Why visibility is key to reap the benefits of the cloud

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Agility, flexibility and scalability. Many businesses have already begun to enjoy these promised benefits of the cloud. They resonate with any company wanting to successfully navigate digital transformation (DX). Almost two thirds of enterprise workloads now run in the cloud, and this is expected to reach more than four in five over the next two years. Of these, around a quarter will adopt a multi-cloud approach, utilising a mixture of services from different providers for greater efficiencies as well as to avoid vendor lock-in. But with the cloud now underpinning so many critical business functions, assuring services both throughout the migration journey and beyond, has never been more important.

Cloud over everything

The cloud means resources can be quickly and easily added or reduced, without the need for trial-and-error investments in hardware and software; traditional IT resources are no longer needed, helping businesses to be more efficient; and pay-as-you-go models for infrastructure are allowing enterprises to cut costs. For hybrid cloud, the agility it affords can help companies to modernise with ease, and align themselves with newer, digital-first competitors; it can also allow a business to test different approaches to IT management, and adapt and pivot when needed. It’s little surprise then, that hybrid cloud adoption tripled in 2017, growing from 19 per cent to 57 per cent of organisations, according to one report. The growth won’t stop there: in 15 months, 80 per cent of all IT budgets will be committed to cloud solutions.

However, the move to the cloud isn’t simply a hop from one point to the next. Instead, it involves a gradual migration during which networks must remain secure and data must be safeguarded. This is why many businesses will for years use a combination of new, virtualised infrastructure and legacy systems.

And herein the challenges lie. With the growth in cloud and virtualisation technologies has come increasingly complex and boundless compute, network, database, and storage environments.

With so many moving parts within the IT infrastructure, service disruption is an ever-present challenge. Assuring the delivery of services has become increasingly difficult as workloads spread between the cloud, on-premises, and the edge.

The risks of migration

During migration processes, one of the many benefits of the cloud – scalability – will be revealed to businesses as a double-edged sword. Expanding a network will usually be the task of networking teams accustomed to using application-centric infrastructure (ACI) in order to develop networks. Yet this network-centric mode is at odds with the application-first approach associated with the cloud.

Expanding and diversifying IT infrastructure also amplifies the risk of security breaches, something which is a worry to many. Security and compliance topped the list of concerns for over 80 per cent of all enterprises when undertaking a cloud migration or transformation effort. While a private cloud may have robust security, the same level of authentication and encryption standards may not come standard in public cloud environments.

A business may detect a fault or outage in one part of their IT infrastructure, but due to its sprawling, multi-layered, physical/virtual nature, pinpointing and rectifying the issue can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. All the while the team laboriously searching for the fault – or security breach – incurs time and revenue lost to the wider business.

Gain visibility to gain from DX

Finding the root cause of application performance degradations and service failures can be tortuous for businesses relying on machine data.  Machine data, which by definition, is low-fidelity as it comes from many sources but lacks a common language to simplify analysis. Aggregating this data to derive useful service assurance information requires not only sophisticated algorithms, but also significant human interaction to find the “needle in the haystack.”

As cloud migration and expansion accelerates, this approach, without any built-in service assurance context will create visibility borders, ultimately resulting in hampering business agility by increasing Mean Time to Resolution (MTTR), the average elapsed time from when an incident is reported until the incident is resolved.  

For businesses to capitalise on the wealth of opportunities the cloud brings, it’s therefore imperative that they have complete visibility into their entire hybrid cloud and multi-cloud infrastructure, and all the interrelationships between applications, protocols, networks and servers involved in service delivery. This will enable them to assure efficiency and optimise their MTTR.

But what is required to improve the effectiveness of DevSecOps teams, to quickly identify the root cause of any issue, and attain a common situational awareness? 

Wire data, smart visibility

By continuously monitoring every IP packet that traverses the service delivery infrastructure and, analysing them in real time, businesses can obtain valuable insights into application performance and identify any potential service delivery problems.

Unlike machine data, which can restrict visibility amongst DevSecOps team members, the IP packet or wire data is derived from transactional conversations directly from business applications. Often referred to as “the ultimate source of truth,” wire data is extremely high fidelity and delivered in a common language suitable for analysis. By continuously monitoring wire data and the subsequent access to condensed, actionable and intelligent datasets on events as they happen, DevSecOps teams will have smarter visibility, common situational awareness and more efficient and holistic solutions to assure the service.

Visibility without borders, services without interruption

With enterprise IT in a perpetual state of change, in which the elements of cloud and on-premise infrastructure are constantly evolving and transitioning, visibility across the entire infrastructure is vital to digital transformation success. Whenever there’s change in IT, there’s also potential for failure. Any one of the changes that takes place as an organisation moves to the cloud has the potential to affect the dynamic and performance of existing services.

To ensure success, businesses should look to use wire data to create smart data - which is prepared and organised at the point of collection will ensure that the data is optimised for analytics at the highest quality and speed. Extracting key metrics from the data, and displaying the sets on easy-to-use dashboards, can provide businesses with the visibility needed to cut through the complexity of the cloud and turn it from a utility to a strategic asset.

Increasingly, advanced threat security solutions will also be expected in the cloud. Its perimeter might be well protected with virtual firewalls, but should a threat infiltrate the environment, smart data will also be essential to identifying and responding to the threat in real time.

An organisation’s success now hinges on its ability to successfully harness the cloud. Smart data offers businesses an opportunity to benefit from visibility without borders and uninterrupted service delivery. Service assurance solutions centred on smart data will allow companies to reap more benefits from the cloud.

Ron Lifton, Senior Enterprise Solutions Manager, NETSCOUT
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