A powerful and unique set of circumstances are combining in mid-2020 to make safe and rapid cloud adoption more urgent and easier than ever.
Dealing with the novel coronavirus pandemic has pushed businesses to not only seek flexible IT hosting models, but to accommodate flexible work, hasten applications’ transformation, and improve overall security while doing so.
This next BriefingsDirect cloud adoption best practices discussion examines how businesses plan to further use cloud models to cut costs, manage operations remotely, and gain added capability to scale their operations up and down.
To learn more about the latest on-ramps to secure an agile cloud adoption, please welcome Anupam Sahai, Vice President and Cloud Chief Technology Officer at Unisys, and Ryan Vanderwerf, Partner Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services (AWS). The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.
Here are some excerpts:
Gardner: Anupam, why is going to the public cloud an attractive option more now than ever?
Sahai: There are multiple driving factors leading to these tectonic shifts. One is that the whole IT infrastructure is moving to the cloud for a variety of business and technology reasons. And then, as a result, the entire application infrastructure — along with the underlying application services infrastructure — is also moving to the cloud.
The reason is very simple because of what cloud brings to the table. It brings a lot of capabilities, such as providing scalability in a cost-effective manner. It makes IT and applications behave as a utility and obviates the need for every company to host local infrastructure, which otherwise becomes a huge operations and management challenge.
So, a number of business and technological factors, along with the COVID-19 pandemic situation, which essentially makes us work remotely, and having cloud-based services and applications available as a utility makes them easy to consume and use.
Public cloud on everyone’s horizon
Gardner: Ryan, have you seen in your practice over the past several months more willingness to bring more apps into the public cloud? Are we seeing more migration to the cloud?
Vanderwerf: We’ve definitely had a huge uptick in migration. As people can’t be in an office, things like workspaces and doing remote desktops, have also seen a huge increase. People are trying to find ways to be elastic, cost-efficient, and make sure they’re not spending too much money.
Following up on what Anupam said, the reasons people are moving in the cloud haven’t changed. They have just been accelerated because they need agility and to speed-up access to the resources they need. They need cost savings by not having to maintain data centers by themselves.
By being more elastic, they can provision only for what they’re using and not have stuff running and costing money when you don’t need to. They can also deploy globally in minutes, which is a big deal across many regions, and allows people to innovate faster.
And right now, there’s a need to innovate faster, get more revenue, and cut costs – especially in times where fluctuation in demand goes up and down. You have to be ready for it.
Gardner: Yes, I recently spoke with a CIO who said that when the pandemic hit, they had to adjust workloads and move many from a certain set of apps that they weren’t going to be using as much to a whole other set that they were going to be using a lot more. And if it weren’t for the cloud, they just never would have been able to do that. So agility saved them a tremendous amount of hurt.
Anupam, why when we seek such cloud agility do we also have to think about lower risk and better security?
Sahai: Risk and security are critical because you’re talking about commercial, mission-critical workloads that have potentially sensitive data. As we move to the cloud, you should think three different trajectories. And some of this, of course, is being accelerated because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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One of the cloud-migration trajectories, as Ryan said earlier, is the need for elastic computing, cost savings, performance, and efficiencies when building, deploying, and managing applications. But as we move applications and infrastructure to the cloud, there is a need to ensure that the infrastructure falls under what is called the shared responsibility model, where the cloud service provider protects and secures infrastructure up to a certain level and then the customers have their responsibility, a shared responsibility, to ensure that they’re protecting their workloads, applications, and critical data. They also have to comply with the regulations that those customers need to adhere to.
In such a shared responsibility model, customers need to work very closely with the service providers, such as AWS, to ensure they are taking care of all security and compliance-related issues.
You know, security breaches in the cloud — while less than compared to on-premises-related deployments — are still pretty rampant. That’s because some of the cloud security hygiene-related issues are still not being taking care of. That’s why solutions have to manage security and compliance for both the infrastructure and the apps as they move from on-premises to the cloud.
