The global pandemic has dramatically changed CIO priorities across businesses of all sizes. Advanced technology interventions have made way for newer, more flexible strategies that need to mitigate the twin challenges of lower costs and flexible, robust deployments. CIOs today need to deliver agility to their business while unlocking new revenue streams, within the constraints of containing costs. First priority is to keep the lights on before businesses evolve to disrupt, innovate and look for growth.
Setting the premise
The forced lockdown has made businesses around the world adopt a WFH culture, and this inadvertently has led to digital transformation and cloud adoption at a scale the world hasn’t seen so far. Multiple surveys reveal that most businesses have decided that when life comes back to normal too, a major chunk of the workforce will continue to work from home. But to guarantee a consistent and seamless flow of work and business output, businesses are facing the challenge of secure, agile, and flexible IT and data management. Firstly, they have to deal with the dynamics of the volume. Previously, around 20% of the workforce was travelling and their IT departments enabled them with corporate apps and VPNs, so they could continue working from any location. Suddenly, this percentage today stands at more than 90%. While the
same apps and technologies might still work, businesses now need to extend them securely to almost 10 times the number of workers. Also, earlier, productivity data was generated from secure networks, such as a hotel room, a business center, or an airport lounge. Today, the global workforce is accessing devices from their own home networks, putting additional stress on their corporate IT networks, amplifying the need for security and consistent network performance. This is a sudden departure from operating on traditional IT systems that were created with the assumption that users will be situated in a single, unified location. The corporate network just became more complex, and this complexity has led to the rise of hardware equipment that can ensure business resiliency and business continuity. Multiple hardware vendors, multiple cloud providers, and multiple software applications to manage and monitor data – all of these
need to be unified, centralized and access needs to be provided to the right personnel at the right time.
New-age mantra for business transformation
To mitigate these new-age, pandemic-driven challenges, Cisco has created solutions, by merging software, cloud, and hardware with one fundamental aim in mind – enable businesses to embrace flexible working, and prepare the technology backbone to enable them to recover, and transform. Security is an integral component that runs alongside both product development and data management of every Cisco solution.
Rethinking IT in a WFH world
CIOs now have to make informed choices starting with fundamental building blocks of any IT implementation. Basic questions like which software development ideology to adopt, waterfall or agile, need to be rethought along with managing the sudden deluge of data, both at the edge and the cloud, owing to a high number of employees working away from the office. In other words, the data center needs to be re-imagined.
Unwrapping new-age IT with business resiliency
Before CIOs begin to contemplate new-age, hybrid data centers, it is important for them to evaluate business goals, which may be different in today’s scenario. For instance, the IT infrastructure of a business needs to not just look at keeping the ball rolling, but also move along the path of business resiliency, with the twin aim of mitigating risks as well as innovating for growth. CIOs need to understand that the changes they make today will help manage the uncertainty of tomorrow. So, as organizations re-imagine their business, CIOs have to re-imagine IT to support the business. To this end, many of the bespoke new-age solutions are built on three core philosophies – firstly, the need to ensure that there is no compromise in safety, security, productivity, and customer experience across a distributed hybrid environment. Secondly, the need to achieve the flexibility to scale and shift capacity, capability, and resources, having understood where maximum demand lies.
Finally, there is a pressing need to develop and automate new capabilities to be agile and future-proof.
Cisco encapsulates these three philosophies around robust business policies as well as a resilient operating
The new normal of distributed IT
In the new normal, global business is distributed, employees are distributed and consequently, the IT
backbone should also support the new distributed normally. In CTO language, this translates to distributed
infrastructure and applications. The biggest lesson businesses can learn from the current pandemic is that
there could be more roadblocks along the way, and they must do everything possible, to ensure that they are able to navigate sudden interruption or change, at any time. In compute terms, this translates to building a cloud-first infrastructure that helps employees work securely from anywhere, collaborate from any device, and for the operations and IT teams, be able to securely manage from anywhere with the right ammunition – automation and analytics.
