This is the first article in the Age of Cloud Blog Series

Not to state the overly obvious, but companies have substantially accelerated their migration to the cloud over the last eighteen months. The pandemic forced them to get more done, faster, and often for less. And they found the cloud was the ultimate enabler.

The move to the cloud, even with all of its promise, isn’t without challenges. Cloud-based applications may seem easy for individual users to access—just click and go. But, for IT departments, it’s not so simple. More clouds, more users, more locations and more applications—often built with application mesh—leads to more complexity. And complexity is rarely easy to master.

This is where Cisco can help.

Due to the breadth of our portfolio, we’re uniquely positioned to help you harness the power of your clouds. We do so with a cloud-neutral, full-stack observability, governance and automation that ensures you can deploy and manage the clouds you choose.

The Cisco solutions don’t exist in a vacuum. They align with the way you actually use the cloud to deliver consistent experience to all users, connect multiple clouds, support the future of work, secure your cloud workloads and simplify cloud operations.

In this blog, the first in a series of five, we’ll take a look at how companies are using clouds to ensure application experience. We’ll talk about what that looks like, the challenges involved and how Cisco can help.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll roll out more blogs to highlight other ways you use the cloud.

The Application is Your Brand

Over the last year, applications have become even more important. When workers went remote, it was applications that helped them maintain their productivity. And, when face-to-face interactions with their customers were no longer possible for many businesses, they had to pivot to all-digital interactions delivered through applications.

These digital interactions became the only interactions and, as a result, the application experience became how customers and employees evaluated you as a company. This is why Chuck Robbins has stated several times that the application is now the brand.

The cloud makes it possible to more effectively and cost-efficiently distribute applications to any user with access to the internet. In a perfect world, that would mean employees could work from anywhere with no loss in application capabilities. And customers could fully interact with you, even if they couldn’t meet you in person.

In a perfect world.

Cloud-native applications can improve the experience by enabling feature velocity through increased agility. These modern applications are crafted from prefabricated containers delivered via an application service mesh. As a result, developers can quickly spin up and distribute new applications and features. This agility helps them differentiate and build a competitive advantage with customers.

In a perfect world.

So Now That It’s in the Cloud—What’s the Problem?

Here’s the thing though. At the very moment that the application has become critical to your organization’s success, you’ve lost a bit of control. Your applications are now more reliant on the cloud and internet. This shouldn’t be a problem—in a perfect world.

It’s one thing to manage an application when it’s on your users’ laptop or served from your data center. It’s quite another when you must rely on application service mesh and an infrastructure that’s largely out of your control. And when you lose control, your application experience can degrade as issues arise in the imperfect world.

When users suffer poor application experience, they blame you. And there’s little patience for excuses. You just need to identify and fix the problem.

If it is a connectivity issue, where? Is it the service provider? Is it one of the multiple hops along the internet? Or something to do with an end point somewhere? And as the cloud expands, the number of interconnections swells—each becoming a potential source of performance degradation.

Then again, poor performance may not be due to a glitch in the connections. It could result from traffic being prioritized incorrectly. A video application that requires low packet loss and latency might be routed over a connection that is be better suited for email.

And, yes, the application itself can also cause a performance issue—especially with cloud-native applications, microservices, server-less functions and containers. All of these elements need to work seamlessly for optimal application performance. But it’s not a perfect world. You know how hard it is to schedule a meeting with four people. Just image doing so with thousands of containers distributed across the internet and several clouds.

Take Back Your Control
But then again, this complexity probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to you. If you’ve spent any time with the cloud, you’re living it. I recently spoke with an analyst and she said complexity is the number one concern she hears over and over.

Complexity may be a challenge but it doesn’t have to be intractable. Not if you can take back control. But how do you do that when much of the internet is outside of your control?

Observability and automation.

Observability is the ability to see into the infrastructure and application, monitor their performance, and pinpoint real and potential performance issues using AI and analytics. If you can see how an application is performing across connections and service meshes then you can make changes to optimize that performance—even on connections that you don’t control.

Automation lets you imply control by standardizing repetitive operational, security and connectivity processes for consistency and simplicity. From an application experience perspective, this automation can consist of application prioritization to align application type to the right route, access policy to ensure the right access for the right users and applications, and the right protocols between cloud providers, ISPs and your network edge.

Only Cisco
Look across our entire cloud portfolio and you’ll see that only Cisco can provide this necessary full-stack observability and automation. We provide these key capabilities through a cross-portfolio approach that lets you decide what mix is right for your specific cloud deployment.

This spectrum of solutions includes:

ThousandEyes provides observability across clouds, data centers and networks to help identify infrastructure issues that can be impacting the user application experience—even on connections you don’t control. Its actionable insights proactively pinpoint problem areas and enable you to quickly remediate the situation so the user experience is minimally impacted.

AppDynamics takes an application-focused approach to full-stack observability. This portfolio of solutions can provide real-time insights that help ensure consistent application performance to drive revenue and results. The cloud portfolio includes migration monitoring, cloud native monitoring, serverless monitoring and baselining for microservices and containers.

Cisco Nexus Dashboard
Increasingly, our customers are looking to enable application agility and adopt cloud operational models to handle the growing scale and complexity of their infrastructure. These expanded needs are met by Cisco Nexus Dashboard. The intuitive Nexus Dashboard platform providers services such as Nexus Dashboard Insights, Nexus Dashboard Orchestrator and Nexus Dashboard Data Broker, that provide a single operational view of your geographically dispersed multicloud environments. The platform enables the acceleration of NetOps and DevOps capabilities and aligns seamlessly with third-party ecosystem tools from Terraform, ServiceNow, and Splunk. As a result, it accelerates the adoption of cloud-native applications practices while ensuring application agility and performance.

Cisco SD-WAN Cloud OnRamp
Connectivity is critically important for app performance. Cisco SD-WAN Cloud OnRamp ensures secure connectivity between cloud services and your users. The onramp and the cloud exchange information about the application’s payload to ensure it is routed correctly based on the app’s needs for latency and packet loss. Video and audio are connected for low latency and packet loss while documents and slides use less critical paths.

Application experience is how you are judged. In an imperfect world marked by growing complexity, we help you take back control and harness the potential of the clouds. When your business depends on a first class application experience, Cisco provides the tools to ensure exceptional performance anywhere and to any user.

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Age of Cloud Blog Series



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Daryl Coon

CMO EMM Mobility Solutions Borderless Networks