Cisco: Enterprises grapple with hybrid-cloud security, operational complexity

Greater collaboration between networking and cloud teams can increase security, efficiency, and cloud application performance, according to a report from Cisco and 451 Research.

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Hybrid cloud and multicloud have become the norm as enterprises look to improve business agility and scalability, but adoption is not without challenges.

A new study from Cisco and 451 Research sought to gauge how enterprises are doing with their cloud environments and examine the benefits and challenges of using cloud-based services. 451 Research interviewed 2,500 cloud, DevOps, and networking professionals for the Cisco-sponsored survey.

“While hybrid cloud provides a range of opportunities and benefits for organizations, many are acutely aware of the challenges in operating these environments. Cloud-native architectures and emerging technologies compete for the attention of staff and for budgets, while security and networking challenges remain top of mind,” reads the 2022 Global Hybrid Cloud Trends Report, authored by 451 Research analysts Nicole Henderson and Eric Hanselman. “Adding new elements to an existing infrastructure mix raises the level of operational complexity, and organizations are grappling with ways to tame this issue.”

The top problem in hybrid and multicloud operations, according to survey respondents, is security, followed by operational complexity and cost containment, says Dhritiman “DD” Dasgupta, vice president of product management for the Cisco Cloud and Compute team, who blogged about the study findings.

There are a couple of reasons the respondents rated security as the top challenge. “One, securing access to and within public cloud environments is a relatively new discipline for IT organizations, who have spent decades securing apps, data, and users using perimeter-based ‘firewall’ approaches,” Dasgupta stated. “Two, there is increased security risks as applications and data move from one environment to another. In fact, 58% of respondents reported that they are moving workloads and data between on-prem and public cloud environments weekly.”

Security concerns are likely exacerbated by a lack of skills and budget in many organizations, which can lead to a strategy that fails to protect data and workloads in cloud-native environments where development happens faster and there is greater use of automation. In addition to influencing an organization’s security strategy, the use of cloud-native application architectures also affects networking strategy, according to the research.  

As for operational complexity, hybrid cloud requires IT organizations to manage disparate public cloud and on-premises domains including compute, network, and storage infrastructure. "Independently, each public cloud and on-premises resource has its own tools for visibility, monitoring, and governance. In addition, while traditional IT teams are typically centralized, each line of business can have its own app development, cloud operations, and DevOps teams, making collaboration among these teams challenging," Dasgupta stated.

“In response, 55 percent of our respondents report that they have created a cross-functional team with technical and business representation. Additionally, 50 percent have centralized their CloudOps and NetOps functions for operational efficiency and to achieve business objectives such as securing pricing concessions from public cloud providers,” Dasgupta wrote.

The study also showed that managing costs is not the primary motivation for companies to adopt multiple clouds. Instead, respondents in DevOps and CloudOps roles say the top reasons to use cloud-native technologies are to gain better performance, security and workload mobility.

Some other key findings from the study include:

  • 82% of survey respondents have adopted hybrid cloud.
  • 53% of respondents are moving workloads between on and off-prem environments weekly.
  • Organizations that use more than three cloud providers make use of alternative cloud providers outside of AWS, Azure and Google Cloud, which may include pure-play public cloud providers or cloud services offered as part of a broader portfolio such as telcos.
  • Organizations with 5,000+ employees are slightly more likely (8% of respondents) than smaller organizations (5%) to have more than 10 public cloud providers in use, since large organizations have more line-of-business requirements that can drive usage across platforms and outside the view of IT.
  • When it comes to SaaS, organizations are stretched across even more providers, with 23% of respondents reportedly using 20-100 different SaaS providers for their business, across categories such as email, collaboration and video calling, customer relationship management, and human capital management.
  • Respondents agree that greater collaboration between networking and cloud operations teams has numerous benefits, with improved cloud security (45%) at the top of the list for respondents, followed by greater operational efficiency overall (41%), and enhanced cloud application performance (39%).
  • 57% in networking roles strongly agree that it is important for their DevOps team to be involved in developing their organization’s network strategy.
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