Shadow IT: Not a Problem or Worse than Ever?

Shadow IT: Not a Problem or Worse than Ever?

Shadow IT: you’ve probably heard of it. Also known as Stealth IT, this refers to information technology (IT) systems built and used within organizations without explicit organizational approval or deployed by departments other than the IT department. 

A recent survey of IT decision makers ranked shadow IT as the lowest priority concern for 2019 out of seven possible options. Are these folks right not to worry?  In the age of public cloud, how much of a problem is shadow IT?

What is Shadow IT?

So-called shadow IT includes any system employees are using for work that is not explicitly approved by the IT department. These unapproved systems are common, and chances are you’re using some yourself. One survey found that 86% of cloud applications used by enterprises are not explicitly approved.

A common example of shadow IT is the use of online cloud storage. With the numerous online or cloud-based storage services like Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive, users have quick and easy methods to store files online. These solutions may or may not have been approved and vetted by your IT department as “secure” and/or a “company standard”. 

Another example is personal email accounts. Companies require their employees to conduct business using the corporate email system. However, users frequently use their personal email accounts either because they want to attach large files, connect using their personal devices, or because they think the provided email is too slow. One in three federal employees has stated they had used personal email for work. Another survey found that 4 in 10 employees overall used personal email for work. 

After consumer applications, we come to the issue of public cloud. Companies employ infrastructure standards to make support manageable throughout the organization, manage costs, and protect data security. However, employees can find these limiting. 

In our experience, the spread of technologies without approval comes down to enterprise IT not serving business needs well enough. Typically, the IT group is too slow or not responsive enough to the business users. Technology is too costly and doesn’t align well with the needs of the business. IT focuses on functional costs per unit as the value it delivers; but the business cares more about gaining quick functionality and capability to serve its needs and its customers’ needs. IT is also focused on security and risk management, and vetting of the numerous cloud-based applications takes time – assuming the application provider even makes the information available. Generally, enterprise IT simply doesn’t or cannot operate at the speed of the other business units it supports. So, business users build their own functionalities and capabilities through shadow IT purchases. 

Individuals or even whole departments may turn to public cloud providers like AWS to have testing or even production environments ready to go in less time than their own IT departments, with the flexibility to deploy what they like, on demand.

Is Shadow IT a problem?

With the advent of SaaS, IaaS and PaaS services with ‘freemium’ offerings that anyone can start using (like Slack, GitHub, Google Drive, and even AWS), Shadow IT has become an adoption strategy for new technologies. Many of these services count on individuals to use and share their applications so they can grow organically within an organization. When one person or department decides one of these tools or solutions makes their job easier, shares that service with their co-workers, and that service grows from there, spreads from department to department, growing past the free tier, until IT’s hand is forced to explicit or implicit approve through support. In cases like these, shadow IT could be considered a route to innovation and official IT approval.

On the other hand, shadow IT solutions are not often in line with organizational requirements for control, documentation, security, and reliability. This can open up both security and legal risks for a company. Gartner predicted in 2016 that by 2020, a third of successful attacks experienced by enterprises will be on their shadow IT resources. It’s impossible for enterprises to secure what they’re not aware of.

There is also the issue of budgeting and spend. Research from Everest Group estimates that shadow IT comprises 50% or more of IT spending in large enterprises. While this could reduce the need for chargeback/showback processes by putting spend within individual departments, it makes technology spend far less trackable, and such fragmentation eliminates the possibility of bulk or enterprise discounting when services are purchased for the business as a whole. 

Is it a problem? 

As with many things, the answer is “it depends.” Any given Shadow IT project needs to be evaluated from a risk-management perspective. What is the nature of the data exposed in the project? Is it a sales engineer’s cloud sandbox where she is getting familiar with new technology? Or is it a marketing data mining and analysis project using sensitive customer information? Either way, the reaction to a Shadow IT “discovery” should not be to try to shame the users, but rather, to adapt the IT processes and provide more approved/negotiated options to the users in order to make their jobs easier. If Shadow IT is particularly prevalent in your organization, you may want to provide some risk management guidance and training of what is acceptable and what is not. In this way, Shadow IT can be turned into a strength rather than a weakness, by outsourcing the work to the end users.

