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TechnologyAug 28, 2020

Cloud Adoption Pitfalls to Avoid Part 5: Enterprise Monitoring and Management in the Cloud

Mario Borja, and Jim Jimenez

Cloud adoption comes with some unique challenges we have discussed in our five-post series, “Cloud Adoption Pitfalls to Avoid.” In this last installment, part five of the series, we’ll cover the challenges with managing and monitoring workloads that have been deployed in the cloud. As organizations adopt a more cloud-centric model or look to transition more workloads to the cloud, the ability to control and manage what’s happening in those environments has become increasingly difficult.

There are many specific challenges when managing and monitoring cloud resources. In this blog post, we will cover a few that should be at the top of the list including security, supportability, governance, and cost management.

three scenarios for tackling the journey to the cloud

A successful adoption relies on the ability to implement controls without hindering the agility the cloud provides. There are three common scenarios we see most organizations tackle with their journey to the cloud.

Scenario 1: Data Center-Centric Hybrid

Extending on-premises infrastructure to a public cloud like it is just another data center is one of the most common hybrid scenarios. One example is companies with typical data center environments looking to benefit from using cloud computing to extend their capacity or reach. The challenges in this data center-centric hybrid scenario typically involve the integration of cloud computing with existing on-premises management and monitoring systems. In this scenario, issues usually arise when trying to manage cloud resources by using on-premises tools not designed for the cloud.

Scenario 2: Cloud-Centric Hybrid

The cloud-centric hybrid model also implements resources distributed across on-premises data center and cloud platforms. In this case, companies opt to use cloud-native tools like Azure Sentinel and extend them to on-premises systems, which comes with its own set of challenges. Being able to identify which systems fall into this category and implementing a solution that does not complicate the environment is key.

Scenario 3: Full Public Cloud Migration

The third commonly used scenario is an organization migrating away from on-premises systems to run all their workloads in the public cloud. This process requires analyzing every system and validating if it is a candidate for rehosting or replatforming in the cloud. Identifying systems that can be re-architected and moved to platform as a service (PaaS) will also impact the management of the system. One of the benefits of this model is the ability to leverage cloud-native tools across the board for monitoring and management. The ability to benefit from the integrated machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) tools to assist is critical to help the overall process as well as develop an optimization strategy on an ongoing basis.

challenges with managing and monitoring cloud resources

In the three scenarios listed above, some challenges are common across the board. The ability to classify systems and identify the correct resources to address each common challenge will assure a successful integration.

Security

Security is a major concern when dealing with cloud technologies. As organizations leverage the cloud to extend on-premises resources or create new environments, the challenges are many. How do they extend existing access policies and permissions? How can they monitor activity and ensure compliance? Are cloud resources as secure as they are on-premises? The attempt to implement publicly accessible systems can lead to unintended security vulnerabilities.

Fortunately, each of the major cloud platforms provides guidance and tools with everything from best practice recommendations to enforcement tools. These systems are tightly coupled within the platform and can be utilized with minimal setup or configuration. These cloud-native tools are also usually integrated with ML and AI, which leverages lessons learned from the vast use of the tools.

Whether using Azure Security Center or AWS Security Hub, gaining access to these tools to analyze events from multiple data sources to quickly identify risks and threats is often a big step forward for many organizations.  However, organizations that have invested heavily in security information and event management (SIEM) infrastructure also have good options for integration. Major SIEM vendors like Splunk, QRadar, and ArcSight have the ability to gather event data from Azure Event Hubs and AWS CloudTrail and CloudWatch, so their customers can continue to view alerts from a single pane of glass.  Implementing this integration is a common ask from our larger clients.      

Supportability

Organizations often look for ways to leverage existing tools to manage cloud resources. This can be challenging as many of them are not enabled for public cloud integration. Additionally, cloud platforms will have their own unique set of tools that may change frequently or have limited visibility into the underlying systems.

Another challenge here is the lack of cloud expertise with the current IT staff. Traditional IT skills don’t always translate into the cloud. We’ve worked with many organizations that look for help or training when managing or moving workloads to the cloud. Since cloud platforms are always evolving, keeping up to date on the latest product features can also be challenging, especially when managing multi-cloud environments. Organizations looking to close this gap will have to adjust their talent acquisition and compensation criteria to find qualified individuals and assume the increased cost associated with hiring these professionals.

The ability to get up to speed on supporting new tools is very important and can impact the overall success of cloud adoption. We recommend our clients identify roles and responsibilities during the early stages before implementation. Assigning these roles allows team members to get an understanding of expectations. Keep in mind that the roles should be identified across the organization from finance, business leaders, and technical support personnel. Microsoft and AWS provide online training to bridge the learning gap for your team. Both Microsoft Learn and AWS Training and Certification sites have a vast portfolio, which is maintained as new features are developed and released.

Governance

Cloud platforms typically alter how companies view governance compared to the traditional enterprise environment. The ease of click-to-provision requires a paradigm shift, which contributes to the increased value of strong governance practices. With an expanded perimeter across multiple providers and diversity of services, monitoring and management of systems becomes increasingly challenging. Clearly defined governance is crucial to help drive a successful cloud adoption program.

Implementing a solid governance strategy allows companies to stay in control and avoid unexpected costs, as well as track and manage spending. Investing in strategies to implement governance in an automated fashion will help prevent sprawl as well as increase the overall security posture of the organization.

Microsoft uses Azure Governance to make it easier to build and scale your applications, while allowing you to maintain control. Easily deploy fully governed environments with Azure Blueprints and manage costs with Azure Consumption Insights. AWS Governance at Scale addresses accounts management, cost control, security, and compliance through automation and centralized management mindset. Using these tools can allow you to quickly implement and enforce your policies to help drive governance in the cloud.

Cost Management

Another challenge companies encounter after migrating to the cloud is cost management. If proper planning is not part of the implementation strategy, the cost aspect can be an unpleasant surprise. For years, in a traditional IT environment, on-premises costs are managed manually and spread out across multi-purpose systems. The flexibility of the cloud allows for a more distinct separation of costs per department or cost center. With a proper strategy and cost management framework in place, you can avoid taking the manual approach into the cloud. The ability to leverage automated cost tools in the cloud helps prevent sprawl and allows for easier cost management.

We recommend going through an initial total cost of ownership (TCO) analysis, which will assist in identifying upfront costs. Leveraging Azure and AWS pricing calculators will help accomplish this assessment and develop budgets. Once in the cloud, it’s also important to continue to evaluate spending. The opportunity for optimization is an ongoing process to incorporate into every cloud strategy. Integrated cost management tools using automation help evaluate your cloud spending in real time, as well as make recommendations for improvements. Incorporating a proper tagging strategy into your governance model not only allows for easier tracking of costs, but allows for enforcement so resources are deployed according to policy.

learn more

It is critical to have a strategy in place for system management and monitoring at the outset of your cloud adoption journey. Whether the decision is to use cloud native tools, a combination of cloud and on-premises tools, or integrate your existing toolset with the cloud, each path presents its own unique challenges. Spending time developing a detailed plan with all of the key stakeholders in your organization will help assure your journey to the cloud is a good one.

If you are interested in learning more about cloud adoption or are looking for a partner to join you in your journey, we have a team of highly experienced individuals who can help. Please feel free to reach out to us at findoutmore@credera.com.