services can help you overcome the challenges of cloud sprawl by providing highly automated and low cost automated migration solutions.  I’ll blog in more detail on Cisco Cloud On-boarding Services in the near future.

Together then, with Cisco Cloud Consumption Services and Cisco Cloud On-boarding Services, Cisco Services can help you identify and tackle head on the issues related to cloud sprawl, all the way through to cloud consolidation and migration.

To wrap up, let’s have a debate here on the blog.  In the comments field, why don’t you respond with the number of cloud services you know you use in your company.  And based upon our “10-15x” factor above …… have a think about how many are actually in use across  your organization!

Ping and/or follow me on Twitter to hear more.




Stephen Speirs

SP Product Management

Cisco Customer Experience (CX)