Anthony Webb, EMEA vice president at A10 Networks, looks at how companies can implement best practices for application delivery, security and visibility in the cloud.
In environments that span from on-premises to public, private and hybrid clouds, application delivery, security and visibility can become complex and inefficient. With 84% of enterprises now using a multi-cloud strategy, according to the RightScale 2019 State of the Cloud report from Flexera, this issue is more pressing than ever before.
Growing industry trends
Today, all companies are undergoing digital transformation in some form. Regardless of industry and focus, technology is now at the centre of how enterprises are run. Here are some of the trends that have risen to prominence as a result.
Applications are changing
Widespread use of mobile devices has put applications at our fingertips. Apps are an integral part of every company and they are expected to be updated, delivered and deployed as quickly as possible. This shift can be observed in the microservices movement. As monolithic architectures have been replaced with microservices architectures, applications are no longer delivered as a single, self-contained programme.
Instead, applications are now divided into smaller components that must be delivered in concert. Oftentimes, those components are managed through container platforms like Docker and Kubernetes, as illustrated below.
Deployment models are changing
Applications aren’t all that is changing. Deployment models have also undergone a dramatic transformation. Thanks to global demand for application availability and agility, apps are no longer bound to the data centre. Rather, applications are deployed across multiple data centres and in a multi-cloud environment.
Today, we see not only the traditional application delivery services but cloud-native application delivery, which provides conventional load balancing but is designed to meet the agility and flexibility requirements of multi-cloud and hybrid-cloud environments.
Current infrastructures are not disappearing. Rather, companies must find a way to make their existing data centres work in tandem with microservices and cloud-based infrastructures.
This creates a degree of complexity that can present significant obstacles to companies of all kinds.
Key challenges we’re facing
As these trends converge, businesses are up against a specific set of challenges. Here are the four primary challenges we see and their technology-driven solutions:
- Driving agility: To meet more aggressive time to market (TTM) deadlines, companies need agility. That means automation and self-service wherever possible.
- Supporting multiple environments: From traditional data centres to public and private clouds, enterprises must figure out how to support a variety of applications across multiple environments. This demands streamlined management solutions that are quick, easy to use and able to efficiently migrate applications from one environment to another.
- Increasing efficiency: Managing applications and providing consistent security requires complete visibility and operational intelligence. Detailed analytics can do this and are vital to quick troubleshooting. And as environments continue to diversify, this is becoming more essential.
- Security: In the past, enterprises only had to worry about securing east-west traffic, or traffic that occurs within the data centre. Now, they also need to secure north-south traffic, or traffic that moves in and out of the data centre. This includes traffic flowing to and from the cloud, as well as traffic flowing between microservices.
And now you have challenges specific to microservices architecture.
Since 90% of enterprises are using or planning to use microservices, as detailed in LightStep’s 2018 Global Microservices Trend report, the vast majority of companies must now consider:
- Micro-segmentation with auto encryption: Enterprises must ensure that when traffic flows between micro-segments, it’s automatically encrypted for security purposes.
- Auto service discovery: The reason microservices work is that when one microservice instance goes down, the orchestration system will create a new one. So, companies need to map that process and efficiently direct traffic to the new instance.
- Complete visibility: Companies need to see what’s going on between the microservices as well as within the applications themselves.
How to resolve those challenges
Ultimately, the objective is to deliver a consistent, user-friendly experience when deploying applications.
The truth is, users don’t care about where your applications reside or what kind of architecture you use. They only care about their experience, and to make that experience great, enterprises need to resolve the challenges through automation, management, and visibility and control.
Businesses require faster and more frequent application delivery. This means that infrastructure and IT teams need to be able to deliver agility to support those demands. Businesses need intelligent automation that is API-driven, so that businesses can become more efficient.
Automation on its own isn’t enough. Companies also need a centralised management solution that increases operational efficiency and agility by enabling the IT teams and application teams to work together to centrally configure and manage all applications and policies across any environment.
Keep in mind that only a dedicated central management solution will be able to deliver those results across multiple environments. Unless all a company’s applications are in a single cloud, built-in cloud management solutions will be inadequate.
Visibility and control
Visibility is now more crucial than ever before. That’s because it’s not only about dashboards that allow companies to simply monitor and watch. It’s about per-application visibility, which makes efficient troubleshooting possible.
What companies can do today
Companies can now implement best practices for application delivery, security and visibility across multiple environments by putting a centralised controller in place. A comprehensive central controller converts raw data into actionable insights. This ability can result in a dramatic efficiency gain of 92%.
With the right central controller in place, enterprises can deliver the following:
- Deliver consistent application policy control wherever apps reside, whether they’re on-premises or in the cloud
- Provide integrated security and compliance across multiple environments
- Manage distributed and complex application environments with automation
- Gain visibility and deep insights into application traffic for lightning-fast troubleshooting.