How cloud assurance is at the heart of digital transformation

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Cloud computing is transforming modern business. Through the cloud, new digital-centric businesses are emerging that are more agile and innovative than anything seen before. Whether a new, ‘upstart’ business like Uber, with its compelling approach to city transport; or an established company breaking into new markets, like General Motors with its investment into Lyft, businesses are pioneering new customer services and business models that are disrupting entire industries and changing the way we work and play.

This digital transformation (DX) will affect all businesses. According to IDC, one third of the top 20 companies in every industry will have been disrupted by such digitally transformed companies by 2018. The message to businesses is clear: disrupt or be disrupted.

Enterprises are now on an accelerated modernisation path, trying to maintain, and even extend, their lead as other digital and data driven organisations challenge their status. For established enterprises, this is a particular challenge: they are not start ups that can live exclusively in the clouds. They have legacy systems and applications that cannot be virtualised and migrated to the cloud and customers who rely upon the flawless and ceaseless delivery of their digital services. Furthermore, due to governance, compliance, and regulatory (GRC) requirements some of the digital assets have to stay on premise. Therefore, the road ahead is more complicated than simply migrating infrastructure and applications to the cloud.

Head in the cloud

The cloud provides enterprises with the agility to increase the infrastructure capacity with no capital expenses and quickly deploy new services as mandated by the business needs. However in the process the enterprises may lose visibility and control over the data and the quality of service delivery. It is the role of the CIO to ensure that a business maintains control of its digital assets to ensure continuity of service for its customers. 

Cloud-based assets should be treated like any other IT resource; they will be deployed to support enterprise functions and mission critical systems so they need to be closely monitored. If an organisation becomes dependent on the cloud to support key aspects of the business then the CIO needs to have complete visibility across all cloud-based systems. CIOs can implement dashboards that provide real-time analysis of the operational impact of cloud services and applications.

Apart from changes to core infrastructure, lines of business (LOBs) will independently utilise third party cloud based services; regularly introducing new applications to drive new workflows and efficiencies. The CIO should also have the power to veto initiatives that do not comply with the overall corporate IT quality assurance strategy.

Successful cloud-based disruption is not only about delivering transformational customer and business services; it is about delivering them well. The reliable delivery of business services is directly tied to customer experience, satisfaction, loyalty and ultimately corporate performance. In the connected world, assuring the quality of the enterprise service delivery infrastructure – supporting as it does the services that enable DX – becomes a mission-critical business activity.

However, this entails assuring these services end-to-end across edge, core and cloud both physical, virtual, and hybrid environments. The challenge is how to monitor activity continuously across the entire infrastructure in real-time, in particular to identify and diagnose service issues. There is increased pressure on IT to reap the benefits of external cloud services, but there is rarely a plan to assure performance and secure the data stored in the cloud, beyond relying on the cloud providers. While such providers advertise that they have integrated control, management, and security of respective cloud offerings, businesses should be reluctant to depend nothing more than trusting this is the case. It is far better for the CIO to be able to verify that data is safe and to do this, they need visibility of the entire system.

Dark skies ahead

The challenge facing businesses has become more acute because now, companies rely on a mix of public cloud services providers, private cloud and on-premises legacy technology. With more and more systems relying on the performance of external services, it’s a challenge to pin down the root cause of a service interruption when it occurs, as it relies on the consistent performance of multiple elements both on and off of your premises.

Despite the benefits of this hybrid environment the reality is that it can cause an enterprise to lose sight of service vulnerabilities. What is needed is a holistic end-to-end view of the entire service delivery infrastructure. Without this visibility, service failure and even criminal activities, such as hacking and Denial of Service (DoS) attacks, can go unnoticed. With so much of modern business activity reliant on the effective operation of the network, it is vital to be able to identify and address issues quickly and effectively.  

Every cloud has a silver lining

The right approach to service assurance overcomes this challenge by providing a holistic visibility across the entire service delivery infrastructure from the wireless Edge to the Core and in the Cloud. This is achieved by continuous end-to-end monitoring and analysis of the traffic data flowing over hybrid cloud networks. This enables enterprises to spot and isolate any anomalies that may present a hindrance to business performance. Translating real-time smart data into actionable insights is of huge strategic value to the enterprise both in terms of productivity and revenue.

Cloud will play a central role in the DX transformation of the large majority – if not all - enterprises over the next decade. The CIO needs to be able to confidently manage the quality of each new cloud service and application that is adopted across the business. Every new system must be accounted for and be aligned with the overall DX cloud initiative and enterprise-wide DX strategy. Digital transformation can be a perilous journey for a business, however, with the right tools and approach, a business can emerge able to compete in an increasingly connected world. 

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