Smart Data: The Secret Weapon Underpinning the Cloud

By applying the insights of smart data, businesses can add strategic value from the cloud, while also gaining the flexibility, agility, and scalability needed to remain competitive.

Michael Segal

January 2, 2019

4 Min Read
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The enterprise migration to the cloud continues to push forward, with organizations adopting either a multi-cloud approach, using a variety of different cloud providers, or a hybrid cloud approach, using public and private clouds. Recent research predicts that worldwide public cloud services spending alone will reach $160 billion in 2018, a 23.2 percent increase from 2017.

The advantages of moving to the cloud are commonly known, with benefits including greater agility and elasticity. More specifically, IDG’s 2018 Cloud Computing Survey found the goals driving cloud investments included the ability for improved speed of IT service delivery and greater flexibility to react to changing market conditions.

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These advantages are not without challenges, however. Despite continued investment in the cloud, 90 percent of organizations were worried about cloud security, according to the RightScale 2018 State of the Cloud Report. The report also highlighted that 71 percent of respondents found governance and control to be a challenge, with many organizations lacking the visibility needed to manage cloud environments.

Added Complexity Demands Added Visibility

These types of challenges must be addressed before businesses can successfully leverage the benefits of the cloud. As IT professionals migrate to the cloud, they embrace new application architectures, such as microservices, as well as software-defined continuously morphing and often time ephemeral infrastructure workloads, like containers.

This complexity is compounded by constant growth in East-West traffic, galvanized by technologies such as VXLAN that supports 16 million VLANs, and by multiple dependencies between an application and its delivery infrastructure, including compute, network, database, storage, and service enabler workloads.  This complexity is most evident in hybrid and multi-cloud environments, challenging organizations to find ways to monitor and secure services across these environments successfully. Since a service consumed by users is comprised of an application, its service delivery infrastructure and all their respective dependencies, a more comprehensive in-depth visibility is required. This visibility should provide actionable insight across all service layers, including data, network, transport, session and application, and their respective dependencies, independent of location.

Consider an enterprise like Volkswagen. In a recent Wall Street Journal interview, Volkswagen CIO Martin Hofmann said the company uses public cloud services from all of the big guys—Amazon, Google, IBM, and Microsoft. “The idea is we’ve always had a policy of vendor independence. We want to be the ones picking the cloud providers, so we’re investing heavily in cloud brokerage and technology that allows us to switch instantly from one provider to another. But we’ll always keep our private cloud for sensitive data.”

Given the size and complexity of today’s IT networks, however, it has become extremely challenging to detect when and how a security breach or service failure might occur and resolve issues before customers are impacted. For businesses to overcome the challenge of assuring the quality of applications and their service delivery infrastructure and capitalize on the opportunities that the cloud brings, it is essential that they have complete in-depth visibility without borders into their entire hybrid cloud environments and all their respective interdependencies.

Smart Data: Actionable Intelligence

This holistic visibility across applications and the entire service delivery infrastructure can be achieved by continuous end-to-end monitoring, and in-depth analysis of the traffic flows over the network. Rather than using discrete events from machine/log data, this ‘wire data’ can, with the right technology in place, be leveraged to create and inform smart data – data that is prepared and organized at the collection point such that it is ready and optimized for analytics at the highest quality and speed. This involves a process where pertinent information is extracted from the wire data that is exchanged between application workloads in the form of East-West and North-South traffic flows, spanning private cloud, public cloud, and datacenter. This is conducted in real time, providing enterprises with actionable intelligence to identify issues, optimize their infrastructure and application performance, and discover threats and vulnerabilities in line with demand.

Extracting key metrics from this smart data and displaying them along with service inter-dependencies in dashboards, alerts, and workflows will provide a business with the visibility it needs to cut through the complexity of a cloud environment and transform it from a utility into a strategic asset.

Essentially, by offering a detailed picture of the entire cloud environment, the applications, and services it supports, and their respective dependencies, a smart data approach allows organizations to implement top-down service assurance, security and greater regulatory compliance.  This approach enables organizations to understand applications and service availability, reliability and responsiveness, and troubleshoot issues in real-time, mitigating potential network, security and compliance risks.

By applying the insights of smart data, businesses can add strategic value from the cloud, while also gaining the flexibility, agility, and scalability needed to remain competitive in today’s connected world.


About the Author(s)

Michael Segal

Michael Segal is Area VP of Strategy at NETSCOUT

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