Dec 08, 2016

How to Solve 3 Big Cloud Challenges

We’ve already reviewed enough about what cloud is or isn’t. So, what are the real SAM challenges of moving to the cloud today, and how do you handle them? Here are three big ones.

Identifying the cloud data source

As cloud use increases, it’s more important than ever to keep your data sources up to date. Gartner forecasts that by 2019, existing discovery tools will be useless for 90% of SAM needs.1  

If discovery doesn’t work, how do you identify cloud data? There are specific tools that monitor the cloud, and can track how much resources are being used. If you are using the public cloud, consider integrating your license management platform with a cloud monitoring solution such as Google StackDriver or Amazon CloudWatch.

These monitoring tools have built-in APIs that platforms like Aspera SmartTrack can leverage. For instance, Cloudwatch tells SmartTrack that you have 5 servers up and running, and they've consumed a total of 500 CPU hours.

This approach speaks mostly to what may be called Platform as a Service (PaaS), where you pay for a virtual environment which you manage yourself and which can have any type of software you choose to deploy. When it comes to Software as a Service (SaaS), you are only paying to be able to use software in a hosted environment – think of your personal Gmail account, for instance. SaaS may not include a monitoring tool to track your software consumption, so consider investigating alternative options, like the Office 365 portal, to deliver information for SAM.

Handling consumption-based metrics

As cloud becomes more widely spread, license metrics are shifting from the simple count-based system such as per CPU, per core, or per install. The cloud charges you with a more complex consumption-based system such as per CPU hour, or per authorized user at a specific point in time.

The challenge here is exactly the reason that cloud services are powerful. Cloud software runs all the time and its deployment is “elastic” so you get the resources that your company needs when you need them. Perhaps you're a flower shop that typically runs SaaS software on one CPU, but on Valentine’s Day, you get tons of orders and the same software suddenly consumes 200 CPUs because of higher demand. As you are consuming those cloud resources, you instantly pay for them. This elasticity carries serious financial risks of unplanned costs, particularly when more bandwidth or hours than anticipated are used.

Constant delivery requires constant oversight. An effective solution is to implement consumption-based analytics into your SAM architecture to prevent unplanned costs. You also want to put processes in place to avoid business interruption when your company over-consumes and passes any thresholds in your contract.

Managing the compliance risk

Cloud applications make good candidates for driving your overall SAM strategy. But the convenience of SaaS licensing also brings great risk for non-compliance. It’s easy for you to use the service in a way that breaks the rules to which you initially agreed.

In fact, Gartner reports that through 2017, SaaS use in 75% of organizations will be dominated by unapproved and untracked services.2  This makes your use of cloud services a prime target for compliance and audit failures.

With on-premises software, the vendor had to request an audit, perhaps on an annual basis, to track your usage. But the cloud software is running on the vendor’s servers. At any point, the cloud vendor can view your data to evaluate if you are consuming compliantly.

Your best position to mitigate this risk? Be vigilant about non-compliant behavior such as credential sharing, geographic access, potentially unapproved services, indirect usage, and hybrid misuse. Don’t wait for vendors to tell you if you are compliant – establishing a SAM program that gives you constant visibility to your software demand is crucial even for the cloud.

  • Credential sharing. There are user restrictions to your use of the cloud. When one person uses another person's account, you are breaking those rules. Outsourcing often steps on this. For instance, an Indian provider who is working for a UK-based company has five employees using a single Adobe Creative Cloud account for John Smith, who appears to work 24/7. The cloud vendor can view an account’s activity time to evaluate if multiple users are sharing the subscription.
  • Geographic access. There are geographic restrictions to your use of the cloud. If you are paying for a WebEx account in North America, for instance, a subsidiary in France can’t use your licenses. The cloud vendor can see the access point’s IP address to determine if your license is used in an approved territory.
  • Unapproved & untracked usage. SaaS subscriptions can be purchased outside the normal IT processes for software purchase and the deployment will not be captured by existing controls in place to detect unapproved software.
  • Indirect usage. This refers to restrictions for connecting a different tool to your cloud service.
  • Hybrid misuse. These restrictions depend upon how you buy the hybrid license. A great example goes back to our good friend, Office 365. You can install the Outlook email program on your computer, which is on-premise licensing. Or you can check email through the 365 portal, which is cloud licensing. Of course, you can pay a single license fee to use Office in parallel from your desktop and the cloud. The challenge is when the license only allows you to use one form or the other, since the cloud vendor can easily track whether you’re accessing it properly.

3-2-1, lift off!

So, there you have it: three (potential) challenges. Without a doubt, these need to be addressed, making your already-full plate a little heavier. But you can rest assured that the cloud is not the snarled minefield of confusing and overwhelming new problems that some may lead you to believe!

Let’s face it. Vendors aren’t pushing cloud out of the goodness of their hearts; they are trying to drive revenue. It’s critical to pay close attention to shifts in license models. These shifts can make your existing discovery solutions obsolete and require your software license management solution to update or risk the same fate.

Yes, the cloud is complex, or in today’s terms, “it’s complicated.” And you need to be prepared for the challenges that I have described. But if you have the right platform and the best expertise, then you’ll find the transition is manageable. Close monitoring of cloud demand and usage means that you, as a customer, can ensure your company isn’t getting taken to the cleaners.

That’s why you should talk to Aspera. Cloud software isn’t new to us. In fact, we were the first provider to offer a cloud solution for SAM, back in 2001 – before the term cloud was even being used. Our SmartTrack platform makes certain that you stay protected from the risks attached to these hard-to-track aspects of cloud and hybrid licensing. And knowing is half the battle. Once you understand how cloud can affect your SAM program, it’s just a matter of putting that knowledge to action and cloud-proofing your SAM!


1. Source: Gartner, Augment Your Discovery Tools for Cloud Software Asset Management Right Now; Published: 9 February 2016. 

2. Source: Gartner, Augment Your Discovery Tools for Cloud Software Asset Management Right Now; Published: 9 February 2016 (see: "Developing Your SaaS Governance Framework"). 


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