Gardner: Ryan, shared responsibility in practice can be complex when it’s hard to know where one party’s responsibility begins and ends. It cuts across people, process, and even culture.
When doing cloud migrations, how should we make sure there are no cracks for things to fall through? How do we make sure that we segue from on-premises to cloud in a way that the security issues are maintained throughout?
Stay safe with best-practices
Vanderwerf: Anupam is exactly right about the shared responsibility model. AWS manages and controls the components from the host operating system and virtualization layer down to physically securing the facilities. But it is up to AWS customers to build secure applications and manage their hygiene.
We have programs to help customers make sure they’re using those best practices. We have a well-architected program. It’s available on the AWS Management Console, and we have several lenses if you’re doing specific things like serverless, Internet of things (IoT), or analytics, for example.
Solutions architects can help the customer review all of their best practices and do a deep-dive examination with their teams to raise any flags that people might not be aware of and help find solutions.
Things like that have to be focused toward the business, but solutions architects can help the customer review all of their best practices and do a deep-dive examination with their teams to raise any flags that people might not be aware of and help them find solutions to remedy them.
We also have an AWS Technical Baseline Review that we do for partners. In it we make sure that partners are also following best practices around security and make sure that the correct things are in place for a good experience for their customers as well.
Gardner: Anupam, how do we ensure security-as-a-culture from the beginning and throughout the lifecycle of an application, regardless of where it’s hosted or resides? DevSecOps has become part of what people are grappling with. Does the security posture need to be continuous?
Sahai: That’s a very critical point. But first I want to double-click on what Ryan mentioned about the shared responsibility model. If you look at the overall challenges that customers face in migrating or moving to the cloud, there is certainly the security and compliance part of it that we mentioned.
Additionally, there are a number of ongoing issues around optimization, cost governance, security, compliance governance, and optimization of workloads that are critical for our customers. Unisys does a Cloud Success Barometer study every year and, and what we find is very interesting.
One thing is clear, about 90 percent of organizations are transitioned to the cloud. So no surprise there. But in the journey to the cloud what we also found is that 60 percent of the organizations are unable to move to the cloud, or hold on to their cloud migrations, because of some of these unexpected roadblocks. And so that’s where partners like Unisys and AWS are coming together to offer visibility and solutions to address them. Those challenges remain, and, of course, we are able to help address them.
Coming back to the DevSecOps question, let’s take a step back and understand why DevOps came into being. It was basically because of the migration to the cloud that we had the need to break down the silos between development and operations to deploy infrastructure-as-code. That’s why DevOps essentially brings about faster, shorter development cycles; faster deployment, faster innovation.
Studies have shown that DevOps leads to at least 60 percent faster innovation and turnaround time compared to traditional approaches, not to mention the cost savings and the IT headcount savings when you merge the dev and ops organizations.
As DevOps goes mainstream, and as cloud-centric applications are becoming mainstream, there is a need to inject security into the DevOps cycle. Having DevSecOps is key.
But as DevOps goes mainstream, and as cloud-centric applications are becoming mainstream, there is a need to inject security into the DevOps cycle. So, having DevSecOps is key. You want to enable developers, operations, and security professionals to work together on yet another silo, to break them down and merge with the DevOps team.
But we also need to provide tools that are amenable to the DevOps processes, continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) tools that enable the speed and agility needed for DevOps, but also injecting security — without slowing them down. It is a challenge, and that’s why the all-new field of DevSecOps enables security and compliance injection into the DevOps cycle. It is very, very critical.
Gardner: Right, you want to have security but without giving up agility and speed. How have Unisys and AWS come together to ease and reduce the risk of cloud adoption while greasing the skids to the on-ramps to cloud adoption?
Smart support on the cloud journey
Sahai: Unisys in December 2019 announced CloudForte capabilities with the AWS cloud. A number of capabilities were announced that help customers adopt cloud without worrying about security and compliance.
