Transitioning to the Cloud: It Shouldn’t Feel All That Different

This new world represents new challenges, but IT teams have the tools to solve for them.

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Cisco

When enterprises around the world sent their employees home during the pandemic, IT teams were forced to hit fast forward on plans to support a more mobile workforce. The good news is many IT organizations had a blueprint in place to: accelerate investment in cloud workloads, adopt zero-trust security policies and begin using the internet as their primary method of connecting employees to their work. But what was previously expected to be a slow, methodical transition with double- and triple-checks for assurance and cost analysis became a mad dash for the cloud.

Now, as we enter 2021, those applications that are essential for our businesses are, in many cases, safely operating in the cloud. We’ve successfully supported an at-home workforce. Now is the time for organizations to start asking the questions: is this sustainable, and is it cost-effective? Cloud can quickly become complicated, as your IT teams shift their trust in data centers and implement internet connections over which they no longer have direct control. Security, automation and resiliency become more complex, but also more important than ever before. This new world represents new challenges, but IT teams have the tools to solve for them. 

For years, enterprise networks have been highly controlled, with major investments made in tools and IT talent to support the network. They are y secure, automated and trusted to a large extent. When introducing new cloud environments, the tools, talent and principles that have been applied to enterprise networks for years can and should be carried over. Cloud workloads shouldn’t cost more to be made efficient. To solve for these challenges, cloud onramp technology programmatically and on-demand can extend enterprise networks securely and efficiently to multiple clouds to access the distributed workloads and SaaS applications.

Technology is important, but most CIOs will agree that it’s people and talent that are the crucial factor. It simply isn’t sustainable to build out teams to manage all the new environments introduced by adopting a multicloud approach. Most organizations don’t have the resources to support a blue team for AWS, a red team for Microsoft Azure and a green team for Google Cloud yet each of these environments is unique. Not only should IT teams be able to standardize on a management platform for their cloud workloads, but that management platform should look, feel and act like that of the enterprise network. With cloud onramp technology, you can not only protect investments made in people and talent, but also ensure that the network can be treated as a single system with security and automation policies extending end-to-end.  This will enable remote workers to benefit from the same levels of security and application performance in the cloud as they do with their enterprise on-premises systems.

Complicating things further is connectivity. Many believe that the way employees work has permanently shifted. Some people won’t be going back into the office full-time, and IT teams must ensure this mobile workforce has the tools it needs to be productive. The flexibility promised by cloud solves for part of this problem, but the journey to the cloud isn’t a straight line. The Internet has become the primary delivery mechanism of these cloud workloads. So that means we must deliver an enterprise-grade internet.

Failures are a norm, not an exception, on the internet. Delivering an enterprise-grade internet means building around these failures. In the past, this meant investing in redundant links, but today, we have intelligent network fabrics capable of ensuring resiliency without constant redundancy. These programmable, software-defined network fabrics can intelligently choose how to get to the cloud based on expected quality of experience, cost, resiliency and productivity. To operate efficiently, connection paths should no longer be chosen because they are simply available.

There is no magical pipeline connecting a user to their cloud workloads, as the internet is made up of multiple disparate elements. Connection points might go through a content delivery network, through an internet service provider, or through a network-as-a-service connection. Cloud onramp abstracts all of that, and if the network fabric is intelligent enough, can automatically select the right connections for the right applications so that the user experience will be consistent.

These fundamental shifts -where applications live and how users access them also requires a new approach to security. The most effective approach is to offer security that is intrinsic to the application itself. This can be an expectation for the largest and most widely used SaaS enterprise applications, but chances are the same cannot be said for every application an organization uses. This is where visibility into the health and security of a cloud application becomes paramount. Organizations need to be able to not only understand whether an application is working as it should, but if it isn’t, be able to diagnose whether the problem is with the cloud provider, the connection or the enterprise network link.

Getting to the cloud (or in most cases, multiple clouds) shouldn’t be an end-goal. Cloud is an expansion, not a destination. It shouldn’t feel dramatically different. If done right, cloud won’t require t an expansion of resources, rather it will require a new approach to effectively apply existing resources and deliver simplicity, agility and innovation 

For more information on how Cisco is simplifying customers’ journey to cloud, you can read more about Cisco SD-WAN Cloud OnRamp here.

JL Valente is Vice President, Product Management, Enterprise Routing, SD-WAN and Cloud Networking at Cisco.

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