But, of course, IT cannot evaluate the risk of systems it does not know about. The hardest part is still finding those in the shadows.

VMware Cloud on AWS: A Hybrid Cloud Midpoint

VMware Cloud on AWS: A Hybrid Cloud Midpoint

VMware Cloud on AWS is an integrated hybrid cloud offering jointly developed by AWS and VMware. It’s targeted at enterprises (or companies) who are looking to migrate on-premises vSphere-based workloads to public cloud, and provides access to native AWS services. 

Overview of VMware Cloud on AWS 

VMware Cloud on AWS provides an integrated hybrid cloud environment, allowing you to maintain a consistent infrastructure between the vSphere environment in your on-prem data center and the vSphere Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) on AWS. It also provides a unified view and resource management of your on-prem data center and VMware SDDC on AWS with a single console. 

Digital transformation continues to drive businesses to the cloud to stay competitive. But integrating public cloud with existing private cloud infrastructure requires many technical processes, and skill differences between on-prem and cloud environments to be leveraged for both of these to work simultaneously. This combined offering makes it easier for those familiar with VMware to integrate into the public cloud without having to rewrite applications or modify operating models.

One reason this offering is attractive to customers is that it provides optimized access to native AWS services including compute, database, analytics, IoT, AI/ML, security, mobile, resource deployment, and application services.

Another reason is that with automatic scaling and load balancing VMware Cloud on AWS can adapt to the changing business needs across global regions. They also position themselves as a cost-effective solution for reducing upfront investment costs with no application re-factoring or re-architecting needed when migrating. We’ll take a look at the pricing solutions it offers for on-demand and subscription models, but first, let’s see what VMware Cloud for AWS can do for the enterprise.

Use Cases for VMware Cloud on AWS 

Accelerated and Simplified Data Center Migration

VMware Cloud on AWS claims to accelerate and simplify the migration process for businesses by reducing migration efforts and complexity between on-prem environments and the cloud. Once in the cloud, users can leverage VMware and AWS services to modernize applications and run mission-critical applications quickly with VMware availability and performance combined with the elastic scale of AWS.

Extend the Data Center to the Cloud with Your Existing Skillset

This offering lets users who are used to VMware keep a consistent and familiar environment on the cloud. Since VMware Cloud on AWS doesn’t require re-tooling or re-educating, IT teams can continue to deliver consistently on vSphere-based infrastructure and operations that are already implemented in existing on-prem data centers. 

Add a Robust Disaster Recovery Service to Your Environment

One offering available is VMware Site Recovery: on-demand disaster recovery as a service, optimized for VMware Cloud on AWS to reduce risk without the need to maintain a secondary on-prem site. You can securely replicate workloads to VMware Cloud on AWS so you can spin them up on-demand if disaster strikes. 

Flexible Dev/Test Environment

You can use VMware SDDC-consistent dev/test environments that can integrate with modern CI/CD automation tools and access native AWS services seamlessly. You can spin up an entire VMware SDDC in under two hours and scale host capacity in a few minutes.

VMware Cloud on AWS Cost Compared

So, how does the pricing shake out?  Hosts can be purchased on-demand or as a 1-year or 3-year subscription. If you choose on-demand pricing, you’ll pay for the physical host by the hour that the host is active with no upfront cost, while the long-term subscription is set to provide up to 50% cost savings over an equivalent period compared to on-demand service, but you pay the costs upfront. It’s a similar idea to AWS Reserved Instances, which may or may not be worth the cost.

Depending on the use case, pricing is similar to standard AWS pricing. See how it compares in price with standard AWS or estimate your costs with the pricing estimator. 