CloudForte today provides a comprehensive solution to help customers manage their customer cloud journeys, whether it’s greenfield or brownfield; and there is hybrid cloud support, of course, for the AWS cloud along with multi-cloud support from a deployment perspective.
The solution combines production services that enable three primary use cases: Cloud migration, as we talked about, and apps migration using DevSecOps. We’ve codified that in terms of best practices, reference architecture, and well-architected principles, and we have wrapped that in advisory services and deployment services as well.
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The third use case is around cloud posture management, which is understanding and optimizing existing deployments, including hybrid cloud deployments, to ensure you’re managing costs, managing security and compliance, and also taking care of any other IT-related issues around governance of resources to make sure that you migrate to the cloud in a smart and secure manner.
Gardner: Ryan, why did AWS get on-board with CloudForte? What was it about it that was attractive to you in helping your customers?
Vanderwerf: We are all about finding solutions that help our customers and enabling our partners to help their customers. With the shared responsibility model, that’s on the customer, and CloudForte has really good risk management and a portfolio of applications and services to help people get ahold of that responsibility themselves.
Instead of customers trying to go on their own — or just following general best practices – Unisys also has the tooling in place to help customers. That’s pretty important because with DevSecOps, people suffer from a lack of business agility, security agility, and face the risks around change to their businesses. People fear that.
With the shared responsibility model, that’s on the customer, and CloudForte has really good risk management and a portfolio of apps and services to help people get ahold of that responsibility themselves.
These tools have really helped customers manage that journey. We have a good feeling about being secure and being compliant, and the dashboards they have inside of it are very informative, as a matter of fact.
Gardner: Of course, Unisys has been around for quite a while. They have had a very large and consistent installed base over the years. Are the tooling, services, and value in CloudForte bringing in a different class of organization, or different parts of organizations, into AWS?
Vanderwerf: I think so, especially in the enterprise area where they have a lot of things to wrangle on the journey to the cloud — and it’s not easy. When you’re migrating as much as you can to a cloud setting – seeking to keep control over assets and making sure there are no rogue things running — it’s a lot for an enterprise IT manager to handle. And so, the more tools they have in their tool-belt to manage that is way better than them trying to cook up their own stuff.
Gardner: Anupam, did you have a certain type of organization, or part of an organization, in mind when you crafted CloudForte for AWS?
Sahai: Let’s take a step back and understand the kind of services we offer. Our services are tailored and applicable for both enterprises and the public sector. We offer advisory services to begin with, which essentially allows us to pass-through products. You have the CloudForte Navigator product, which allows us to assess the current posture of the customer and understand the application capabilities the customer has, whether it needs a transformation, and, of course, this is all driven by business outcomes that the customers desires.
Second, through CloudForte we bring best practices, reference architectures, and blueprints for the various customer journeys that I mentioned earlier. Greenfield or brownfield opportunities, whatever the stage of adoption, we have created a template to help with the specific migration and customer journey.
Once customers are able and ready to get on-boarded, we enable DevSecOps using CI/CD tools, best practices, and tools to ensure the customers use a well-architected framework. We also have a set of accelerators provided by Unisys that enable customers to get on-boarded with guardrails provided. So, in short, the security policies, compliance policies, organizational framework, and the organizational architectures are all reflected in the deployment.
Then, once it’s up and running, we manage and operate the hybrid cloud security and compliance posture to ensure that any deviations, any drifts, are monitored and remediated to ensure they are continuously having an acceptable posture.
Finally, we also have AIOps capabilities, which include AI-enabled outcomes that the customer is looking for. We use artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) technologies to optimize the resources. We drive cost savings through resource optimization. We also have an instant management capability to bring down costs dramatically using some those analytics and AIOps capabilities.
So our objective is to drive digital transformation for customers using a combination of products and services that CloudForte has, and working in close conjunction with what AWS offers, so that we create a compelling offering that’s complementary to each other, but very compelling from a business outcomes perspective.
