‘Multicloud and the Agile Network’ Meetup 24.09.19 Recap

26 September 2019

Our second Cloud Gateway Meetup event, hosted by Verizon, was held on Tuesday 24th September. Despite torrential downpours throughout the afternoon, a large group from the Meetup community came together for an evening of networking, pizza, and lightning talks. Here’s our roundup:

Fred Walker – Global Solutions Executive – Verizon
Change! Why is it so hard?

Representing Verizon, Fred began the evening by addressing a subject we’re all familiar with: change. There have been some significant industry developments of late, thanks to the emergence of new technologies, including software-defined networking, 5G and AI. These en vogue technologies can present opportunities for a business to take huge steps forward. Fred shared some common barriers to change:

Just too busy. In some cases, an IT decision maker can identify the perfect solution, but they are so deep in the weeds on problematic aspects of their IT, they can’t free up time to implement the solution. Change can be prevented when we spend all our time focused on keeping the lights on.

Siloed business structures. It is common, particularly in large organisations, to have interdependent departments that simply don’t speak to each other. When they do communicate, it’s under sufferance. If this happens, decision making is circulated but not embraced, ultimately leading to no action at all.

Don’t understand it! Tech is becoming complicated, and for those who understand the traditional model of IT, the emergence of innovative technologies is daunting. Some may see change as a threat to their job security, but in fact the real risk lies in resisting change and being left behind.

Make it look bad! People who don’t want to change will focus on the negatives. Fred gave us an example from his days in Government, where he worked on a risk review board, for a department with a zero risk policy. As you can imagine, very little was done! 

Just ignore it Ignoring change is a significant industry problem. It’s too easy to bury our heads and hope that change happens around us. Change needs to be fully embraced, with buy-in from the departments responsible.

Cairbre Smith – Network Architect – HMCTS
Infrastructure overview of our cloud network journey

Our next speaker, Cairbre ‘Carbs’ Smith, spoke to the group about HMCTS, and their digital transformation programme. Thanks to Government investment in transformation projects, HMCTS were able to implement a change programme that included a revamp of their network architecture.

The requirement for HMCTS was for a secure, reliable network provision, providing access to core Government services, the internet, plus connectivity to third parties and individual users. As a typical Government organisation, their legacy technology was unwieldy and monolithic. The solution had to maintain connectivity to old IT, but at the same time harness the power of serverless data centres. Of course, the predominant aim was to securely access cloud services – in this case, Azure.

To illustrate the urgent need for change, Carbs showed us a slide that represented the activity of HMCTS’s cloud teams. There were hundreds of unidentified connections, which in many cases couldn’t be explained, let alone guaranteed of being secure. This concerning picture showed how easy it is to become lost in the complexity of new technology, something Fred has alluded to in his previous talk. Cloud is often the utopia, but without visibility or careful management, it can get out of control.

The solution they chose was implemented over two phases, and at times was a difficult process. The team struggled to get incumbent providers to play ball and to respond quickly, a frustration that perhaps served to illustrate the reason why transformation was needed. Ultimately though, implementation was successful. HMCTS now have an agnostic private on-ramp to Azure, with a flexibility to consume other cloud providers in the future if they want to. Pace of change is now near immediate.

Justin Day – CEO – Cloud Gateway
Back to the Future

Last to speak was Justin, who focussed on the past, present and future of network technology.

Justin’s image of the past was represented by MPLS, or similar private networks. Looking back, it’s easy to criticise MPLS. The nature of people is such that we think we’re more advanced than we used to be. We view MPLS today as clunky and restrictive – a technology that didn’t deliver much, but cost a lot of money. Justin challenged this view, agreeing that the cost was high, but that the solution delivered on the requirements we had at the time.

In the present, right now, we are running to the internet and public cloud. We view the internet as a positive step forward for many reasons, particularly when comparing it with MPLS. It’s cheaper, quicker to provision and always ‘on’. However, is the internet truly fulfilling our business requirements?

In this world full of emerging technology, lots of businesses are adopting public cloud solutions purely for their own sake, and when it comes to the internet, this could introduce risk. For example, data traversing the internet is available to anybody. Yes, it is encrypted, but the data can be freely collected and stored. If, in 20 years, a new technology emerges that can decrypt this data, there could be a very tangible, negative impact. We must be careful.

With the future in mind, we should take stock of what’s happened in tech over the last few years. We have become caught up in the excitement of cloud, adopting it at a rapid pace, in some cases leading to businesses ‘de-clouding’ to reconsider their actual needs.

For Justin, the future should be a blend of connectivity. Only through a well designed hybrid cloud environment can a business meet all its current requirements, but also be prepared for what’s to come. We need to adjust our thinking to understand that the internet alone isn’t the right answer, that MPLS wasn’t so bad. 4G, private links, satellite, they are all different tools for different jobs. Together, they can create a single ecosystem, an Agile Network.

Our next Meetup event will be held in December – look out for news on this, coming soon. We hope to see you there!


Hybrid Cloud
The Agile Network
Francis Bell