The state of the network is murky

As enterprises migrate an increasing proportion of infrastructure and services to the cloud, IT teams are stuck with cleaning up the mess — whether or not they had anything to do with creating it.

storm clouds dark

Hybrid IT networking has come a long way in the past decade, as enterprises have gradually come to embrace and trust cloud computing. Yet, despite the growing popularity of both private and public clouds, many enterprise IT teams are still struggling with how to handle the resulting migration challenges.

Originally envisioned as simply a way to reduce costs, migration to the cloud has escalated in large part due to a drive for greater agility and flexibility. In fact, according to a recent State of the Network global survey of more than 600 IT professionals, the top two reasons enterprises are moving to the cloud are to increase IT scalability and agility, and to improve service availability and reliability. The need to lower costs was ranked number four, tied with the desire to deliver new services faster.

With these benefits becoming more widely known, the pace of cloud migration is only going to accelerate. Analyst firm Gartner has projected that the public cloud market could exceed $186 billion this year – an increase of more than 20 percent from 2017. So where does this leave today’s enterprise IT teams?

We didn’t start the fire

Third-party cloud platforms like Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services (AWS), along with business management Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications, continue to gain popularity with enterprises across a variety of market segments. While in the past deployment of enterprise-level software and infrastructure was handled by the IT department, today decisions regarding cloud-hosted applications like customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) are frequently made within specific business units, such as marketing or accounting — without consulting IT.

As more applications are virtualized and migrated to the cloud, someone has to address the consequences; however, not all enterprises have clear processes in place to identify which “someone” or even which department is responsible. Currently, more than 65 percent of network teams are involved with monitoring and troubleshooting of cloud performance issues, according to the State of the Network study. But a sizeable number of respondents said they have no idea who owns responsibility for solving cloud issues in their organization.

With cloud deployment becoming ubiquitous, IT teams are struggling with new visibility challenges that impact performance, user experience and latency. Fifty-two percent of survey respondents said their top challenge is application performance monitoring, with cloud migration making it increasingly difficult to determine whether problems are caused by the network, application or system.

Laying the groundwork

As cloud migration continues unabated, IT is losing control of infrastructure and services; yet the onus still falls on network teams to maintain performance and resolve issues. Although this is a challenging situation for sure, it’s also an opportunity for IT teams to create policies and roles for managing cloud networks. Taking steps now to diminish the ambiguity that exists over roles and responsibilities will pay off in the future, because the situation is only going to get worse. According to the State of the Network study, a majority of enterprises expect to be running between one-quarter to half of their IT workload off-premises by 2020, and approximately one-third anticipate running the majority of their applications in the cloud. So, if you’re not monitoring in the cloud now, you soon will be.

As visibility into cloud resources remains a challenge, network teams are struggling to manage performance from the local data center out to any Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) vendor. This significantly hinders the ability of IT teams to deliver anytime, anywhere connectivity — a pressing need as more than 90 percent of enterprises have at least some portion of their workforce accessing network or application services from a remote site.

Take a stand in the cloud

With more applications being delivered in the cloud, IT service teams need to adopt a “cloud by default” approach, supporting a combination of internal and external cloud resources orchestrated and managed as a unified hybrid infrastructure. This requires full visibility and insight into the path that applications take from the user to the cloud, to the data center and back. It should not be an either/or choice between monitoring legacy on-premises and cloud infrastructure. Any missing pieces will impact the ability of your team to accurately pinpoint and resolve breakdowns.

Network teams should carefully consider if it’s still feasible to have separate solutions for on-premises versus cloud environments — considering that to them and their users, it’s one unified environment. Being able to view end-to-end user experience with applications, regardless of location or hosting environment, should be the de facto expectation of today’s IT teams when managing performance.

While it’s true that migrating services to the cloud introduces a considerable amount of complexity, a better understanding of these challenges — and preparation to address them — goes a long way to helping network teams cope with the need to support these new hybrid environments. Because while it may not be your fault that your enterprise is migrating more applications and services to the cloud… it’s still your responsibility to make it all work.

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Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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