How to use service catalogs to combat cloud sprawl

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

Cloud usage is growing dramatically, but unfortunately some of that growth is the result of employees going around IT and obtaining services directly, resulting in cloud sprawl. Service catalogs can help you get your arms around cloud services, regain control of business processes, and enable you to better serve business users.

To get service catalogs right, however, you need to take into account a host of critical factors: scalability, manageability, security and profitability.

* Scalability: You have to keep up. It is critical to select a service catalog that's easy to manage and for customers to use. For example, a user may at first only need a server. However, additional needs related to that server can quickly pop up, sending the user looking to add firewalls, applications, security and back up. The service catalog needs to be flexible enough to accommodate the additional offerings and make them available in a timely manner.

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The unfortunate reality is that most service catalogs require development resources to make changes, which often delays the rolling out of new offerings. This presents challenges as business needs develop, forcing many users to go outside of IT to secure the services and offerings they need.  

A good IT service catalog won't require an army of javascript coders to manage it. By providing a framework for managing cloud offerings with drag and drop functionality -- and eliminating the need for coding -- it's easier to add new services. This empowers business owners -- who best understand the business problems -- to be involved in developing and maintaining the service catalog.Once IT illustrates it can deliver cloud services and offerings quickly and cost effectively, business users will be more likely to enlist internal resources for their needs, reducing renegade cloud sprawl.

* Security: Heightened in the Cloud.  Here's an example of a typical scenario that can lead to a major security breach: Marketing teams often prefer to run large campaigns on cloud servers. But if the IT team can't deliver a cloud server quickly and cost effectively, the marketing team is likely to go directly to an outside service supplier to keep the project on time. What often gets overlooked?  The proper security measures, meaning customer data can be compromised with potential legal ramifications. This is a disaster waiting to happen, and IT will ultimately be called in to handle the cleanup, even though it's a mess they didn't create.

When IT is involved in securing cloud services, they ensure that sensitive and confidential information moving to the cloud is protected. By ensuring that customers route their cloud service needs through a service catalog, IT stays in control of security measures that a business user will not normally consider.

* Managing Cloud Services: Get down to Earth. You need to recognize cloud computing is here to stay and let employees know you understand and are willing to work with them, which encourages an open dialogue. Educating users about the issues cloud services can pose is also key. Start the conversation about cloud services, explain the perils inherent in the solutions, and then assure users IT is working to improve response time. That will lay the foundation for an improved relationship. From there, IT must deliver on the promise.

A service catalog provides the mechanism for IT to improve response time, as well as an equally effective way for employees to secure and track cloud service orders they place. By providing visibility into the status of orders, business users have confidence that IT has things under control.

* Profitability: Get Clear. If business users turn to an outside provider to get resources needed to meet a tight launch window they will often bill it to their expense account, not the IT budget. Because of this, cloud sprawl is typically buried in line items on various expense reports, resulting in a hidden IT expense for which the company lacks visibility.

Additionally, because no one is really "managing" this cloud resource, it may be left up and running via recurring payments (and costing the company money) long after its intended use. Plus, employees tend to "over buy"-- purchasing more resources than really needed.

As a result, companies do not have a clear understanding of the total cost of cloud expenditures. Working with business users to develop an effective strategy, IT gains visibility into purchases and can ensure the right technology is in place in timely fashion to minimize expenses and maintain visibility of costs.

Understand the Big Picture

The first step in eliminating cloud sprawl is to recognize the problem exists. The next step is to take action and get full clarity of cloud usage and spend. Once usage and costs are understood, you will have a framework for how the business is currently using IT services across the board, allowing you to create a system for managing sprawl and expenses.

Implementing an enterprise service catalog provides you with visibility into cloud spend and control expenses. An enterprise service catalog also provides a way to bill services back to the department receiving the services and a window into showback, chargeback and complex costing functionality.

Fernandez is director of product solutions for PMG, a software company that deploys enterprise service catalogs for the Global 2000. With a Six Sigma Black Belt and ITIL v3 certification, Cesar has over 20 years of experience in business process management. After several years of working closely with the PMG customer base, he now leads the company in developing service catalog solutions targeted to specific customer needs.

Tags Configuration / maintenanceCloudhardware systemsinternetcloud computingData Center

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