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How IT can simplify the hybrid environment and the ‘new normal’?

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With the explosion of apps deployed and delivered across on-prem and public clouds, maximising investments while continuously balancing performance, cost, and risk is a tall order for IT operations and infrastructure teams. Operations teams have to support existing infrastructure and applications while managing next-generation workloads in an always-on, hyper-distributed world. At the same time, they need to become more efficient in order to reduce costs. These demands are creating a growing gap between meeting the requirements of the diverse environments and the expertise, processes, and tools to support them. To date, teams have absorbed the extra workload out of sheer necessity, helping to keep the business operating with resilient and secure internal and remote access to corporate systems. However, in the long term, this extra workload is unsustainable. The question is: How can IT simplify this hybrid environment and ‘new normal’? Trideeb Roy, Director – Sales, Data Center, Cisco India & SAARC, talks to Express Computer at length on this. Excerpts.

The new normal is expected to see a hybrid working model. How can companies accommodate this new style of remote working and support their hybrid workforce?

There are primarily three concerns that companies exploring hybrid work models need to address. Firstly, with the workforce more distributed, organisations need to invest in tools and technologies that enable high-quality, seamless and secure collaboration experiences and enhance the productivity of employees, wherever they are.

Next, resiliency and agility will be critical as companies switch to hybrid work models. In these efforts, the greatest challenge is data security and privacy, because so far, the focus has been on on-premise security, but as organisations explore hybrid work models, the need for platforms that provide strong encryption, compliance visibility and control will be critical.

Lastly, for employees who are returning to the office, companies need to ensure a safe and productive environment by providing touchless and intelligent experiences. Going forward, for in-office experiences, the focus should be on optimising the office space and implementing collaboration tools that effectively omit the lines between in-office and remote workers.

How will the adoption of hybrid infrastructure benefit enterprises in the post-Covid world?

Business agility, flexibility and resilience have become necessities for organisations today more so, in the current pandemic situation. CIO’s are increasingly realising that a single solution just cannot offer the required flexibility to adapt to rapidly changing business conditions. Organisations, therefore, are now finding it imperative to accelerate their migration to multi-cloud architectures.

This transformation is getting accelerated by the speed at which business is consuming applications for their growth. CIO’s are planning to invest in hybrid multi-cloud platform strategies and capabilities to drive business transformation and to unlock value, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, as they now realise that there are two realities – on-premise and on cloud, and both have to co-exist and work seamlessly and workloads need to be prioritised based on consumption needs and budget.

While traditional infrastructure and cloud services are feasible options for selective workloads and services, they become flawed and expensive when they have to support a company’s entire application portfolio. On the other hand, hybrid infrastructure is a combination of public and a private cloud platform and provides the best of both. One of the primary benefits of a hybrid cloud is agility, that allows effective operation of systems across organisations of all sizes. Most importantly, the modern hybrid cloud infrastructure can future-proof a data centre, keep up with the pace of software and service innovation, and push the business forward.

Additionally, it can deliver several important benefits including faster infrastructure and application delivery via software-defined automation, better systems visibility and orchestration with single-pane-of-glass management, improved application assurance and end-user experience, and better security, compliance, and risk mitigation from the core to edge to cloud.

How are these hybrid work models altering enterprise cloud strategies?

The pandemic has led to a huge spike in demand for cloud-based collaboration, security, and productivity tools to ensure business continuity, as businesses are now taking the opportunity to reinvent their models for a more connected, automated, data-intensive and distributed future. With innovations and transformation taking centerstage, hybrid clouds can provide a seamless experience to organisations and solve critical challenges around latency.

To keep up with the digital transformation accelerated by the pandemic, video conferencing tools and Virtual Private Network (VPN) has become more important than ever, and organisations are also using cloud-based Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) solutions to onboard new remote workers. More and more enterprises are adopting Cisco HX for HCI solution along with intersight for management and CWOM for infrastructure optimisation based on application volumetrics, SD-WAN for networking and secure access server edge (SASE) as it will help deliver security and networking services together from the cloud, and will allow organisations to securely connect any user or device to any application. At Cisco, we believe that simplicity, security, and scalability are the core tenants that one should keep in mind as they develop the SASE strategy. Cisco’s Umbrella, Duo and Meraki solutions have consistently delivered high performance while leading the market with their simplified customer experience from initial deployment to configuration and ongoing management tasks.

Security takes the centrestage of everything we do in this remote-virtual world. What does Cisco offer for enterprises to ensure their cloud loads and data are secure?

Cisco’s security strategy is focused on delivering an effective cybersecurity architecture combining network, cloud, and endpoint-based solutions. We want to enable our customers to secure their networks for a multi-cloud world by delivering a platform that constantly detects threats and verifies trust.

We have recently introduced SecureX, a cloud-native platform that delivers a unified view of customers’ environments, and allows them to automate workflows across security products and detect threats and device vulnerabilities. We have also integrated Cisco SD-WAN with Cisco Umbrella, which enables customers to seamlessly migrate toward a Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) architecture, which aids in delivering business value and resiliency during times of uncertainty. This will automatically detect any signs of a breach, including malware, multi-staged attacks, wrongly configured cloud assets, policy violations, and misuse, and send alerts in real-time.

Which cloud model is best suited for the hybrid workforce to ensure end-to-end application visibility and enterprise productivity?

Organisations have now realised the criticality of making their businesses agile and resilient in the event of a crisis, they are now increasingly focusing on building robust cloud infrastructure for elasticity at scale. As the home becomes a base for day-to-day activities, hybrid cloud architectures, powered by AI and ML will see increased adoption, and these architectures must be combined with automated cloud-based management systems to warrant a seamless user experience. Pay-per-use models are most likely to see an accelerated demand, as industries move away from infrastructure ownership.

In the emerging low-touch economy, with businesses leveraging new business model innovation, the demand for cloud-delivered, scalable, secure, and simplified management will continue to gain tremendous traction.

Since every individual house has become an office now, what solutions does Cisco have to accommodate the new workforce in terms of bandwidth, security etc., to enable a steady and seamless workflow?

Keeping in tandem with the evolving work scenario, in the applications space, we have launched new technologies that provide deep insights into the physical and virtual network infrastructure. We have rolled out updates to the Cisco Intersight portfolio— our cloud-based management platform. Our acquisition of ThousandEyes complements our portfolio by providing deeper and broader visibility and analytics across networks and applications. Additionally, we have integrated these SaaS-based capabilities with our AppDynamics application intelligence portfolio.

In the collaboration space, our portfolio is at the centre of our customers’ strategies for empowering teams and increasing productivity, securely. To power the hybrid work model, we recently announced a wave of Webex innovations to transform employee and customer experiences. The all-new Webex provides a single secure place for connecting and getting things done like call, meet and message, and some of the new features include: noise cancellation and speech enhancement, transcriptions and closed captioning, enhanced video layouts and Webex Huddle, and new analytics features that extract personalised insights and actionable recommendations to individuals, teams, and organisation.

We have also introduced a range of new devices, that will provide uninterrupted, smart experiences whether you’re at home or office. It can further help with things like virtual meeting fatigue and support the need for a powerful, professional experience no matter where you work from.

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