The Modern CIO’s Agenda: Cloud, Mobility, and Security

Cloud computing is approximately a decade old. Early adopters began by experimenting with non-critical workloads, but modern enterprises now routinely trust the cloud to run the most important elements of their businesses. In fact, today, most large enterprises run multiple clouds, and the adoption rates for both public and private cloud adoption are accelerating. This wide acceptance and accelerated growth illustrates the market has shifted from a cloud-first posture to a cloud-only preference.

“Cloud adoption is driven by business needs such as agility, speed, innovation, and cost-savings,” says Sanjay Poonen, VMware’s COO for customer operations. “And companies moving to the cloud should make apps that are cloud-native and mobile-first.”

Cloud Computing Enters New Phase

As cloud computing moves into a new phase of adoption, that shift creates new challenges. Companies embracing multiple clouds need better tools to manage and optimize workloads across public and private clouds as well as address cross-networking and management needs. Most businesses depend on private clouds in varying degrees, especially those with legacy IT or in regulated industries. Cloud silos and vendor lock-in become common concerns for IT teams to monitor and manage.

“CIOs should be cautious about depending on only a single cloud vendor. Companies don’t want to be locked into one cloud like they were locked into one hardware vendor 15 years ago,” cautions Poonen. “And cloud vendors are starting to differentiate themselves in meaningful ways. For instance, Amazon is very strong in basic service infrastructure, computing and an array of modern services, IBM specializes in managed hosting, Microsoft can integrate Office and Windows apps, and Google is second to none when it comes to machine learning and analytics. Companies want choices and may prefer specific vendors to address specific needs.”

Cloud-Mobile, Consumer-Simple Business Apps

Businesses are rushing to the cloud because, a decade in, the benefits are clear. Cloud-based technologies not only unlock efficiencies but also allow a company to become more innovative, agile, and mobile. A cloud approach also attracts the kind of talent enterprises need to be competitive. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp and most new cloud-native apps are optimized for mobile, and business users increasingly expect the same experience from business apps, too.

“Employees want apps that are consumer-simple and enterprise-secure,” says Poonen. “The need to be mobile means every cloud service should be easy.” By that Poonen means signing in to these services shouldn’t involve a security token and a login process that takes two or three attempts for users to gain access. “Users want to click and go.”

The need for employees, apps, and business processes to be mobile is driving real innovation and truly changing the workplace. Companies moving to digital workspaces understand that business transformation is enabled by IT transformation, including infrastructure, applications, processes, devices, and systems support.

“Mobile-cloud investments must combine identity and mobility management to provide seamless and secure access to all the apps and data people need to work—wherever, whenever, and from whatever device they choose,” says Poonen. “And mobile means being on the move, not just mobile devices. Apps must be streamed, and mobile devices complicate security, especially in organizations where employees use their own personal devices. It’s a challenge, but it’s also where the complexity and sophistication of software can thrive and be used to advantage.”

A Secure Approach

Security starts with the ability to see the entire infrastructure of the enterprise, and new tools offer increased visibility, enabling IT to see everything they need to protect. Creating a firewall around infrastructure only provides first-line perimeter defense. Now there are security solutions that can be deployed throughout the infrastructure, in both a more ubiquitous and granular manner, to offer better and intrinsic protection.

“Network security is a patchwork of firewalls, identity management, and endpoint security, all of which IT must stitch together. It’s not elegant,” says Poonen. “Changes in infrastructure are causing us to radically rethink security, and that’s a good thing. Micro-segmentation, new ways to quarantine east-west traffic, and a new approach to endpoint security offer improved options to protect the enterprise IP and reputation.”

It’s a challenging and exciting time for CIOs. Innovation is pulling technology closer to the core business, and CIOs are eager to leverage IT for business goals, especially increased mobility, agility, responsiveness, and security. Cloud technologies are now mainstream across the enterprise, but the cloud market is dynamic, accelerating, and increasingly competitive. “Competition is always great,” says Poonen, “because it makes everyone innovate faster and the customer benefits.”