A number of enterprises have a love/hate relationship with cloud computing. Because of its low upfront costs, the expense for cloud is lower, especially in the early years. But historically there has been another cost: the challenge of obtaining good visibility into applications, users and network traffic. I thought advancements in cloud management and security tools in recent years had largely overcome these concerns. Turns out, I was wrong—or, perhaps, market perception hasn’t caught up to reality.
A recent survey from Dimensional Research, which is based on responses from 338 IT professionals, found that fewer than 20% of IT professionals believe they have complete, timely access to data packets in public clouds. In private clouds, the situation is somewhat better, with 55% reporting adequate visibility. Unsurprisingly, on-premises data centers had the most positive response when it came to data visibility.
The survey authors said the results show companies have low visibility into their public cloud environments, and the tools and data supplied by cloud providers are insufficient. They identified some of the challenges such lack of visibility can cause, including the inability to track or diagnose application performance issues and monitor and deliver against service-level agreements, as well as delays in detecting and resolving security vulnerabilities and exploits.
Some of the findings regarding cloud visibility from the survey:
- 87% of respondents expressed fears that a lack of cloud visibility is obscuring security threats to their organization.
- 95% of respondents said visibility problems had led them to experience an application or network performance issue.
- 38% cited insufficient visibility as a key factor in application outages and 31% in network outages.
Interestingly, 99% of respondents identified a direct link between comprehensive network visibility and business value. This shows IT performance contributes directly to the business bottom line. Here are the benefits respondents cited regarding visibility:
- Monitors and ensures application performance (60%).
- Enables better threat identification (59%).
- Helps to identify security indicators of compromise (57%).
- Helps identify performance degradation.
- Enables threat protection tools to identify malicious traffic by source.
- Enables security monitoring tools to detect indicators of compromise.
- Enables the monitoring of traffic at every link of their network.
A full 86% of respondents also stated visibility was important for network and application performance monitoring, and 93% stated it was valuable for security. Cloud consumers said predicting application performance was a key challenge.
Still, the lack of perceived visibility isn’t holding back public cloud adoption, with 84% of organizations having increased their cloud usage in the past year. While 3% of those surveyed had a moderate decrease in cloud usage and 13% remained unchanged, 63% experienced a moderate increase and 21% experienced a significant increase.
As organizations engage in digital transformation efforts and continue to turn to public clouds, organizations can’t afford to lose visibility. This is crucial for all of the business benefits of cloud traffic visibility the survey respondents cited, such as attaining superior application performance, meeting SLAs and shrinking the time it takes to detect and remedy security relation issues.
But here’s an unpopular opinion: There’s not much of an excuse for having poor visibility into cloud workloads anymore. There once was—that’s for sure—but today there are many tools made available by cloud service providers and third-party security vendors.
Today, it’s a matter of will and finding the right toolsets, putting them into place and making sure that security and operations teams have the software controls and the training they need to use them, so the organization can attain the level of visibility necessary.