Cloud computing has become wildly popular among IT organizations for a number of reasons, including its ability to enhance efficiency, security, agility, and cost-effectiveness. But now cloud features and principles have also become the building blocks of something even bigger and more all-encompassing: a unified IT operating model that spans people, devices, networks, applications, and things across the digital infrastructure.

With end-to-end visibility and centralized, cloud-based management, IT can monitor, manage, and control an organization’s entire networking, cloud, and security infrastructure. A unified cloud operating model makes it easier for organizations to pivot as their needs change. Organizations can quickly deploy innovative applications, respond to disruptions and threats, and scale performance and capacity. The model is an antidote to separate, complex, operational silos on-premises, on the internet, and in the cloud. The overall goal of the model is to dramatically improve the efficiency, reliability, and resiliency of IT operations, as well as the quality of user experience.

The Need for a Comprehensive Operating Model 

Recent research conducted by IDC has found IT staff worldwide engaged in a struggle with highly specialized, complex, and manual management tools and procedures in use across on-premises, internet, cloud, and security silos. Between all of the silos are management and security gaps. Integration is limited. Efficiency and time-to-market suffer.

Meanwhile, IT is being asked to innovate in the use of applications and data intelligence, to create great and secure user experiences, to scale up or down in response to demand, and to do it all efficiently and cost-effectively.

Enter the cloud operating model.

With the cloud operating model, cloud principles like anywhere access, self-service dashboards, policy automation, end-to-end visibility, microservices, continuous integration, and continuous delivery (CI/CD), and extensibility can be applied across the entire digital infrastructure from access to internet to cloud (Figure 1). That includes all endpoints and systems whether they are on-premises, in the cloud, in remote offices, or mobile.

The Cloud Operating Model
Figure 1. The Cloud Operating Model

With consistent policies and governance within and across operational domains, the cloud operating model can improve cross-functional collaboration, eliminating disparate processes and disjointed efforts that hamper better business outcomes.

An Ongoing Journey  

Achieving a cloud operating model is a journey for organizations requiring a significant shift in how they approach their IT operations:

  • A shift in thinking from viewing cloud and on-premises environments as separate entities to looking at how the best features of both can converge
  • A cultural shift that embraces breaking down silos, promoting collaboration, and encouraging cross-functional innovation
  • New skills, tools, and processes to manage infrastructure, such as automation, DevOps, and agile methodologies
  • Integration of cloud management platforms with legacy systems, which requires careful assessment and a migration strategy

Achieving a cloud operating model is not a one-time event but rather an ongoing journey of continuous improvement across the entire IT environment. Cloud features and a unified management platform provide the means to monitor, optimize, and innovate to help ensure that organizations are getting the most value from their investments.

Where to Begin? 

Start by evaluating which cloud principles exist in which domains. At Cisco, we’re developing a new tool that helps organizations define their various infrastructure principles within the access network, software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), and data center. By overlaying principles on infrastructures, an organization can identify opportunities to integrate silos to help meet business and operational objectives.

Some organizations are starting the journey to the cloud operating model by extending SD-WAN connectivity across multiple clouds for simpler IT management and a better application experience. With a distributed SD-WAN, they can apply policy, visibility, control, and zero trust consistently across all clouds, software-as-a-service (SaaS), and middle-mile providers. Other organizations are planning to use this SD-WAN foundation to transition to a secure access service edge (SASE) architecture to connect network and security domains across branches and remote clients.

With our broad cloud and networking platform portfolio, Cisco provides a comprehensive set of solutions with the visibility, consistent policy governance, and insights-driven automation necessary to support an effective cloud operating model. For example, in campus networking, the Cisco Meraki platform supports many key cloud principles.

The Meraki dashboard provides cloud-based management for connected access points and IoT devices, plus monitoring and management of switches. Through the dashboard, configuration and access policies can be defined and automated throughout the network. The dashboard interface is a visual representation of all connected devices, showing the real-time status of each device. And Meraki has a marketplace of partner applications that leverage APIs to extend these capabilities across the network.

For a more detailed look at the cloud operating model and how it is evolving to meet IT operations management requirements across the entire digital infrastructure, read this new Cloud Operating Model Q&A with IDC research analysts. It covers cloud operating model benefits, different ways of applying the model, how to evaluate management tools, and get the most out of IT investments. You can also view an on-demand webinar with IDC guest speakers to learn more about the cloud operating model.


Daryl Coon

Cisco Customer Solutions Marketing