Demand for Tools to Operationalize Multi-Cloud and Hybrid Networks in 2021

The consensus among ONUG Fall 2020 attendees was that the global health crisis accelerated digital transformation, but the transformation was not equal across the enterprise. Employees began to work from home, and businesses moved more applications to the cloud for worldwide accessibility. What didn’t change were the tools to help with that transformation. Now, a year later what needs to happen to operationalize a cloud or hybrid environment?

IT was left trying to support cloud-based implementations with on-premise tools, most of which did not effectively transfer to a cloud infrastructure. IT staff spent hours trying to find tools, make tools, or do work manually. In this ONUG Fall session, the following panel members discuss what tools are most needed for IT departments in 2021:

  • Nick Lippis, ONUG
  • Mick Currey, Fidelity
  • Carlos Matos, JP Morgan Chase
  • Vishal Goradia, Gap

The first question the group addressed was how to look at tools. If the siloed approach is no longer working, how does the industry look at tool development?

Tools We Have

Tools fall into three groups: cloud-based, on-premise, and agnostic, which are tools that operate across platforms. Most organizations operate in a siloed environment where groups operate autonomously. Those in security find and use tools that development teams may also use. The tools perform the same functions but are from different vendors. Instead of a multi-seat license, companies are purchasing other tools that do the same thing.

As Vishal notes, most operational tools come through security, life-cycle management, or development teams that work in parallel but not collaborative. This process results in overlapping tools that lead to overconsumption. Instead of looking at tools in isolation, organizations need to evaluate processes for more tool consolidation. The goal should be to make operations simpler.

What Tools Are Needed?

Mick suggested that the type of tools depends on how risk-averse a company is. Organizations in the financial sector are very risk-conscious, so their interest would be tools that focus on security and governance. What they have are tools that may or may not transfer from on-premise to cloud implementations.

Cloud providers have their proprietary ways of operation. That means businesses have to create or purchase tools that are specific to each cloud environment. What’s needed are tools that operate across cloud providers. They need tools to manage a security pipeline, provide sanity checks and implement policies that mitigate risk and ensure compliance.

Carlos discussed the need for control. In general, companies lose control when they move to the cloud. Providers need to allow the same level of control as an on-premise configuration does. Without that capability, organizations cannot mitigate risk, ensure compliance or see what is occurring on the network.

With IT moving towards DevOps, the vertical functions are becoming blurred. The functions are spreading horizontally, making it necessary for tools to work throughout a life-cycle. Automation tools are one way to approach life-cycle management.

Systems should be secured by design and by code. As systems and applications are designed, security needs to be a part of the process. In the past, security features have been added at the end of a development cycle rather than throughout it. Tools must be transcendent.

Are There Pain Points?

Each participant was asked to identify where the pain points in cloud technology tools would be in 2021.

Nick felt security, governance, and stovepiping would be primary fiction points going forward. More and more companies realize the need for sharing data across an enterprise. It is also something that legacy systems do not do. Friction will continue as long as traditional data centers exist, even if the majority of a system is moved to the cloud. The ability for organizations to maintain security and governance will continue to be a point of friction as networks expand.

Mick suggested using open-source tools when available. They can serve as a bridge between off-the-shelf solutions and in-house tools. The driving force for 2021 is to make operations simple. Many organizations face complex infrastructures because solutions had to be implemented quickly when restrictions were applied. Now, companies must find cost-effective ways to operate those systems.

Vishal believed that on-premise data centers would be reduced in size with more functionality being moved to the cloud. However, not all on-premise solutions would be moved to the cloud because network visibility is not available.

Carlos focused on standardization of data from multiple cloud providers. The lack of standard formats will continue to be a point of friction, as will the lack of interoperability among providers. Until there’s a commonality, tool development will be limited.

Where Should ONUG Focus?

Nick asked the panel what issues should ONUG focus on in 2021. According to the participants, the focus should be on the following:

  • Governance
  • Open-source
  • Cross functionality
  • Automation
  • Security
  • Standards
  • Interoperability

What the industry needs is the ability to operate across platforms. The lack of consistency in tools between cloud and on-premise infrastructures makes it challenging to see and manage a network. 

Standardizing aspects of the cloud operations would help reduce the need for in-house tool development and would create a more robust environment of interoperability. Until that happens, teams should consider open-source tools that allow them to customize tools for their specific implementations. 

As the complexity of corporate infrastructures increases, it’s essential that companies have the tools they need for security, governance, compliance, and risk mitigation. Many of the tools could automate processes, so less staff time is required to manage the network.

Overall, tools need to be integrated and extended so that they can support on-premise and off-premise operations. The sooner the industry can standardize to make interoperability possible, the sooner companies will be able to move operations to the cloud. Those industries with stringent compliance requirements cannot lose control of critical data, which limits their willingness to have a cloud-native environment. 

Join us at ONUG Spring 2021, May 5-6, where we will continue these discussions and other topics related to cloud-native, on-premise, or hybrid infrastructures.

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