Top Tips for Using VMware Cloud on AWS

VMware Cloud on AWS is a good hybrid cloud option for those who want to stay in the VMware ecosystem while dipping their toe in AWS. Here are our top tips for using this offering:

  • Estimate prices in advance: One of the main reasons you want to estimate your pricing before committing to a subscription is to avoid overspend. Idle and overprovisioned resources you are not actually using result in wasted cloud spend, so make sure you’re not oversizing or spending money on cloud resources that should be turned off. 
  • Educate stakeholders on the fact that this allows you to bridge on-premises infrastructure and public cloud without disruption.
  • Consider whether jumping straight to the cloud is possible for some workloads – many companies start with dev/test. If so, you may be able to skip this intermediary step.
9 Ways to Get AWS Credits

9 Ways to Get AWS Credits

AWS credits are a way to save on your Amazon Web Services (AWS) bill. Credits are applied to AWS cloud bills to help cover costs that are associated with eligible services, and are applied until they are exhausted or they expire. Essentially, credits are a coupon-code like mechanism used by Amazon on your bill. If you want to see how to redeem your AWS promotional credits, look here. So how do you get these credits? There are a number of ways – here are 9 that we have either used ourselves or that have been successfully used by our customers. 

AWS Activate

With AWS Activate, companies can build or scale with up to $100,000 in AWS promotional credits. AWS Activate is ideal for startups because they get access to resources as quickly as possible, and AWS provides them with a low cost, easy-to-use infrastructure to help them grow. 

This is a big help for startups, knowing they are getting their money’s worth with these credits lets them focus on one thing – growth. If you are looking to get started on AWS definitely check this out.

Publish an Alexa Skill

For all you developers, each Alexa skill that you publish, you can apply to receive a $100 AWS promotional credit. Take advantage of these credits to get all your skills potential!

AWS Cloud Credits for Research 

AWS Cloud Credits for Research evaluates academic research from researchers at accredited institutions around the world. Researchers that apply for this program take an initiative to build a cloud-hosted service, software, or tools and/or want to migrate a research process or open data to the cloud. The credit amount awarded will vary depending on the cost model and usage requirements documented in the research proposal. 

AWS Marketplace

Discover, purchase, and deploy cloud-based networking and security solutions or Big Data solutions offered on AWS Marketplace and get $200 in AWS promotional credits once you subscribe to a qualifying product. 

AWS Webinars & Events 

Attending AWS webinars, events, and conferences can get you AWS credits. In order to be awarded the credits, you’ll have to provide proof that you actually attended. Make sure to keep an eye on their events page, as new stuff is being added all the time.

AWS Educate

In an effort to educate the next generation of cloud professionals, AWS has made AWS Educate available to institutions, educators, and students. It provides institutions with the resources educators and students need for training resources, cloud-related learning, and content for courses. Students have the opportunity to receive credits by getting hands-on experience with AWS tech, training, content and career pathways. 

At member institutions, educators earn $200 in AWS credits compared to non-member institutions they earn $75. Students receive an AWS Educate starter account along with $50 in credits at a member institution and $35 at a non-member institution. To make this even more appealing, AWS will award students and staff with more credits if you sign up as a member institution.  

AWS Credit Program for Nonprofits

Through TechSoup Global, eligible nonprofit organizations can request one grant of $2,000 AWS credits once per fiscal year. 

AWS Free Tier

As always, AWS Free Tier is a great option to get access to AWS products for no cost. Customers can use the product for free up to specified limits for one year from the date the account was created. 

This includes 750 hours of Amazon EC2 Linux t2.micro instance usage, 5 GB of Amazon S3 standard storage, 750 hours of Amazon RDS Single-AZ db.t2.micro Instances, one million AWS Lambda requests and you can build and host most Alexa skills for free. 

AWS EdStart

AWS focuses on education technology startups long term success with their AWS EdStart program.  AWS is looking to provide businesses with the resources they need to get started as quickly and easily on AWS to ensure they have every opportunity to prosper. After applying and getting approved, businesses will receive their credit validation. The credit amount awarded is based on the business’s needs. 

You only have access to promotional credits for a limited time, so make sure you take advantage of all these opportunities if you can! Whether you are just getting started with AWS or have been using it for a while, there are plenty of credits and resources available to make AWS an affordable option for you. 

 

Further Reading:

4 Ways to Get Google Cloud Credits

7 Ways to Get Azure Credits

Happy 4th Birthday, ParkMyCloud! Cloud Optimization Year in Review

Happy 4th Birthday, ParkMyCloud! Cloud Optimization Year in Review

It’s that time of year again at ParkMyCloud’s cloud optimization headquarters. Summer is in full swing, the 4th of July is on Thursday, and the USWNT is in World Cup semi-finals – let’s GO USA. And, of course, ParkMyCloud is four years old. 