Gardner: The way you describe them, it sounds like these services would be applicable to almost any organization, regardless of where they are on their journey to the cloud. Tell us about some of the secret sauce under the hood. The Unisys Stealth technology, in particular, is unique in how it maintains cloud security.
Stealth solutions for hybrid security
Sahai: The Unisys Stealth technology is very compelling, especially in the hybrid cloud security sense. As we discussed earlier, the shared responsibility model requires customers to take care of and share the responsibility to make sure that workloads in the cloud infrastructure are compliant and secure.
And we have a number of tools in that regard. One is the CloudForte Cloud Compliance Director solution, which allows you to assess and manage your security and compliance posture for the cloud infrastructure. So it’s a cloud security posture management solution.
Then we also have the Stealth solution, essentially a zero trust, micro-segmentation capability that leverages the identity, or the user roles, in an organization to establish a community that’s trusted and is capable of doing certain actions. It creates communities of interest that allow and secure through a combination of micro-segmentation and identity management.
Think of that as a policy management and enforcement solution that essentially manipulates the OS native stacks to enforce policies and rules that otherwise are very hard to manage.
If you take Stealth and marry that with CloudForte compliance, some of the accelerators, and Navigator, you have a comprehensive Unisys solution for hybrid cloud security, both on-premises and in the AWS cloud infrastructure and workloads environment.
Gardner: Ryan, it sounds like zero trust and micro-segmentation augment the many services that AWS already provides around identity and policy management. Do you agree that the zero trust and micro-segmentation aspects of something like Stealth dovetail very well with AWS services?
Vanderwerf: Oh, yes, absolutely. And in addition to that, we have a lot of other security tools like AWS WAF, AWS Shield, Security Hub, Macie, IAM Access Analyzer and Inspector. And I am sure under the hood they are using some of these services directly.
The more power you have the better. And it’s tough to manage. Some people are just getting into cloud and they have challenges. It’s not always technical, sometimes it’s just communications issues at a company or lack of sponsorship or resource allocation or undefined key performance indicators (KPI). So all these things, or even just timing, those are all important for a security situation.
Gardner: All those spinning parts, those services, that’s where the professional services come in so that organizations don’t have to feel like they are doing it alone. How does the professional services and technical support fit into helping organizations go about these cloud journeys?
Sahai: Unisys is trusted by our customers to get things right. So we say that we do cloud correctly, and we do cloud right, and that includes a combination of trusted advisory services. That means everything from identifying legacy assets, to billing, and to governance, and then using a combination of products and services to help customers transform as they move to the cloud.
Our cloud-trained people and expertise speeds up the migrations, gives visibility, and provides operational improvements. Thereby we are able to do cloud right and in a secure fashion by establishing security practices, trust through security and compliance, and AIOps.
Our cloud-trained people and expertise speeds up the migrations, gives visibility, and provides operational improvements. Thereby we are able to do the cloud right and in a secure fashion by establishing security practices, establishing trust through a combination of micro-segmentation, security, and compliance ops, AIOps, and that certainly is the combination of products and services that we offer today.
And our customers tell us we are rated very highly, 95 percent-plus in terms of customer satisfaction. It’s a testament to the fact that our professional services — along with our products – complements the AWS services and products that customers need to deliver their business outcomes.
Gardner: Anupam, do you have any examples of organizations that leveraged both AWS and Unisys CloudForte? What have they been doing and what did they get from it?
Student success supported
Sahai: I have a number of examples where a combination of CloudForte and AWS deployments are happening. One is right here where I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. The business challenge they faced was to enhance the student learning experience and deliver technology services critical to student success and graduation initiatives. And given the COVID-19 scenario, you can understand why cloud becomes an important factor in that.
Unisys cloud and infrastructure services, using CloudForte, helped them deploy a hybrid cloud model with AWS. We had Ansible for automation, ServiceNow for IT service management (ITSM), AIOps, and we deployed a logarithm and a portfolio of tools and services.
