Digital Transformation Expo 2019: Highlights

14 October 2019

The Digital Transformation Expo gets bigger and better every year. Amongst the free socks, retro arcade games and caricature artists, industry experts gave seminars on topics ranging from security, to cloud, to data and, of course, AI. Here are three of my speaker highlights and key takeaways: 

Secure internet gateway: security re-imagined in the cloud
Speaker: Luke Hebditch | Systems Engineer | Cisco Cloud Security

“With the explosion of cloud apps, the move to highly distributed environments, and an increase in mobile workers – your job isn’t getting easier. Plus, the threat landscape isn’t standing still.”

Luke explained that today’s operating model is increasingly decentralised, driven by SaaS-type services and cloud computing. There is a huge shift towards Direct Internet Access (DIA) structures, allowing us to embrace flexible working practices and roaming/remote access to the company network.

We demand to work this way, but the impact on security needs careful consideration. As the company environment spreads beyond four walls, security tools become more disparate, uncoordinated, and could leave gaps for exploitation. Should we rely on staff to use a VPN at all times? We must be more robust and intelligent than this.

Luke went on to explain how Cisco Umbrella helps to solve these problems. An intelligent, highly faceted solution, Umbrella is designed to be the first line of defence against internet-borne threats, delivered in the cloud to cover users and functions wherever they may be.

Our CTO, Neil Briscoe, shared his views on multicloud security with IT Pro Portal. Whatever the product, Umbrella or otherwise, security solutions must be intelligent and flexible to keep up with the changing landscape we’re trying to protect.

Optimising Cloud Infrastructure: a crucial element of your cloud journey
Speaker: Mike Gallo |Senior Director of Professional Services | Navisite

“Organisations are increasingly moving their infrastructure and applications to the cloud to take advantage of benefits such as increased agility, tighter security and lower IT spend. However, initial cloud migration is only the first step of the process.”

Mike quite rightly pointed out that cloud infrastructure is a constantly moving target, so we not only have to take care when migrating to cloud, but regularly take stock and work out whether the current state of our cloud environment is fit for purpose.

A commonly seen scenario for Mike is a business shifting their entire workload to cloud – and then attempting to optimise the fallout. Unfortunately, a recurring attitude tends to be that cloud is the finishing line. After a cloud migration, resource is often taken away and other IT projects take priority, as teams draw a line under ‘a transformation well done’. In reality, the new cloud environment may be inefficient and hemorrhaging money.

The answer is clear, we need to constantly review and tweak our cloud ecosystem, and there are plenty of tools in the market to help businesses gain this visibility and insight. Mike’s advice mirrors the initial impressions I had when joining the industry. Cloud is exciting, and full of promise, but we must curb enthusiasm before jumping in feet-first. 

Cloud Adoption: are we doing it right?
Speaker: Russell Barley | Cloud Solution Architect | 1&1 IONOS

“Cloud Fails! So plan accordingly. Understand what is wrong in order to get it right. Architect for flexibility, for failure, and for change.”

My favourite seminar of the day also happened to be one of the last. Russell treated us to an engaging and witty presentation in which he focussed on what companies do wrong when adopting cloud, and how a strategic approach can help us successfully embrace the opportunities on offer.

Here are some of the things we’re doing wrong:

1 – We migrate to cloud (as a lift and shift), with ‘plans’ to architect afterwards that never materialise. This matches the insights Mike Gallo shared in his presentation. This is a bad habit we need to shake!

2 – We take our requirements and rules to cloud with us. Think about it, our old rules were based on different architectures and technologies. Cloud is a completely different beast. As we heard from Luke Hebditch’s seminar, internet and public cloud are changing the face of security. Other aspects of IT are no different, we need to reassess the rulebooks and be willing to rewrite them if necessary.

3 – We overprovision because we needed to before. On-premise architectures promote overprovisioning to allow for scale and running efficiency. Cloud can flex and scale according to demand, so there’s no need to over-allocate like we used to. Pick the tools to solve your needs, no more, no less. No waste.

4 – We get locked in by cloud vendors. What’s the point of freeing yourself from a monolithic incumbent, only to tie yourself to a single cloud provider? Workloads should be portable (kubernetes can help here), and the tools we use should support multicloud environments.

I won’t spoil too much more here, as I’m hoping to persuade Russell to present at a Meetup event early in 2020, but suffice to say Cloud Gateway’s core values complement Russell’s opinions perfectly. We shouldn’t be locked-in to an incumbent provider, not on premise, nor in the cloud. The business requirement should define the solution, and we should be free to select the right tool for the right job.

I hope all exhibitors, visitors and speakers had a successful event. Here’s to next year!

cloud computing
cloud infrastructure
Hybrid Cloud
Francis Bell