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Cloud Services

Cisco Helps Rein In 'Shadow' Clouds

Cisco has introduced tools designed to help enterprises manage employees who go behind IT's back to set up cloud accounts.

Cloud Consumption as a Service monitors enterprise networks to find unauthorized cloud connections.

Enterprise IT typically has no idea how many cloud services employees are using without the authorization or knowledge of IT, Bob Dimicco, global leader, Cisco Cloud Consumption, tells Light Reading.

Cisco surveyed its biggest enterprise customers and asked how many unique cloud services they thought their organizations were consuming. The answer: 91. Then Cisco analyzed network traffic to find the reality was much higher -- typically 1,220 services for each enterprise, growing at 112% year-over-year, Dimicco says.

"'Shadow IT' is not new," Dimicco says. For as long as there's been IT, line-of-business users have been sneaking their own devices and services in to get work done. "But the magnitude and degree of ubiquity we're finding is unique." Nearly every vertical is affected, including public sector, financial services, manufacturing and retail, as well as organizations of every size. "It's profound and growing."

Reining Clouds
Image source: Cisco
Image source: Cisco

Line-of-business managers perceive benefit to going around IT to set up cloud services. The upfront costs are lower, provisioning is faster and involves less hassle, and they can easily deploy the same thing to all desktops.

But there are risks that line-of-business managers don't see, Dimicco says. Business continuity is one risk; 26% of providers cease operations within 12 months. "Almost every company has a story of a provider that has gone out of business or was out for days." Shadow clouds create problems with data protection and compliance.

And shadow clouds present hidden costs -- four to six times greater than the billed cost, Dimicco says. These include operational cost in purchasing and security. Network usage is another cost: Enterprise networks are typically configured for high east-west traffic, inside a data center or between campuses, but cloud traffic requires north-south traffic, out to the public Internet and the cloud data center. The increased network traffic worsens quality of service, for example for VoIP apps, Dimicco says.

Two years ago, Cisco launched a professional service offering one-time assessment to help its large enterprise customers assess the cloud services the company was using.


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Now, Cisco is launching Cloud Consumption as a Service for both midsized and large customers, to monitor cloud usage, and reduce the business and data security risk on an ongoing basis. Pricing will be $1 to $2 per employee per month of for a typical midmarket customer with about 500 employees.

"This means that for a buck or two a month per person they will be able to understand all the usage taking place in their environment. Since they're spending hundreds of thousands per month anyway, this is an incremental cost," Dimicco says.

Cloud monitoring isn't just a matter of risk assessment and reduction. By monitoring what kinds of cloud services line of business users are using, enterprises can get a handle on their needs, and offer those services in a controlled fashion, Dimicco says

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected]

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