The public vs. private cloud paradox
There has never been a better time to have discussions around both public and private clouds. While public
clouds provide flexible SLAs, and the ability to manage varied data sources, they are often looked upon with suspicion for lack of watertight security. Private clouds, on the other hand, give nightmares to the CIO, to ensure smooth integration with apps and productivity software that are proprietary to the business. Multiple surveys across the globe have revealed that cloud implementation decisions are influenced by a list of common considerations – data, privacy, security, redundancy, flexibility, and future-readiness.
All of these considerations are enveloped by a basic need for flexibility, visibility, better data monitoring, and a tight handshake between the public and private cloud data. Even before the pandemic wreaked havoc on businesses across the globe, the idea of hybrid clouds started gaining popularity. Today, it makes even more sense to deploy a hybrid cloud, albeit with a slight difference.
Hybrid cloud solutions – the way forward
Backed by vast experience in networking, cloud, security, and collaboration technologies, Cisco offers a
wide portfolio of solutions to help businesses achieve automation, visibility, and AI-powered insights, securely with a zero-deficit security backbone. The solutions help you reimagine your business with technologies ranging from SD-WAN to hybrid cloud to world-leading endpoints,
among others. To keep the lights on in the new, improved normal, and to brace for business boost in the coming months, hybrid clouds need to be built with application first, and not a cloud-first philosophy. Cisco has been one of the frontrunners in evangelizing the adoption of hybrid clouds across the globe and offers a range of solutions to help businesses embark on their hybrid cloud journey. From Hyperflex, which is the building block hybrid cloud, allowing businesses to run applications consistently and securely both on-premise and on the cloud, to Cisco Intersight, which is a SaaS infrastructure management platform, Cisco offers hybrid cloud implementation and management solutions end-to-end. The Company is helping customers simplify application resource management for the hybrid cloud by continuously optimizing critical IT resources, ensuring workload performance, and lowering operational costs on-premises and in the cloud with Cisco Intersight Workload Optimizer.
Businesses in India have already started exploring hybrid cloud solutions to brace for post-pandemic
growth. Speaking about their own revised IT strategy, Mr. Rajesh Ram, GM IT & CIO, Bank of India, said, “We are able to accelerate our cloud adoption vision with Cisco’s Hybrid Cloud. It helps us integrate security, networking, management, and analytics while proving a flexible and seamless model that is fit for future growth. We are able to achieve cost mitigation and better visibility of our cloud networks, which is helping us boost business.” With partnerships with Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, and IBM Cloud, customers have been extending their cloud frameworks, and in many cases, changing their cloud topology, with exclusive DevOps platforms, automated network connectivity, workload optimization, and robust application monitoring. To help businesses embark on the journey of hyper-convergence, Cisco offers solutions from the core, to the edge, and also to multi-cloud deployments. By integrating with SD-WAN, businesses are now able to optimize the networks that interlink cloud operations, while ensuring a secure, seamless, and actionable flow of data. Cisco® Cloud Application Centric Infrastructure (Cisco Cloud ACI) is a comprehensive solution for simplified operations, automated network connectivity, consistent
policy management, and visibility for multiple on premises data centers and public clouds or multi-cloud
environments. The solution captures business and user intents and translates them into native policy
constructs for applications deployed across various cloud environments.
Multi-pronged benefits across industries
From modernizing factory operations to providing high-performance computing to universities to enabling
smart cities, Cisco hybrid cloud solutions have helped businesses across verticals, worldwide. By lowering
costs, increasing flexibility, and integrating networking, security, management, and analytics, hybrid clouds are proving to be the answer to overcome the current stress and prepare for a brighter future. Certain industries, such as telecom, have the challenge of increased compliance and the need for on-demand as
well as real-time visibility of data dynamically from both public and private clouds. Secure data of this nature needs to be retrieved from the right source and presented in a user-friendly manner to the right personnel within the business, in order to speed ahead post the pandemic. As Mahanthesh KA, Managing Director, TeleIndia Group of Companies explains, “We could navigate through these turbulent times by adopting a hybrid cloud architecture. We are redefining our data center across the core, cloud, and edge, with unified solutions that are helping uncover new business opportunities while keeping the lights on for existing tech.” As the world recovers from a global slowdown of sorts, the focus is keeping the lights on, but businesses are beginning to realize that they need to look at it as an opportunity to reimagine their IT and re-think their cloud strategies. Without reasonable doubt, hybrid cloud is the way to go.