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The Best Ways to Control Cloud Sprawl Featured

The Best Ways to Control Cloud Sprawl "I was making a time-lapse of the foggy sunset and this is one of the images from the time-lapse."

Server sprawl is a problem that can plague any large or complex computing environment. The issue can start small with a developer standing up a test instance of a database that gets forgotten after a few weeks or months. In addition to the monetary expense of the licensing necessary to run the instance, it probably has been added to backup or monitoring schedules. This leads to unnecessary work that wastes storage space and computing cycles. It also adds pointless complexity to the task of managing the environment efficiently.

Cloud sprawl is the uncontrolled proliferation of cloud instances, servers, or providers. A lack of visibility and control over cloud resources is the main reason behind cloud sprawl. An understanding of what resources are contracted for and being used productively is vitally important when trying to minimize cloud sprawl. Without this knowledge, enterprises will wind up spending more than they need to for their cloud presence. 

The virtual nature of cloud computing makes it easier for organizations to lose track of what systems they have, who uses them, and where they are located. Multiple departments can be using different cloud solutions that are incompatible, resulting in additional work as teams struggle to coordinate information and use it across the organization. Lack of internal communication rests in redundant services and more wasted time and money.

Teams can get lazy due to the ease with which new systems can be set up. Freed from the hardware constraints enforced by physical servers, developers might be tempted to just add new instances and neglect decommissioning dormant systems. Workloads can be left running long after they are no longer needed. Virtual servers can multiply without management’s awareness until it’s time to pay their cloud providers.

Actions to Reduce Cloud Sprawl

Several actions can be taken to help reduce the negative effects of cloud sprawl. Performed regularly, they can help control the costs and complexity of an organization’s cloud computing environment. 

  • Audit and inventory cloud resources to gain visibility into current and historical usage patterns. Tracking how cloud resources are being used across the enterprise can identify specific departments that are using unapproved solutions. Analyzing historical usage trends can uncover growth areas resulting from inefficient server decommissioning practices. Even if no evidence of sprawl is unearthed in the inventory process, it can be instrumental in estimating provider costs and eliminating unpleasant surprises when bills are due.  
  • Centralized change management procedures can help curb the spread of redundant solutions and shine a light on server commissioning and decommissioning inefficiencies. Having members from all departments involved in the change approval process provides additional opportunities for unnecessary resource requests to be curtailed.  
  • The popularity of hybrid and multi-cloud environments further complicates the underlying factors leading to cloud sprawl. A unified management platform that provides visibility into all aspects of the environment is crucial for using cloud resources effectively. A consolidated view of all cloud resources allows informed judgments to be made regarding the issues that result in sprawl and inefficiencies.  

A sprawling environment can temper the advantages of the cloud. It’s in an organization’s best interests to keep a tight reign on cloud usage and reduce sprawl to get the most out of their cloud partnerships. 

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 Robert Agar

I am a freelance writer who graduated from Pace University in New York with a Computer Science degree in 1992. Over the course of a long IT career I have worked for a number of large service providers in a variety of roles revolving around data storage and protection. I currently reside in northeastern Pennsylvania where I write from my home office.

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