Grace Under Pressure: The Maturity of the Cloud

The cloud has been “walking the walk” for a while now. But recent events have allowed the cloud to show its real value.  

Many of us have been discussing the cloud with customers and prospects for the past eight years, asking the question, “What is your cloud strategy?” In the early days, this question was mostly met with a dismissive scoff: “We’ll never move to the cloud!”. Then, the mood softened a bit: “Hmm, we’ll look to leverage the cloud where appropriate.” Now, however, cloud-first strategies have become the norm.

It’s clear that the cloud has converted many of the most ardent nay-sayers, but there are still sceptics. The reality is that we are living in an IT world of variety. We are engulfed in a long and seemingly endless phase of transition between old and new worlds, between on-prem and cloud. Despite this, one requirement is timeless. A user needs to open their computer and access the tools required to do their jobs. Everything else becomes irrelevant. Location, network, destination – it’s all one big wildcard.


No ‘snow day’

Recent unprecedented events have shown how imperative it is that cloud be at the forefront of all organisations’ IT strategies.

It is unlikely that any of us could have envisaged a global event taking hold so emphatically and causing such a seismic shift in working behaviour. Places of work are closed across all countries and all industries with a huge emphasis now being cast on everyone working from home.

Clearly, most organisations already have provisions for remote working, but these systems and services are only stress-tested occasionally during the annual “snow day” (in the UK at least). So fleeting is this interruption, any issues discovered are often either tolerated or overlooked as it’s back to business very quickly.

Recently, many organisations have been caught short while very much in the eye of the biggest “snowstorm” of all time. In situations like this, people can only be reactive. One of the biggest challenges is being able to provide the platform for all employees to connect to business resources remotely with adequate performance. The first instinct is to go with what you know and trust. In most cases, businesses have existing VPN solutions. Therefore, it should be easy to give your remote employees secure access, right? Just build more capacity, procure more licences, and tune the configuration to eke out every last drop of resource. These measures are able to buy a little more time, but something is different about this snow day. We don’t know when it will end. Therefore, business must continue, no excuses. Good enough is, quite simply, not good enough.

Many traditional and already-deployed remote access solutions require physical hardware. They are finite in resource. Normally, this wouldn’t be a showstopper. Planning teams would be one step ahead of the game, proactively monitoring and uplifting capacity to meet the demand as it grows. However, there is one commodity that is essential to proactiveness, which coincidentally is the one commodity that is in short supply right now – time. It takes weeks and sometimes months to procure, deliver, install, and enable physical IT infrastructure. However, that is not an option in this hectic time. There must be another way. This is where cloud can really prove itself.


Coming of age

Amongst the security industry, existing customers and prospects alike have been turning to cloud providers with a challenge: “Can you help us provide secure application access for ALL of our employees? Oh, and did we mention the fact that we need this right now?”

What happened next was unprecedented.  A combination of expertise, skill, determination, and above all, teamwork that enabled several organisations in every corner of the globe to quickly provision new software and start providing their employees access to work applications and data. What is the fundamental component that is making all of this possible? The cloud.


The mother of all stress tests

One of the key arguments often raised against cloud adoption is maturity. Many cloud services that are being delivered are relative infants in IT terms. There are nagging doubts from some who suggest cloud is not enterprise-ready for all of their workloads. Granted, it’s an intimidating thought handing over the reins, the horse and the wagon of your business to a third-party to take good care of. Sure, service-level agreements (SLAs) are decent but SLAs do not guarantee the actual service.

This recent crisis has been the mother of all stress tests for cloud services. Office 365 and Zoom have never been far from the headlines, with many wondering how they will cope under such an intense, and quickly growing, workload.

Unsurprisingly, there have been challenges across the industry; growing pains if you will. A tidal wave of real customer load on any platform, no matter how well it has been lab tested, will flag opportunities for improvement. However, these have been dealt with quickly, intelligently, and effectively, making the overall service more robust and reliable. The past week has fast-forwarded the process of maturity by several months or maybe even years, given the enormous spike in demand and stress. Despite this, the industry is coping and growing, and this is testament to available mature, cloud native architecture.


IT will never be the same again

It’s going to be a busy few weeks ahead for everyone, both personally and professionally. Once the dust finally settles on this unprecedented situation, the way organisations are geared up to provide IT to their employees will have changed forever, and for the better. If anyone out there is still not convinced of the power of the cloud, they never will be.

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Marc Davis is a Sales Engineer at Zscaler, working with customers and prospects to help secure, simplify and ultimately transform the way they deliver IT to their users with a cloud-first strategy.

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