Why the ‘accidental hybrid’ cloud exists, and how to manage it

It is now a given in today’s business environment that enterprises will be using the cloud. Exactly how and what kind of cloud will be determined by where the business is within its digital transformation journey. Typically, a complete migration to the cloud can be a two- to four-year process, meaning that embracing a hybrid environment is practically inevitable. However, while more than half of all organisations are running with a hybrid model, and each business on average uses 3.4 public clouds and 3.9 private clouds at once, only about 40% have a formal operational plan for running this way. This means that monitoring and security tools created pre-pandemic are being required to do a job they were not designed for, and entire workforces are un-informed about the IT environment they are utilising and managing.

As many enterprises embrace hybridity without a solid strategy in place, NetOps teams are facing a huge challenge viewing and understanding what is happening across their network. The rapid rise in working from home has also been paired with a dramatic increase in cyber threats and intense pressure on understaffed and overworked NetOps and SecOps teams. The combination of these factors has led to the rise of the ‘accidental hybrid’ environment and a critical gap in observability. So how can IT professionals support their enterprises as they push forward with fast innovation while simultaneously prioritising security? The answer lies in developing a clear and concise strategy for re-gaining network visibility, which in turn will support automation and optimisation across the hybrid cloud environment.

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Implementing a strategy for visibility

According to a Gigamon poll, 40% of respondents claim ‘lack of visibility’ is a top concern when moving to the cloud, ranking second only to the anxiety around ‘security gaps’. Rebuilding workloads in the cloud is an integral part of a digital transformation initiative, yet if the processes are too complex – with a lack of observability causing security holes and performance failures – digital innovation is bound to fail and cloud migration will come firmly to a halt. Increasing complexity also inevitably breeds rising costs. If CloudOps teams implement multiple un-integrated tools to re-gain control of the migration process and patch network problems, expenses will only continue to build. The solution here will always be a single, complete view across the entire cloud and on-prem infrastructure to simplify and secure the whole migration process.

The ‘hybrid cloud visibility gap’ occurs when tools made for the IT environment before the shift to multi and hybrid clouds do not allow a unified view into the new landscape. This cultivates a situation where each cloud becomes its own ‘island’ of visibility, separated from the rest. End-to-end visibility is therefore compromised, and with it comes a threat to security, customer experience and further in-house digital initiatives. It is essential for IT professionals to implement a strategy to overcome the visibility gap, ideally introducing a ‘single pane of glass’ view into all moving data across the entire network. The ‘accidental hybrid’ can quickly become a beneficial, managed hybrid environment that enables flexibility and scalability for the fluid workforce, yet only if a strategy is developed for seeing, understanding and analysing the data within it.

Prioritise automation and optimisation

With many security tools designed for an on-premises world, they can lack the application-level insight needed to positively impact digital services. Businesses are therefore inevitably becoming more vulnerable to cyber attacks, especially as an ‘accidental hybrid’ environment makes it challenging to accurately monitor traffic or detect potential threats. If a SecOps team has a ‘clouded’ vision into the cloud environment, they may be forced to rely only on trace files or application logs that ultimately provide a less than perfect view into the network. What’s more, with the pervasive issue of the digital skills shortage, there are a significant lack of experts that truly understand how to secure the hybrid cloud environment.

As long as a visibility strategy is prioritised, network automation becomes an invaluable solution to overcoming the issues of overstretched security professionals and the increasing ‘threatscape’. While it may have seemed a daunting process in the past, automation of data analysis is now surprisingly simple and can be integral for gaining better insight and, in turn, mitigating attacks. Introducing automation can also be a more cost-effective way to bolster a visibility and security strategy, as optimising current processes is a far better option than re-investing in an entirely new IT infrastructure or monitoring tools. Automation can free up the precious human workforce to focus on what really matters, as well as reducing alert noise and streamlining data in motion to ensure that any tasks that need human intervention are prioritised and genuine. Nevertheless, establishing a clear line of sight into the hybrid cloud is crucial to process optimisation, and without visibility, automated solutions may simply cause more problems than they solve.

If NetOps teams are to continue with their digital transformation initiatives, which are essential to ensuring business continuity, they must make sure they are not attempting to do so blindly. Gaining better visibility into the ‘accidental hybrid’ cloud is imperative, not only for protecting a business against cybercrime, but also to further digital solutions and guarantee end-user satisfaction. The cloud is an important tool for business survival, and unintentionally adopting a hybrid model can actually turn into a positive for business success and scalability. However, without sufficient optimisation, it could also be the source of disastrous complications.

Written by Adrian Rowley, senior director EMEA at Gigamon

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