Anniversaries in Review

We always like to take a moment of reflection on these anniversaries –– here are our previous ones, if you’re curious:

These snapshots really give perspective to both how the company and the market are changing!

Our 4th Year: Cloud Cost Optimization Meets Application Resource Management

This past year has been a big one for ParkMyCloud. As you may be aware we were acquired in May by Turbonomic, the leader in application resource management. In the short time since that acquisition, things have been nothing but positive for ParkMyCloud and our customers. ParkMyCloud remains a separate brand and we continue to invest in the product and add new features to the platform to help our customers automate cost control for AWS, Azure and Google clouds. We now have more than 1,100 organizations in more than 50 countries using ParkMyCloud, achieving an average ROI of 815%. Yes, you read that correctly – 815%!

A few interesting trends found in the cloud usage tracked in our platform over the last 12 months: 

  • There are now more Google Cloud projects being managed in the ParkMyCloud platform than Azure subscriptions, but conversely are more Azure resources than Google resources.
  • We now see ParkMyCloud customers using both Azure and Google Cloud together. This is new – in the past we have seen combinations of AWS and Azure as well as AWS and Google Cloud. 
  • Every large enterprise that was using AWS exclusively 2-3 years ago now also has some Azure resources in the platform. Combined with the last data point, you can see how multi-cloud is truly the current reality.
  • The resource count in the platform is up over 600% over the last year. Obviously organic growth and the acquisition of new customers drives this, but we have seen a big uptick in the use of scale groups and analytics workloads, an effect of greater needs for elasticity.

Looking Ahead: Bigger and Better Cloud Optimization and Automation Coming Soon

The big news for our customers this year has been the addition of rightsizing to the platform. We currently support automated rightsizing for AWS and Google Cloud, and will have Azure complete in a few weeks. Soon, we’ll also be offering scheduled resizing which will give you flexibility to align resizing with your internal maintenance windows and other specific times to minimize downtime. During the second half of this year, we plan to add support for containers, snapshot management and the ability to identify AWS Reserved Instances. This last addition will help users see how they are utilizing their Reserved Instances and whether their utilization needs to match their reservations. Users will also be able to plan Reserved Instance purchases based on their uptime needs, better matching reservations vs. on-demand resources with schedules. 

How do we develop this roadmap and stay on a path of constant improvement? We have a lot of customer conversations and get great input from our customers on our Slack channel. We hear about containers, serverless and other more advanced PaaS offerings that users would like to manage in addition to the main culprit of cloud waste, oversized and idle resources.

As always, we are open to feedback on what’s most important to you. What would help you optimize your cloud environment? Let us know in the comments below (or if you prefer, Slack or email.) 

If we don’t hear from you, we will make these ground-breaking decisions on a warm Tuesday evening at Crooked Run Brewery in Sterling, VA (that’s where some of our best ideas come from). If you are in the vicinity, swing by for a beer!

Trends in Cloud Jobs In 2019

Trends in Cloud Jobs In 2019

Trends in cloud jobs can be overall indicators into trends in the cloud computing space. With an ever-evolving and increasing use of cloud services, new and important changes are needed to the skillsets, roles, and responsibilities of cloud professionals. Here are some trends we’re seeing.

The Cloud Job Market is on the Rise

There is exponential growth in the cloud computing industry, so it’s no surprise that the demand for cloud computing intellect and skills is also increasing, with no slowing down in the foreseeable future. According to Gartner TalentNeuron, an online real-time labor market insight portal, “there are about 50,248 cloud computing positions available in the U.S. from 3,701 employers, and 101,913 open positions worldwide.”

As more and more enterprises drive value from container platforms, infrastructure-as-code solutions, software-defined networking, storage, continuous integration/delivery, and AI, they need people and skills on board with ever more niche expertise and deep technological understanding. Anecdotally, many organizations we talk to share that getting and keeping talent on board is a challenge as they seek to evolve their use of cloud services. The cloud jobs that are available in the market today are a result of employer demand to drive innovation and are paramount for new business applications and services to the end-user.

