Much has already been said about the role of digital transformation for the enterprise. There’s no escaping the fact that it’s going to affect all businesses, and according to IDC, one third of the top 20 companies in every industry will be impacted by the growth of digitally transformed competitors by 2019. The challenge this presents for the enterprise is therefore clear – it’s become a case of do or die; disrupt or be disrupted. The reality of making this happen, however, is less clear-cut.
Enterprises have found themselves on an accelerated modernisation path, trying to maintain and even extend their lead as new digital and data driven organisations challenge their status. With infrastructure requirements continuing to grow in order to support a range of services, millions of users, and petabytes of data today, growing to exabytes and even zettabytes in the future, it’s no surprise many are now turning to the cloud. This is especially true when you consider how the cloud has supported the rise of newly emerging digital-centric businesses that are more agile and innovative than anything the enterprise has seen before.
Understandably, the cloud has become one of the core pillars of digital transformation, and is the first port of call for many enterprises in this regard. For established players, however, this poses a considerable challenge. They’re faced with legacy systems and applications that cannot be easily virtualised and migrated to the cloud. For these enterprises, the road ahead is much more complicated than simply migrating infrastructure and applications to a cloud environment, and calls for the CIO to step forward as the logical candidate to manage this change.
Virtual benefits, real challenges
The cloud gives enterprises the agility and scalability to increase infrastructure capacity with no additional capital expenditure. It also makes it possible to quickly introduce new services in response to changing business needs. However, as part of this process, enterprises, including digital-centric businesses and established players, are liable to lose visibility and control over the quality of the end-to-end service delivery. This can lead to an inevitable decline in in the corporate agility to execute their digital transformation plans.
This is especially true when you consider how the digital transformation shift, and increasing pressure from other players like the CMO within the enterprise for access to the latest tools, has led to greater reliance on external services from multiple cloud providers. In this hybrid environment comprised of on premise and multiple cloud providers, it’s a challenge to pin down the root cause of service disruption when it relies on the consistent performance of multiple elements both on and off an enterprise’s premises.
To avoid this, cloud-based assets should be treated like any other IT resource. While the cloud providers may offer certain assurances and SLAs to suggest the platform, the infrastructure, or the service they offer is high quality, a trust but verify approach based on continuous monitoring is imperative when so much is at stake. If an enterprise becomes dependent on the cloud to support key aspects of their businesses, which is likely in response to the growing requirement for digital transformation, the CIO needs complete visibility into all cloud-based systems in operation. Making this a reality, however, depends on having continuous monitoring and real-time analysis into the operational impact of cloud services and applications, which in turn requires working with the right service assurance partner.
Network traffic: The heart of the service assurance in the modern enterprise
Without a window into this entire hybrid environment, enterprises lose sight of potential service vulnerabilities. Point visibility into disparate domains from a variety of multi-vendor silo-specific tools lacks a holistic end-to-end view of the service delivery infrastructure and obscures the insight into interrelationships of its components and dependencies on other infrastructure domains. Criminal activities, such as hacking and Denial of Service (DoS) attacks and advanced persistent threats (APT), can go unnoticed. With every action and transaction crossing the network and so much of modern business activity reliant on the effective operation of the network, this state of affairs is unacceptable.
The right approach to service assurance is therefore required to overcome this challenge by offering holistic visibility across the entire service delivery infrastructure, including the cloud. This approach is based on continuous monitoring of physical and virtual traffic data complemented with secondary data sources such as synthetic transactions, xFLOW, and log files. The analysis and visualisation of monitored data provides a real-time and historic view of business services and their infrastructure across all environments, making it possible for enterprises to spot and isolate anomalies that may present a threat to business performance. Translating real-time data into actionable insights is of huge strategic value and always has been, but it’s arguably even more important for both productivity and revenue in a cloud environment.
Successful cloud-based disruption is not only about delivering transformational customer and business services. It’s about delivering them well. The reliable delivery of business services is directly tied to customer experience, satisfaction, loyalty, and, ultimately, corporate performance. In today’s connected world, continually assuring the quality of enterprise service delivery infrastructure – which then supports services that enable digital transformation – has become a mission-critical business activity.
It’s clear that the cloud will play a central role in the digital transformation of the large majority of enterprises over the next decade, and will require the CIO to adopt a leadership role in helping businesses to meet their digital objectives. An organisation’s commitment to implementing cloud solutions can be on a large scale, covering many aspects of the IT estate to facilitate critical functions. When you consider third parties will also regularly want to add new tools into the mix, it’s no surprise that the CIO needs to be able to confidently manage the quality of each new cloud service and application that’s adopted across the business. Every new system must be accounted for and, crucially, aligned with the company’s overall cloud-based digital transformation initiative and wider strategy in order to work effectively.
Michael Segal, Director of Marketing at NETSCOUT