They were then able to accelerate their capability to offer critical administrative services, such as student scheduling and registration, to about half-a-million students and 52,000 faculty and staff members across 23 campuses. It delivered 30 percent better performance while realizing about 33 percent cost savings and 40 percent growth in usage of these services. So, great outcomes, great cost savings, and you are talking about reduction of about $4.5 million in computed storage costs and about $3 million in cost avoidance.
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So this is an example of a customer who leveraged the power of the AWS Cloud and the CloudForte products and services to deliver these business outcomes, which is a win-win situation for us. So that’s one example.
Gardner: Ryan, what do you expect for the next level of cloud adoption benefits? Is the AIOps something that we are going to be doubling-down on? Or are there other services? How do you see the future of cloud adoption improving?
The future is integrated
Vanderwerf: It’s making sure everything is able to integrate. Like, for example, with a hybrid cloud situation we now have AWS Outposts. Now people can run a rack of servers in their data center and be connected directly to the cloud.
Some things don’t make sense always to go to cloud. Perhaps machinery running analytics, for example, has very low latency requirements. You could still write native applications to work with the cloud in AWS and run those apps locally.
Also, AIOps is huge because so many people are doing AI/ML in their workloads, from deciding security posture threats, to finding whether machines are breaking down. There are so many options in data analytics and then wrangling all these things together with data lakes. Definitely, the future is about better integrating all of these things.
AI/MLOps is really popular now because there are so many data scientists and people integrating ML into things. They need some sort of organizational structure to keep that organized, just like CI/CD did for DevOps. And all of those areas continue to grow. At AWS, we have 175-plus services, and they are always coming up with new ones every day. I don’t see that slowing down anytime soon.
Gardner: Anupam, for your future outlook, to this point that Ryan raised about integration, how do you see organizations like Unisys helping to manage the still growing complexity around the adoption and operations in the cloud and hybrid cloud environments?
Sahai: Yes, that is a huge challenge. As Ryan mentioned, hybrid cloud is here to stay. Not everything will move to the cloud. And while cloud migration trends will continue, there will be some core set of apps that will be staying on-premises. So leveraging AWS Outposts, as he said, to help with the hybrid cloud journeys will be important. And Unisys offers hybrid cloud and multi-cloud offerings that we are certainly committed to.
Security and compliance issues are not going away, unfortunately. Cloud breaches are out there. And so there is a need to actively manage and be proactive about managing your security and compliance posture. Customers are going to work with AWS and Unisys to fortify both their defense and offense proactively.
The other thing is that security and compliance issues are not going away, unfortunately. Cloud breaches are out there. And so there is a need to actively manage and be proactive about managing your security and compliance posture. And so that’s another area that I think our customers are going to be working together with AWS and Unisys to help them fortify not just their defenses, but also the offense — to be proactive in dealing with these threats and breaches and preventing them.
The third area is around AIOps, and this whole notion of AI-enabled CloudForte, and we see AI and ML to be prorating every path of the customer journey. Not just in AIOps, which is the operations and management piece, which is a critical part of what we do, but AI in enabling the customer journeys in terms of predicting.
So let’s say a customer is trying to move to the cloud, we want to be able to use predictions to predict what their customer journey would look like if they move to the cloud and to be proactive about predicting and remediating issues that might come up.
And, of course, AI is fueled by the data revolution — the data lakes, the data buses — that we have today to transport data seamlessly across applications, across hybrid cloud infrastructures, and to tie all of this together. You have the app migration, the CI/CD, and the DevSecOps capabilities that are part of the CloudForte advisory and product services.
We are enabling customers to move to the cloud without compromising speed, agility, and security and compliance, whether they are moving infrastructure to the cloud, using infrastructure as code, or moving applications to the cloud using applications as code by leveraging the micro-services infrastructure, the cloud native infrastructure that AWS provides — and Kubernetes included.
We have support for a lot of these capabilities today, and we will continue to evolve them to make sure no matter where the customer is in their customer journey to the cloud — whatever the stage of evolution — we have a compelling set of production services that customers can use to get to the cloud and stay there with the help of Unisys and AWS.