Five Steps to Unlocking Application eXperience Infrastructure (AXI)
The dynamics of the Internet are evolving with user diversification and application modernization in the cloud. How do you catch up?
The Evolution of Application Infrastructure
As an industry, we’ve come a long way from when public cloud adoption at scale wasn’t mainstream and enterprises kept their workloads and applications in data centers. These data centers housed the critical infrastructure needed to give users secure access to enterprise assets so they could perform their work. As branch offices, remote locations, and retail operations came online, they too required access to the application stack hosted centrally in data centers or co-locations. So enterprises started investing in building their own networks to mirror that need by backhauling traffic to their core data centers.
Users are now more diversified and have moved outside the traditional network perimeter, and they need to access certain services through the Internet. Until two years ago the only way for users (employees, customers, partners) to connect and access applications was through VPNs. VPNs provided two benefits—employees could work remotely from anywhere, and customers could access applications located in data centers. And consequently, threat actors and cybercriminals discovered easy victims—remote users connecting through VPNs. VPNs take a perimeter-based approach to security, so once VPN-connected users are inside the perimeter, they potentially have broad access to the network. Every time a device or user is trusted in this way, an organization’s data, applications, and intellectual property is at risk.
As cloud adoption increased and enterprises started migrating their apps to the cloud, the critical infrastructure needed to securely deliver applications with optimal performance didn’t hold up. Backhauling all traffic through a central location for inspection, WAN optimization, load balancing, VPN, firewalling, and myriad other services is resource intensive and extremely complex, especially if the applications are hosted in multiple regions and users are accessing them from multiple locations. This process involves site-to-site connectivity between data centers and co-locations to the public cloud in multiple regions with users accessing from anywhere. VPN and similar traditional connectivity solutions weren’t designed to manage this level of complexity with the public cloud in the mix, and they struggled to provide access to everything a remote worker might need. User experience suffered as a result.
What Are the Top Five Requirements for Delivering Apps in Multi-Cloud?
App modernization is occurring very quickly to meet business agility. Data and applications are getting more fragmented and distributed in the enterprise as a result of modern app architectures and deployment trends, including micro-services, containerized workloads, and growth in multi-cloud adoption, which is further accelerated by the emergence of IaaS and cloud compute. All major cloud service providers (CSPs) allow businesses to virtualize the very physical infrastructure itself in an on-demand, pay-as-you-go consumption model. Companies are running multi-cloud environments because they need to meet specific application requirements, mergers and acquisitions, and the CSPs’ race for differentiated features. In fact, in a recent Gartner survey of public cloud users, 81 percent of respondents said they’re working with two or more cloud service providers. Multi-cloud adds a never-before-seen level of agility that’s needed to deploy mission-critical core business applications.
With this growing trend, the multi-cloud environment will get more complex, making it impossible for any single point solution to address the elastic and customized application demands on infrastructure.
Modern distributed apps in the enterprise typically require the following from the underlying infrastructure:
- Near-real-time responses from the apps running anywhere on the Internet, similar to a SaaS application experience
- Quick and low-latency access through hyper-localization (CSP regions or Edge infra)
- Near 100 percent SLA with no downtime
- Identity-aware, adaptive secure access with continuous risk profiling
- Application or service health monitoring
Today’s workforce is increasingly diversified and remote, and people need access while they’re working on the road, in coffee shops, or at home or a branch location. The underlying infrastructure—which was built 20 years ago with a hub-and-spoke type of architecture running in a centralized data center, or with the applications in every cloud region in a multi-cloud environment—cannot scale. It’s very complicated to manage and maintain, results in inadequate security controls, lacks the performance and agility required for modern apps, and provides no insight into what users have been doing.
Why Is Today’s Infrastructure Obsolete for Modern Apps and a Diversified Workforce?
To circumvent the app delivery and security hurdles in multi-cloud, companies started using cloud DMZs. The concept was simple—consume DMZ services from a mid-mile SaaS solution instead of building it out in every cloud region. This solution can work for legacy or monolith-type applications, but to deliver application performance and visibility for modern app requirements, IT and cloud infra teams still struggle to stitch together these cloud DMZs with CDN, web application firewall (WAF), global load balancing, and multi-cloud networking, along with operational tools from each cloud stack. In addition, the enterprise loses control over their data as their critical traffic runs through a mid-mile solution limited by points of presence.
In summary, today’s enterprises use a variety of existing systems to meet their users’ business needs around the world, and many are outdated, complex to manage, and vulnerable. They include:
- Infrastructure—Cloud service provider(s), private data centers, and multiple software and hardware vendors (routers/SD-WAN, firewalls, load balancers, WAN optimization, VPN gateways) across all locations (public, private, and edges)
- Operational complexities/Dashboards—Different tooling across environments (public, private, and edges), and different software/management systems for each vendor and service
- Configuration schemes—Different configurations for services and vendors to achieve a holistic outcome
- Skill set requirements—Public clouds and multiple vendors for different functions
- Security/Auditing—Mid-mile cloud DMZ or Zero Trust layers, along with horizontal visibility and management challenges
Why Do We Need a Radically New Approach?
This is where Application Infrastructure (AXI) can radically change how applications are delivered in multi-cloud infrastructure. AXI is a completely new approach to simplifying cloud operations—it acknowledges the changing realities of modern applications, the future of work, and rising user expectations.
It’s time to reimagine how applications can be delivered and accessed in the multi-cloud era. AXI offers true application experience, visibility, security, and control through a consistent platform across all clouds and on-premises data centers. AXI provides the following:
- A highly scalable and elastic multi-cloud infrastructure that can act as an orchestration layer to abstract the underlying cloud networking and connectivity techniques
- Monitoring with deep visibility and insights
- Advanced machine learning capabilities that adapt to underlying network and security infrastructure, and that adhere to the policy buckets of cost, performance, and security
- App-to-app networking, in which micro-services and containers communicate with each other in addition to the end-user access—making reliability, performance, and visibility even more important
- Zero Trust access for both app-to-app and user-to-app communication
- Infrastructure as a code through the API-first model
- Consistent and easy onboarding for any cloud and on-premises infrastructure
To progress on your multi-cloud transformation journey, you’ll need to safeguard users and applications, as well as provide fast and reliable experiences to your users. We suggest you take this journey in five steps, which are covered in depth in this ebook:
- Step 1—Draw up a migration road map
- Step 2—Establish a Zero Trust policy framework for users and applications
- Step 3—Standardize performance
- Step 4—Make sure you’re ready for AI/ML and the power of big data
- Step 5—Simplify cloud infrastructure operations
Companies spend most of their valuable IT time and resources implementing multiple piecemeal solutions and services as part of their cloud migration journey, and they end up with a highly complex, costly, and stitched-together architecture that can’t scale or provide users with their expected application experience in the cloud-native world. The five fundamental steps listed above are the key to streamlining your cloud migration and multi-cloud operation journey, and to saving you from overspending on cloud costs. We do this through the AXI platform, which is a vertically integrated stack for all types of workloads and today’s diversified workforce.
To learn more, check out our ebook here.
Moment of Truth: A Real-World Example
Cross-functional teams who worked for a car manufacturer, from three different regions, were trying to collaborate for a project to make the leasing process as efficient as possible for their customers. Users from around the world needed access to multiple applications and tools hosted in multiple cloud regions by two different CSPs. Check out the value they obtained from this new AXI approach.
Cloud transformation and your organization’s migration journey require careful planning, a solid forward-looking road map, and the ability to automate cloud operations in a seamless, frictionless way. Above all, you need complete visibility and control into the public cloud infrastructure, and a way to measure and guarantee application experience.