Survey: NetOps is essential but undervalued in making multi-cloud decisions

For multi-cloud networking to succeed, NetOps must have a seat at the table, but IT leaders need to buy into it, according to EMA.

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By 2024, 88% of enterprises will use two or more infrastructure as a service (IaaS) providers, according to research by EMA, which believes that network infrastructure and operations teams must take a leadership role in defining network architecture that ensures the performance and security of their multi-cloud digital services.

EMA recently polled a group of these enterprises, surveying 351 IT stakeholders, including 39% in network engineering, 21% in the CIO suite, 15% on cloud teams, and 11% in cybersecurity.

EMA found that networking teams and network technology have become more important in 81% of multi-cloud strategies in recent years. Unfortunately, only 24% of research participants firmly believe that their networking teams have enough influence over cloud decision-making.

Networking professionals want more influence, but everyone around them is more likely to think the network team has enough already.  In the recent survey, just 11% of network engineers believed they had enough clout, but members of cybersecurity teams are three times as likely to believe this, people who work in a CIO’s suite are four times as likely, and the IT architecture group is more than five times as likely to believe it. Why is that?

First, 31% of research participants said conflicts and collaboration issues between groups are major sources of pain for their multi-cloud networking strategies.

Communication, cooperation breakdown

A senior network architect at a university hospital system and medical school recently told EMA that trust is an issue. “It’s difficult to work with our cloud teams on networking and security issues. They are reluctant to give the networking team visibility into their environment and don’t trust us to do what’s right.”

EMA also found that 29% of enterprises are struggling with a lack of defined processes and best practices in multi-cloud networks. A network architect with a $15 billion retailer told EMA, “There’s absolutely confusion internally and organizationally [over which teams are responsible for networking and security]. Those lines get blurred [in the cloud].”

EMA’s research found that poor IT leadership can be a relatively minor pain point for multi-cloud networking, but as enterprises increase the number of cloud providers that they use, IT leadership becomes a bigger problem. The survey found that just 12% of respondents using two cloud providers said IT leadership issues were causing the most pain, but for those using five or more the number was 42%. EMA believes CIOs lack a firm understanding of how complex networking and network security become when cloud teams expand the number of IaaS providers they use.

Network I&O vs. cloud teams

The people best equipped to mitigate multi-cloud networking complexity belong to the network infrastructure and operations group, but the cloud team is accustomed to doing things on its own, without input from a network team, which they generally perceived as a roadblock rather than an enabler. IT executives need to recognize this issue and set an agenda for cooperation from the top down. In organizations where the IT group owns the cloud, CloudOps will toe the line for the CIO. In enterprises where cloud teams report to lines of business, CIOs will have to reach across the organizational divide and make the case for getting the network team a seat at the table.

EMA asked the research participants to identify their most essential collaboration partners in muti-cloud networking. Thirty-five percent identified the cloud-operations group as a key partner, which is unsurprising. The cloud team is king in the cloud, so the network team must be prepared to play nice with them. However, the top response to the question was cybersecurity (42%). Why is the security team such an important partner for networking?

First, EMA has tracked increased collaboration between networking and security groups for years. Security teams often rely on network teams to own aspects of network security, such as firewalls. They also look to network operations as a broker of network data when investigating suspicious network behavior.

Meanwhile, the network team knows that the other parts of the enterprise are going to listen to the security group because no one wants to be responsible for the next breach or compliance violation. To have the security team on your side is to have the ear of the rest of the enterprise. Also, many network teams tap the security team for budget when they can demonstrate that a networking investment will reduce security risk.

All of these NetSecOps dynamics play out in the cloud as much as they have historically played out in on-premises networks. These teams support each other in their respective missions. More importantly, when they present a united front in the cloud, the cloud team is more likely to listen to them.

Network I&O input = hybrid-cloud success

While the survey found only 24% of enterprises firmly believe their network teams have enough influence in the cloud, that number rises to 36% among enterprises that feel they are most successful with multi-cloud networking strategies. Those who strongly agreed that network teams have enough influence were the most likely to say their cloud networking strategies were very successful.

The network team must be an equal partner in the cloud, otherwise the multi-cloud network will become a point of failure. Not only will the cloud team make poor networking decisions on its own, but the network team’s lack of visibility will slow things down. As the network architect at a university hospital system said, “We cannot react to changes quickly because we don’t know too much about what’s going on in the cloud, and we can’t proactively say ‘next month we will need more bandwidth.’ We’re just reacting to thresholds.”

Learn more about this research in a free EMA webinar.

(Shamus McGillicuddy is the research director for the network management practice at EMA.)

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

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