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‘Seeing is believing’ for digital transformation success

(Image credit: Image Credit: Chombosan / Shutterstock)

The 1994 fan-favourite film, The Santa Clause, taught us that seeing isn’t believing, believing is seeing. Well, it turns out little elf Judy was wrong on that when it comes to future-proofing a digital enterprise. Faith alone simply doesn’t cut it for NetOps and SecOps pros responsible for making sure their infrastructure is as robust and secure as it needs to be. In fact, harnessing the power of sight couldn’t be more important to digital infrastructure design strategy.

Holiday whimsy aside, this lesson has major significance for the 87 per cent of senior business leaders who believe digitisation is a top priority, a journey arguably as challenging as dropping gifts through chimneys across the globe. Among the goals of digital transformation (DX) are streamlining business processes, cutting costs, improving productivity and introducing new business models that redefine industries — or build new ones. These are ambitious goals, and they’re ultimately realised through new digital applications built on intricate microservices-based architectures.

For examples of successful DX applications look no further than ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft, or home sharing apps like Airbnb. In the financial world, consider robo-advisors, peer-to-peer lending services, crowdfunding campaigns and cryptocurrencies — these are all DX innovations. Applications built around connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices can also fit into the DX category, as can industry-specific solutions, such as Industrial Control Systems (ICS), Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and medical systems protocols.

Digital transformation (DX) spending is predicted to reach nearly $2 trillion in 2022, while organisations grapple with public, private, and hybrid cloud infrastructure and multi-tier applications that need to be managed and secured. Seeing – in the form of application-centric visibility – is key to understanding application interaction and usage patterns, in order to accelerate DX.

Like Christmas songs playing on a loop, it bears repeating that seeing to believe the current state of your environment, and its network and application layers, is critical for guiding DX efforts, and reducing risks, costs and complexity along the way. Here are five reasons why seeing is believing for DX success:

Metadata matters

  1. At the heart of DX are new digital applications—These applications are powering the transformation. They are typically built leveraging a microservices architecture and deployed over hybrid infrastructure (physical, virtual, cloud), and are consumed on a myriad of mobile devices.
  2. Digital applications introduce increased complexity into the infrastructure—A key challenge that arises when dealing with this new breed of digital applications is their complexity, which ultimately manifests as challenges in securing the applications, as well as ensuring consistent performance and user experience. In fact, a recent survey by Forrester of 1,000 CISOs worldwide, found that IT complexity is their number one challenge.
  3. You need a clear vantage point from which to see these applications—Only with a clear view, and the right kind of data, can you then understand the applications’ interactions, performance, and security characteristics. The only way to get to this view is to look at the data in motion on the network. Deploying agents across the complex hybrid infrastructure is not feasible (for example, you can’t deploy an agent to a third-party microservice or to an industrial control system). And this visibility must stretch across on-premise, private, public and multi-cloud environments because, as the saying goes, ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t secure it.’
  4. Isolating communication streams allows for deeper inspection—Once you understand what applications and microservices are running across your hybrid infrastructure, it’s fair to assume that in deployment, something at some point is bound to go awry. You need to figure out what's happening and quickly course correct, but when you're scaling microservices, it's hard to troubleshoot just through application instrumentation. The ability to isolate specific applications or microservices communication streams for deeper inspection allows SecOps teams to easily understand access patterns and put in place effective micro segmentation strategies. Application developers too can benefit from this by better understanding communication bottlenecks between applications and microservices, as well as troubleshoot applications and microservices.
  5. Application metadata matters—The ability to extract metadata pertaining to those applications or services of interest can then fill gaps from a compliance, risk and performance perspective. Specifically, application metadata intelligence offers contextual data needed to quickly pinpoint potential threats and resolve network or application performance issues that can impact the user experience. 

Accelerating secure deployment of digital applications is equivalent to catching the Christmas spirit for NetOps and SecOps pros tasked with complex infrastructure development, implementation, maintenance and security. While these modern, multi-tiered DX applications bring agility and innovative capabilities, their complexity makes monitoring and securing them difficult, if not impossible, with ineffective network visibility. This puts the success of these applications in particular — and digital transformation projects in general — at risk. It’s that Rudolph-grade vision into the organisation's network and application layers that’s necessary to enable you to visualise your infrastructure, what's running on it, and how applications are performing and interacting with each other and if they’re secure. Once you can truly see the data in motion on your hybrid infrastructure, believe me, the path to digital innovation becomes a whole lot easier.

Karl Van den Bergh, CMO, Gigamon