Cloud Talent Demand Trends

Here are a few roles and talent areas that will see increased demand this year.

Cloud Architect

Cloud Architects are experts responsible for the supervision of a company’s cloud computing system, overseeing the organization’s cloud computing strategy through deployment, management, and support of cloud applications. A Cloud Architect has a strong background in networking, programming, multiple operating systems, and security. In addition, they also have a strong knowledge of cloud services such as AWS, Google or Azure, with experience on ITSM, I&O, governance, automation, and vendor management. Here at ParkMyCloud, we talk to a lot of Cloud Architects!

Cloud Architects are also known as Cloud Developer or Cloud Systems Administrator. When it comes to getting hired, an AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate, Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert or Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect certification are currently the industry standard to help you emerge above the rest in this cloud job arena.  

Cloud Consultants

Cloud consultants are “the experts” who can help an organization conduct an overall technical analysis and assessment of the enterprise and recommend suitable cloud technology options to promote productivity and efficiency. A Cloud Consultant’s education background includes IT or business administration, IT consulting experience and highly effective communication skills. A Cloud Consultant’s expert knowledge of cloud service providers and cloud technologies available is key to provide maximum value to an enterprise.

You may find of interest, cloud computing careers relatable to Cloud Consultants include Cloud Security Engineers, Cloud Operations Engineers, and Cloud Infrastructure Engineers. An educational path to becoming a Cloud Consultant ranges from studying different programming languages to getting certified – although not necessarily required – in a single or multi-cloud computing systems.

Business Intelligence Analyst

A BI analyst has strong skills in database technology, analytics, and reporting tools and excellent knowledge and understanding of computer science, information systems or engineering. Skills necessary to understand a company’s cloud needs through data interpretation and be able to collate and cogently communicate cloud-based services and cloud strategy solutions to drive actionable results. An important role in the cloud management of businesses as demand for data and data analysts increases. BI analyst will collaborate with many individuals in the  IT department in an organization to maximize proficiency and productivity.

BI Analyst can also be described as BI Developers, BI Managers, and Big Data Engineer or Data Scientist. To work in BI, you do not need to be certified, but it may help you get an advantage when considered for a job, with certifications like Certified Business Intelligence Professional and Certified Application Associate: Business Intelligence.

IoT Engineer

An internet of things (IoT) engineer is an IT professional who is an expert in at least one or more of the core IoT disciplines: devices, connectivity, edge and cloud analytics, enterprise integration, platforms, and development and DevOps. Job titles for IoT engineers in the industry depend on the discipline they focus on, for example, the can be called IoT Architect, IoT Data Scientist or IoT Hardware Engineer, but all have in common an in-depth knowledge in specific subject matters of IoT in comparison to other engineers, making them the right person when it comes to decision making regarding the specific IoT subject matter. The main responsibility of IoT engineers is to help businesses keep up with IoT technology trends.

According to Gartner, “By 2022, 80% of leading I&O organizations will devise I&O strategies for digital business initiatives such as artificial intelligence and IoT.”  And, if you have any doubt that this is important in the cloud space, just see how many of AWS’s new services this year are IoT-focused.

The Future of Cloud Computing Jobs

In today’s trends in cloud computing jobs, if you’re looking to get involved in cloud for the first time, check out these 4 Cloud Computing Jobs to Check Out If You Want to Break Into the Space. Or, perhaps consider these interesting cloud job titles we came across for the future:  

  • Data Detective
  • Master of Edge Computing
  • Cyber City Analyst
  • Man-Machine Teaming Manager
  • Quantum Machine Learning Analyst

Cloud computing growth continues to accelerate at unprecedented rates as businesses continue to invest in cloud services like SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS. The adoption of cloud technology  platforms, empowers businesses with unlimited possibilities for innovation, but in order to stay at pace with this innovation and the dizzying array of services being offered by Amazon, Microsoft, Google, IBM  all businesses will need skilled resources offering cloud computing professionals a very promising career in the cloud industry for years to come.

What trends are you seeing? Let us know in the comments below.