What does it take to be a cloud climber?

Being clever in the cloud is about transforming the way businesses deploy and manage applications. Firms that continually innovate and build a sustainable cloud strategy deliver significant value to customers and differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace.   

So, how is it possible to effectively harness the cloud in all its incarnations? What does it take for an organisation to become a Cloud Climber? What does success look like? 

It all starts by embracing effective cloud architecture methodologies to drive value across the business through to end customers, all while maintaining application security and data protection. Scalability, flexibility, automation and speed to market are just some of the attributes that define an organisation thriving at the forefront of cloud technology and demonstrating tangible, on-going results.   

A multi-cloud world 

Businesses today need to move quickly and meet customer demand to be competitive. However, it is important to recognise while public cloud providers may guarantee the infrastructure security, it is the application owner that is responsible for data security. Some firms adopt a combination of on-premises, public cloud, private cloud, or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) to deliver applications. This approach offers greater flexibility, but can also increase costs and management to secure applications across a wider range of environments. In addition, enterprises need to avoid vendor lock-in to increase operational flexibility and make it much easier to build an effective cloud deployment strategy without having to change underlying network architecture. In this respect, many firms still struggle to achieve agility and efficiency or gain full control over IT and infrastructure.   

According to a recent report by RightScale, 85 percent of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy, up from 82 percent in 2016. Cloud architects typically use a unified platform to deliver and consistently manage application services and associated policies across different environments. This applies to existing applications, as well as new cloud native applications – all without sacrificing visibility, security and control. An entrepreneurial Cloud Climber can do this because they fully understand the options to develop the best cloud architecture solution to drive their business forward and by following some key disciplines.   

Enforce application security anywhere: Security is the primary consideration when navigating the cloud. Identifying which applications to move and which to retain in the data centre is a fundamental decision. It is also vital to quickly identify if the cloud vendor’s native security is sufficiently effective.   

Prioritise app migration: Prioritising and classifying commercial apps is central to an effective cloud migration strategy. Apps should be analysed and classified. Apps approaching expiration would most likely remain in-house until obsolete. Some apps need to be re-architected into a cloud-native form. Others must be moved through a hybrid “lift-and-shift” method to replicate the app in the cloud with minimal adjustments. Determining the right cloud environment with the right support services optimises app performance, increases protection and improves traffic management. 

Gain visibility and intelligence: At the infrastructure level, the cloud can be more secure than private data centres. However, it is essential to determine whether in-house IT can manage the complex security services or if off-the-shelf services by a cloud vendor is a better option. Achieving greater visibility and deeper intelligence into the traffic on your network and in the cloud requires effective analytical tools. In addition, a powerful, flexible and multi-environment WAF can deliver comprehensive app protection and provide access to the latest attack data helps ensure compliance. 

Mitigate risk: Mitigate risk by using solutions providing dynamic, centralised and adaptive access control and cloud federation for all applications wherever they reside. This enables customisable security policies that follow the apps, securing authentication for users anywhere, on any device. Protecting data with an easy to deploy next generation DDoS solution guards against the most aggressive and targeted attacks.   

Build better teams: Successful Cloud Climbers unify departments with an integrated cloud strategy wherein architects, DevOps and NetOps work towards a common goal. A cloud architect, for example, may utilise tools that can help to automate IT infrastructure and train staff to be more efficient. Alternatively, adopting a DevOps model to collaborate other teams can address issues facing many other areas of the business. By changing working process and procedures, organisations get the best from staff and maximise technology through their cloud project. Devising a sustainable cloud training programme for key staff will make the cloud transition easier and arm decision-makers with better knowledge.  

Understand the threat landscape: Breaches pose the biggest threat to cloud infrastructure. By monitoring cyber threats, IT departments can immediately recognise a variegated and rapidly evolving threat landscape. They also build up a better understanding of attacker behaviour. Recognising the full security threat landscape must apply to all types of clouds, allowing staff to maintain access to SaaS, platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-services (IaaS) scenarios.  

Implement robust solutions: Cloud Climbers invest in the best multi-cloud solutions that provide programmable application services capable of integrating into any public, private, hybrid or colocation cloud solution stack. Optimised tools deliver services in an automated, policy-driven manner that meet security and compliance requirements without slowing development teams. Cloud agnostic technologies can also span, provision, manage and scale in any of the existing leading cloud providers and the hybrid cloud. The best application delivery services are independent of the environment, precluding cloud lock-in, and can increase speed to market and reduce future switching costs.   

Scale new heights 

To be a Cloud Climber you need to innovate and focus on return on investment. You need to have the skills to evaluate options and make complex systems function seamlessly. The right approach successfully completes ‘dev-and-test’ projects and expands operations into the cloud without sacrificing omnipresent application performance, control or security. An effective cloud architecture strategy increases business agility and provides flexibility to scale based on shifting hardware, software and on-demand requirements. Meanwhile, application control, access and security ensure optimal service performance, availability and security. The right approach is a comprehensive multi-cloud solution that drives innovation and adds customer value. In an era of digital transformation, now is the time to start climbing. 

Tristan Liverpool, Director of Systems Engineering at F5 Networks 

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