Cloud / April 6, 2022

Network Intelligence: Required Information and Insights in This Digital Era

This article is Part 2 of a three-part series. For more, read Part 1.

In my previous guest blog, “Your Network and Their Cloud: Less Visibility. More Vulnerabilities,” I focused on the rising challenges of networking in today’s cloud-first environment. In this follow-up, I will outline the primary barriers to success IT executives cite when building out a resilient and secure digital infrastructure, increasingly dominated by public cloud services.

For each barrier, I will offer words of advice that assure your network — and your networking and security tools and talent — fulfill their promise of delivering resilient and responsive connectivity across the enterprise.

Breaking Down Digital Barriers: The Needed and Necessary Network Responses

IDC’s global 2021 Future of Enterprise Resiliency and Spending survey identifies the following top barriers to building out a resilient digital infrastructure:

  • Workload migration constraints. Performance and security issues serve to inhibit the movement away from legacy systems. Given that the cloud is the top target for workload migration projects, limited visibility into performance and security shortcomings restrict the use and impact of cloud delivery for critical workloads. Deep observability into these workloads — and associated infrastructure — enables ready and resilient migration and management
  • Management tool incompatibility. Single-pane-of-glass management is an ideal. It is not real. There is no one tool that will do it all in management. Rather, the most effective management system comprises multiple interoperable tools that make the most of shared functions and datasets, providing both deep and wide observability. For example, network intelligence and management are heightened by networking, computing, cloud, application, and security tools working together. Observability is best delivered as concert rather than collection. Within a single tool, role-based dashboards adapt to particular operator (“listener”) demands (e.g., NetOps, SecOps, DevOps). Across multiple tools, standardized APIs and data formats ease exchanges among specialized IT tools and team (“audience”) members. And, certainly, these exchanges must extend between on-premises tools and cloud-based utilities, enabling efficient and effective collaboration between service provider and service subscriber.
  • Fragmented IT governance. It is a strategic imperative for IT teams to work more closely together as increasing emphasis is placed on delivering high-impact business outcomes, timely cross-IT projects, positive end-user digital experiences, and a strong comprehensive security posture. For IT, siloed technology practices and products are out. Shared tools, datasets, skills, and practices are in. A deep observability solution that draws upon network intelligence and insights can function as a single source of truth for all IT operations and engineering teams and toolsets. This holistic management approach not only improves overall infrastructure management and service levels — it also improves the productivity and positive impact of IT staff across multiple traditional silos.
  • Analytics/automation inconsistencies. Complete cloud visibility drives comprehensive analysis, which, in turn, drives precise management actions — whether manual or automated. Limited or lack of visibility into any one portion of the technology infrastructure breaks the chain of effective end-to-end measurement, monitoring, and management. With cloud services rising to be a primary determinant of a positive and secure digital experience and a core contributor to a resilient digital infrastructure, deep observability into cloud services and infrastructure is fast becoming an absolute necessity in achieving end-to-end management and control. Here, complete cloud visibility must include network-derived intelligence. All infrastructure components — both private systems and public services — must be observed and controlled fully and equally.
  • Cloud cost controls. As evidenced by the continued rise in cloud spending across the industry, organizations must ensure that cloud usage is maximally cost-effective. High spending must be matched by high returns. Given that subscribers do not directly control cloud resources and operations, use of cloud services — and underlying cloud network — must be closely monitored and managed. Without detailed views and insights into cloud services and related cloud network use and utilization, subscribers operate in the dark with respect to overall cloud spending.
  • Limited staff capabilities. The complexity and criticality of today’s hyper-connected digital infrastructure apply tremendous pressure to not only networking staff but also security, application, support, and datacenter staff. Training, teamwork, and tools form the chief defense against failures, slowdowns, problems, threats, budget overruns, and delayed digital initiatives. And building out staff expertise and numbers is not the only challenge here. Redirecting staff time and energy from tactical duties to strategic responsibilities drives benefits to the business (e.g., productivity, agility), to IT (e.g., quality, security), and to individual staff members (e.g., satisfaction, retention).

Networking and Security Operations: Drawing Closer Together Out of Necessity

While the above points to specific barriers to success in building out a resilient digital infrastructure, it should also be noted that this same 2021 IDC Future of Enterprise Resiliency and Spending survey also highlighted security-related challenges and investment priorities. Many of these are prompted by the increasing use and complexity of cloud-first networked environments. The following select survey results stood out for me:

  • 42.1 percent indicated they experienced a blocking ransomware attack in the last 12 months (Nov. ’20 – Oct. ’21). And 26.9 percent indicated they paid ransoms.
  • 45.8 percent indicate a 2022 spending increase for managed detection and response (MDR). 
  • 46.5 percent indicate a 2022 spending increase for security information and event management (SIEM).

Increased threats drive the need for additional layers of protection — delivered by both singular security tools (e.g., MDR, SIEM) and increased integration of multiple tools and datasets that heighten network protection (e.g., network performance management, network detection and response). The increasing presence and influence of cloud services, combined with the shared security responsibilities of cloud service providers, further raises the stakes for cloud-focused security management functions and closer coupling of on-premises and cloud-based security management systems to deliver defense-in-depth across the enterprise.

Visibility into and control over cloud-first infrastructure is paramount for the success of IT organizations looking to deliver a consistent and predictable digital experience, the most efficient use of networking and networked resources, and the most failsafe and secure systems, services, and exchanges. What new knowledge can we leverage from network-derived intelligence in a cloud-first environment? What networking staff responsibilities and skills assure success in operating, enhancing, and securing a digital era network? What should IT organizations prioritize when evaluating network management solutions — whether systems or services? Look for Part 3 of this guest blog series on Networking the Cloud for answers to these thought-provoking questions. 

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