Four Key Challenges for IT in Hybrid Environments

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By Joe Byrne, CTO Advisor, Cisco AppDynamics

‘Cloud First’ has been a call to action for businesses in the Middle East for several years now, with the governments in the UAE and Saudi Arabia launching their cloud first strategies as far back as 2018 and 2019 respectively. And while there have been commendable shifts towards the cloud, there remains a significant portion of the region’s IT estate that still resides in traditional on-premises infrastructure.

For all its promises of cost-effectiveness, scalability, flexibility and more, the reality is that the transition to cloud native technologies isn’t going to happen overnight and, in some cases, it won’t happen at all due to the unique sensitivities of the data some organizations manage. Even if highly regulated sectors in the region such as government, defense and banking were to commit more strongly to this paradigm, there would be sensitive workloads more suitable for on-premises deployment. Consequently, even organizations that decided to be ‘cloud first’ will likely adopt the hybrid, rather than the purely cloud based model.

This is evidenced in the latest research from Cisco AppDynamics, The Age of Application Observability, which showed that 95% of UAE technologists state that multi-cloud and hybrid environments are here to stay. And, on average, they predict that 63% of their applications will still be running within hybrid environments in five years. It follows logically that in this hybrid cloud world, IT teams must ensure they have the right tools and insights to oversee and optimize application availability and performance across hybrid environments.

However, this doesn’t currently appear to be the case. Many IT departments are struggling to navigate soaring levels of complexity within their hybrid environments, and this is hampering their ability to deliver seamless digital experiences and maximize the impact of their innovation initiatives.

Recognizing that hybrid environments are here to stay, technologists must address the follow four key areas if they hope to deliver accelerated innovation on a sustainable basis:

Expansion of the cybersecurity threats landscape

Above all else, technologists point to expanded attack surfaces as the biggest challenge in managing multi-cloud and hybrid environments, with 92% experiencing this within their organization. When application components run across a mix of cloud native platforms and on-premises databases, visibility gaps inevitably occur and the potential for security events to occur rises. 

To overcome this challenge, IT teams should look to adopt a DevSecOps approach, where application security and compliance testing are incorporated into the software development lifecycle from day one.

Moving to the DevSecOps approach requires new tools and relies heavily on automation to detect and block security issues at runtime, embedding Artificial Intelligence (AI) into application security processes. Equally important is the associated cultural shift to built-in security, where ITOps and security teams operate side-by-side, supporting, understanding, and appreciating the other’s contribution.

DevSecOps makes security a shared responsibility and forces developers to identify and prioritize security issues at every step. It results in more secure products and better security management before, during and after release.  

Application performance blind spots and bottlenecks

As cloud native technologies are increasingly introduced into the enterprise, technologists are having to manage microservices and containers that spawn a massive volume of metrics, events, logs and traces (MELT) data every second.

80% of surveyed technologists across the Emirates report that this increased volume of data is making manual monitoring impossible. Traditional application monitoring tools simply aren’t able to handle this level of data noise, inhibiting the ability of technologists to detect issues and pinpoint root causes in a timely manner. This occurs because most organizations still use separate monitoring tools for cloud native and on-premises technologies, which obscures the line of sight across the entire application path. This makes effective troubleshooting extremely difficult, impacting metrics such as Mean Time To Remediation (MTTR).

Ultimately, customer and employee experiences are impacted as organizations struggle to mitigate the disruption and downtime of their applications.

By implementing an application observability solution which has the flexibility to span across both cloud native and on-premises technologies, IT teams can get unified visibility across their entire hybrid environments. IT teams can access real-time insights into application availability and performance, enabling them to swiftly resolve issues.

Keeping cloud costs aligned with business performances

84% of technologists in the UAE state that they’re coming under increased pressure to validate the impact of their cloud investments, yet an almost equal number (89%) admit that they struggle to align cloud costs with business performance within their hybrid environments. With the economic outlook for 2024 set to remain challenging, this is an issue that IT leaders need to address quickly in order to maintain their digital transformation budgets.

Against this backdrop, it is essential for IT departments to deploy an application observability solution which correlates IT data with real-time business transactions so that they can track, measure and report on the value that their investments are delivering to customers and the business.

Mounting pressure, and troubleshooting in the IT department

The advent of cloud native technologies has warranted the introduction of new IT roles — for instance, Site Reliability Engineers (SREs), DevOps and CloudOps. However, in many cases, these teams haven’t been properly integrated with existing teams looking after legacy, on-premises applications. The result is a fragmented IT department, with 80% of technologists reporting an increase in silos between IT teams as a result of managing multi-cloud and hybrid environments.

Irrespective of their designation, though, all technologists are operating under intense pressure, stuck in firefighting mode while being bombarded with data. They face the constant worry that an issue might go undetected and result in poor application performance or a security breach.

This is especially concerning as the research reveals the impact this is having within IT departments. 36% of UAE technologists report that silos and increased pressure are already resulting in technologists leaving their organization, and 53% predict that churn within their IT department will increase if silos persist. 

By shifting from monitoring to application observability, organizations can break down silos between people, processes and data within the IT department. Application observability provides all IT teams with a single source of truth for availability, performance and security data, with unified visibility across cloud native and on-premises applications. It means that teams can be brought together around a shared vision and organizational goals.

Perhaps most importantly, application observability allows technologists across the Emirates to get back on the front foot and take a more controlled, proactive approach to managing IT performance and optimizing digital experience. In fact, 93% believe that it will allow them to be more strategic and spend more time on innovation.

It is therefore time for organizations to shift from traditional application monitoring to application observability. In doing so, IT leaders will be able to equip their teams with the tools, culture and processes they need to thrive in a hybrid environment for many years to come.

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