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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Barbara Rembiesa Because There Should Only Be 1 Cloud.

Incorporated in 2002, The International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers, Inc. ("IAITAM") is a professional association for individuals and organizations involved in any aspect of IT Asset Management ("ITAM"), Software Asset Management ("SAM"), Hardware Asset Management, and the lifecycle processes supporting IT Asset Management in organizations of every size and industry across the globe.

The benefits and consequences of cloud computing being introduced into an organization's environment has been an issue well debated. Once the decision has been made to introduce the cloud into the organization however, it has become a free-for-all situation where end users use the solution that is best suited for their purposes. This leads to a phenomenon known as Cloud Sprawl, where information has been "sprawled" out amongst multiple cloud platforms.

This phenomenon occurs when a cloud solution has not been designated by an organization as the cloud service provider exclusively used by the organization. When that decision is not made, end users will seek out cloud solutions that best fit their needs. The problem occurs because each end user has different needs and will therefore search out different cloud solutions. With each end user or group there of using different cloud providers the information becomes sprawled out, and departments turn into compartments retaining their respective information and making it difficult to share between business units.
Cloud sprawl has a major negative impact on the flow of business information, cloud adoption into the organization, and the homogenization of data. Each of these debilitations can have serious consequences on an organization's ability to be competitive. For these reasons, cloud sprawl needs to be mitigated swiftly and thoroughly.

A common practice is to defer the cloud provider decision to the C-level employees of the organization. This leads to an executive deciding the cloud provider based on their needs and the rest of the organization may not receive the solution that best fits their business requirements.This will inhibit data transfer and productivity throughout the majority of the organization.

So what is a solution that an organization can implement that will prevent cloud sprawl while also attaining the best option for the current IT environment? The solution resides within the procurement department of the organization. The practices of due diligence, environment testing, and vendor selection are similar for a cloud provider as they are for the provider of other normalized solutions such as data retention systems and software tool vendors.

Organizations need to keep the fundamentals of vendor management in mind when deciding on cloud solutions. These fundamentals include:
• Value-based purchasing – When choosing a cloud solution, price vs. product is a common roadblock to the decision-making process. That is why value needs to be the paramount quality considered.

• Vendor support – When choosing the right vendor for the organization, the vendor should be easy to reach for support or in the case of emergencies such as data outages. The expectations of the vendor need to be outlined in the Terms and Conditions of the vendor service contract.

• Versioning support and control – Cloud services are similar to other software tools. There will be updates to the software that may dramatically change the way the software is used. Sometimes these updates come at an additional cost to the organization. The plan for versioning issues should be detailed upon the acquisition of the cloud solution.

• Implementation assistance – Organizations do not always have a IMAC (Install, Move, Add, Change) team capable of deploying cloud services. Vendor implementation assistance can be negotiated during the contract negotiations. Experience dictates that this can often be a benefit in lieu of volume purchase savings.

• Education and Training– Adding a new tool to the environment that end users are expected to use typically comes with a difficult transition period without proper training and education on that tool. Education and training for the internal trainers and managers directly from the vendor can be negotiated. This will help speed up the adoption rate and successful implementation of the cloud solution.

By applying classic and well used vendor management practices along with proper vendor due diligence in choosing the provider of the cloud solution, cloud sprawl can be mitigated.
Cloud computing may be a relatively new venture for many organizations but identifying the best solution for the organization falls back on the tried and true vendor management practices that have been used for years. By having that small part of familiarity in the process it provides a launching point for successful navigation of finding a cloud computing vendor. Cloud 9 sounds nice, but isolating a vendor and reducing cloud solutions to one cloud, an organization will be a lot happier.