What's shaping the cloud strategies today

Guru Chahal, VP - Products, Avi NetworksFor the better part of a decade, IT leaders have been developing their cloud strategy. They’ve been justifying the move to cloud-based infrastructure focusing on benefits including elastic scale, global footprint, more affordable compute and storage, pay for what you use, and shift from CAPEX to OPEX to name a few. Objectively, most of the benefits of the cloud do add value and contribute to the movement to public cloud. But it is increasingly clear that the one true benefit that’s above all others is ‘speed’.

A few years ago, one of the banks in the U.S. introduced the ability to deposit a check by just snapping a picture of it with your phone. Their largest competitor immediately started seeing a massive demand for this feature from their customer base. Given the prospect of losing customers, they quickly developed the feature and rolled it out using public cloud. Adding servers, storage, network capacity, load balancers, firewalls, monitoring software and many other components on-prem would have taken weeks. The decision to go to cloud was a business decision made purely for speed - not cost or technical reasons.

Make no mistake, while there are a lot of technological and operational differences between the cloud and traditional infrastructure (with pros and cons on both sides), speed is the single biggest driving force behind cloud adoption. Even if the cloud was more expensive than on-premises data centers (in many cases it is), enterprises would still be adopting it en mass. The business, developers, and operations teams need to deploy, scale, and govern applications as quickly as possible.

The real challenge today, is to attain speed without introducing new risk, in other words, speed without compromise. No compromise on application availability, application security, or end-user experience, while increasing deployment speed by orders of magnitude.

An effective cloud solution requires a fairly significant shift in mindset. The focus of a cloud strategy has to be the application, not the infrastructure. It may seem like a
nuanced point, but it is absolutely critical.Infrastructure is often considered the foundation of IT. In traditional use cases, many organizations make decisions about applications through the lens of infrastructure. The cloud changes the narrative because it commoditizes infrastructure and abstracts away many of the compute and storage challenges. Modern enterprises only need to consider what an application needs, as they know the cloud can provide the necessary resources on demand.

It is imperative for today’s cloud strategies to invest in services and tooling to provide applications with performance, availability, and security

As enterprises realize this, their cloud strategies begin to take an application centric approach focused on 3 primary service level agreements(SLAs) to ensure speed without compromise.

1. Performance — Is my application performing as intended? Are my developer and operations teams getting the services they need in a timely fashion? Are my customers getting the experience they need?

2. Availability — Is my application accessible and is it getting the services, tools, and data that it needs to function as intended? Do I have disaster avoidance and disaster recovery measures in place?

3. Security — Is my application protected from external and internal attacks? Do I have visibility into the application, infrastructure, and network to identify anomalies and proactively address threats as they arise?

Application performance, availability, and security need to be the foundation of your cloud strategy. And, while most major cloud providers can provide good base functionality in these areas, IT leaders must consider extensible cloud solutions as part of their cloud strategy to drive further value.

For example, application monitoring tools, nextgen load balancers, and web application firewalls (WAF) need to be core components today’s cloud strategies. Monitoring tools provide visibility into the end user, application, and infrastructure beyond what the big cloud players offer. Application monitoring tools help identify bottlenecks and opportunities to improve performance. Modern load balancing solutions deliver applications using a software defined architecture, instead of hardware appliances. The software architecture allows the load balancer to operate as a single fabric that drives performance and ensures availability across data centers and clouds. Finally, WAFs architected for the cloud can capitalize on machine learning and automation to immediately identify and react to changes in traffic patterns and security threats. Combined, these tools can help achieve application SLAs and a ruthlessly fast (and secure) experience in the cloud.

The cloud is appealing to enterprises for many reasons, and today’s cloud strategies are shaped by many factors. However, enterprises will only be successful in the cloud if the embrace that fact that speed, and nothing but speed, is driving the migration to the cloud. It is imperative for today’s cloud strategies to invest in services and tooling to provide applications with performance, availability, and security so they can deliver a better, faster experience for customers without compromise.