By Austin Fuller, Director of Product Marketing at Kion, shortlisted for Cloud Management Solution of the Year and Best Cloud Automation Solution at 2021-2022 Cloud Awards
It’s no secret that the cloud provides organizations with numerous benefits, including increasing agility and pace of innovation, reducing overhead, and even shrinking an organization’s carbon footprint, among others. However, the consequences of improperly managing cloud infrastructures continue to serve as a major wake-up call. All too frequently, organizations experience security incidents because of cloud misconfigurations or budget overruns due to excess cloud spending. These consequences can significantly debilitate the entire company.
Cloud management requires a focus on many aspects of the cloud: daily operations, governance, orchestration, automation, and more. There’s no lack of challenges facing organizations that rely on the cloud. In response, organizations often approach the cloud like a cowboy approaches a wild horse. They lasso it up and spend a great deal of time taming it, believing there’s a one-and-done approach to optimal control. A better approach is to view the cloud like a Mustang sports car. The cloud should be your organization’s mode of transportation for enhanced operations and innovation and, like a performance vehicle, there are regular tasks and optimizations you can do to ensure a smooth, efficient ride.
IT professionals are constantly told they need to apply “cloud governance” and “cloud management” to their IT strategies. However, on their own, these practices are not enough. Today’s cloud infrastructure requires more than management and governance capabilities. This is why we’ve entered the era of cloud enablement, allowing organizations to combine the necessary control and automation in the cloud to truly eliminate inefficiencies and ensure the promised return on cloud investments.
What is Cloud Enablement?
Cloud enablement puts an end to the siloing of governance and management processes and instead brings together both capabilities to create a holistic, efficient cloud infrastructure. At its core, cloud enablement is the practice of combining the ability to set controls and policies based on guidelines set by the organization, like governance, with the capabilities to automate many cloud operations, like provisioning accounts, configuring guardrails, and enforcing budgets. This ensures you can get faster, more secure, and cost-effective results. Eliminating the silos around cloud operations teams, developers, financial and security managers, and other stakeholders enables an organization to accelerate cloud use and tap into the cloud’s benefits at unprecedented speed, without experiencing any roadblocks or surprises.
Cloud Enablement Solves Three Common Problems
Cloud governance is not cloud enablement. Yes, it is a component of cloud enablement, but cloud governance itself does not address all the challenges organizations face in the cloud. While governance assists organizations with applying policies and mitigating risk, focusing solely on a governance strategy still leaves significant gaps, as it won’t deliver a fully optimized IT strategy in the cloud. A cloud enablement solution can help an organization proactively solve common issues across the business and help organizations fully realize their cloud.
Security and Compliance
Whenever an organization migrates to the cloud or expands its online presence, it creates a wider attack surface for threat actors. Additionally, every resource that gets placed in a cloud is a misconfiguration away from becoming exposed, and thus represents a potential security threat to your company’s data and reputation. Regarding compliance, new regulations are constantly being introduced and organizations need to juggle a multitude of compliance frameworks and guidelines. For these reasons alone, it is imperative that organizations follow proper compliance and identity management practices, which flows into their larger privacy and security strategy.
A cloud-enabled organization will be able to both govern and track what is in the cloud and who has access to your cloud while establishing rules to enforce your security practices and policies. This will mitigate any potential threat, and make sure your organization’s name isn’t in the news as the latest victim of a data breach.
Whether it is external standards, like the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) 800-171 standard or the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) 3.2, or internal standards that assist with security and cost control, there remains a dizzying array of compliance requirements for a modern, cloud-based organization. In fact, organizations must comply with, on average, 13 different compliance or privacy regulations. This challenge is compounded by the fact that organizations will need to keep up with all these regulations, and if they take a manual approach to compliance, it will only lead to alert fatigue, burnout, and productivity loss.
When cloud governance is approached manually, the result is often misconfigurations, unenforced policies, and potentially damaging lapses. Compliance is a vital component of any organization’s cloud presence that needs to be managed, and cloud enablement can help ensure you pass any audit with flying colors. Implementing automated approaches in an enablement strategy can set boundaries to verify that any user is following proper procedures and satisfying security requirements.
Identity and Access Management
Ensuring that the proper identities have access to only what they need can be an exhausting process for any team member. Within AWS, as an example, an effective Identity and Access Management (IAM) policy can either allow (or deny) a user to take certain actions within the account. For instance, if a user should only modify objects in an S3 bucket they shouldn’t be allowed to create an S3 bucket. As a best practice, users should only have enough access to do their jobs, following the principle of least privilege.
This is a lot to keep track of and correct IAM practices can be the difference between a user being empowered to do their job or a potential security incident. Cloud enablement can support any organization’s IAM efforts. For instance, having a central policy that can be applied across multiple accounts or entire departments via cloud access roles is a more efficient and secure approach, as opposed to manually tracking and changing roles with each user.
Budget and Finance
We have all heard horror stories about organizations forgetting about or incorrectly provisioning cloud resources that end up ballooning into large bills that have the potential to halt cloud usage or even lead to bankruptcy. Cloud resources cost money, but because you primarily pay as you use them, you don’t know how much money is spent until it is already spent. These costs and their nature are important factors to any decision to migrate to the cloud. Organizations must ensure that basic costs are reigned in, like ensuring Azure VM instances are not overprovisioned, for them to take full advantage of the cloud while not incurring undue costs.
Following a policy of cloud enablement puts an end to budgetary concerns related to your organization’s cloud use. Through enablement, an organization can set automated limits on their budgets to be alerted and to take action to either freeze spending or downsize instances. This will help to optimize your cloud spend and prevent those cloud bill surprises. Gaining financial management insight is critical to any organization seeking to maximize the value of their cloud.
What to Look For in a Cloud Enablement Solution
Besides style, people buy sports cars for their premium quality, high-performance ratings, and speed. That’s the mindset that organizations should have when choosing a cloud enablement solution—what solution can help me best navigate the road (the cloud) efficiently and quickly? To get the most bang for their buck, organizations should look for the following features that will power your organization’s innovation in the cloud and realize its vast potential.
A cloud enablement solution should never lock your organization into one platform. Companies should select a solution that enables them to move to a multi-cloud environment if business and technology needs dictate so developers can tap into the power of AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. And your cloud stakeholders need the necessary cloud enablement capabilities to understand policies, spending, and compliance across all of them.
Automation enables organizations to quickly implement and monitor rules and policies without stopping to make changes manually. Just as importantly, automation controls shouldn’t be a mystery to those utilizing them, so they need to be in a language that you and your team can understand, like JSON or YAML.
Private, self-hosted architecture
Find a cloud enablement provider that is self-hosted within your existing AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud environment. This ensures that your organization’s data remains private and secure because it never leaves your environment.
To have a strong understanding of your organization’s cloud infrastructure, you need to have visibility into your cloud accounts, policies, financial data, and compliance.
It’s time for organizations to seek out a cloud enablement solution, as opposed to older strategies that implement point solutions for governance and management. A cloud-enabled company evolves with the cloud, not in spite of it, calling upon their cloud to supercharge their organization, launch new capabilities, and transform their business. Make sure your cloud solution enables you instead of draining your organization of valuable time and money.