Written by Anirudh Sareen, Product Manager
“Cloud with a governance framework is the best foot forward“
The Cloud Forecast: Value Proposition
Gartner forecasts that by 2022, 90% of organizations will be using cloud services. The cloud computing industry is growing at a CAGR of 18% and is projected to reach $623.3 billion by 2023 as per the reports. With the cloud markets accelerating, it is vital that organizations emphasize strengthening and monitoring their cloud operations by building a strategic and comprehensive cloud governance structure.
Results of market research suggest that a comprehensive cloud governance model allows for the creation of cloud policies and guidelines for cost optimization, resiliency, security, and compliance. It also enables organizations to scheme technical strategies and select centralized governance tools to ensure cloud operational excellence and streamline business operations. Repeatable cloud processes and standards can then be incepted as best practices in the long run. 83% of the organizations admit that with governance in place, their business productivity has significantly flared up and the top reported benefits include reduced security risks (56%), reduced costs (50%), and improved innovative capabilities (44%).
As the Cloud market booms, there are numerous cloud solution providers in today’s market that are enabling a smooth shift from on-premise IT infrastructure to a secure cloud environment mainly to modernize existing ITIL processes and upscale governance standards but is that all enough. This blog aims to explore what suits best and what gaps can still be filled.
Driving Cloud Governance with AWS and Azure: The Current Scenario
The leading cloud solution providers “AWS” and “Azure” are the most experienced players in the business striving constantly to evolve and adapt to the ever-changing cloud eco-system.
Their governance policies and framework ensure that everything from asset deployment, system interactions to data security is appropriately examined and managed from cloud infrastructure, security and operations point of view while taking people, processes and technology, collectively into account. Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure deliver state-of-the-art management and governance capabilities with built-in and customized corporate policies to build as well as scale applications on cloud while also ensuring continuous monitoring and control.
Let me quickly highlight some of the most significant AWS and Azure governance tools used to execute and adopt cloud governance:
AWS Governance Tools: What’s on Offer?
AWS governance at scale focuses on management, cost control, security and compliance through policy and account automation, identity pool and standardization of centralized tools.
AWS Control Tower helps to set up and govern a new, secure multi-account AWS environment while AWS Organizations conducts and manages central governance across AWS accounts.
AWS identity and access management (IAM) services help organizations to securely manage identities for the workforce as well as applications and workloads. Pre-defined permissions in the AWS policies determine whether the entity or resource request is valid or not.
Security, Identity, and Compliance on AWS ensures data and infrastructure protection from unauthorized access and threats via encryption, key management, and continuous monitoring of network and AWS accounts.
AWS Config enables assessment, monitoring and audits of AWS resource configurations against defined guidelines while also validating change management.
AWS CloudWatch monitors applications and operational data in metrics and logs to capture performance changes and optimize resource utilization providing a consolidated overview of AWS operational health.
AWS Cloud Trial tracks AWS infrastructure through user activity and API usage enabling simplified governance, security, and compliance analysis along with operational and risk auditing of AWS accounts.
AWS Auto Scaling facilitates applications to scale up for multiple resources across diverse services and AWS Well-Architected Tool analyzes the state of workloads against the latest AWS architectural best practices.
AWS Cost Explorer helps comprehend and manage AWS cost whereasAWS Cost & Usage report tracks reserved instances, savings plans usage and holds strategic meta data on AWS services and pricing.
AWS Service Catalog provisions organizations to centrally manage deployed IT operations guaranteeing consistent governance on the cloud. Ensures compliance with corporate standards integrates with IT service and operations management providing a single repository of application resources on AWS.
Azure Governance Tools: A notch better?
Azure Blueprints aid cloud architects to easily define, build and deploy Azure solutions for role assignment policy and resource group controls that abide by organizational requirements.
Azure Policy generates policies to check for compliance of existing and newly deployed resources besides also triggering compliance-specific events to monitor and control these set policies.
Azure Security Center provides centralized visibility of security across all workloads. It facilitates analysis and remediation of data and policies across the hybrid cloud setup to ensure security standards are met.
Azure Compliance Manager, a workflow-based risk assessment tool, enables tracking, allocating, and verifying the organization’s regulatory compliance activities.
Azure Service Health helps configure customizable cloud alerts and use personalized dashboards to analyze cloud health and mitigate downtime in case of service incidents or planned maintenance.
Azure cost management and billing service helps gain insights into an organization’s cloud spend to optimize cloud investments as well as simplify and manage costs. It helps drive accountability through continuous cost monitoring with implementation of effective cost governance policies.
While all the above services are independent and mostly work in silos, Azure Trusted Advisor & AWS Advisor are two personalized full-suite recommendation services that each cloud provider offers. They analyze cloud-specific configurations and used them to implement best practices that help optimize cloud resources. The advisor is designed to assess workloads, scale faster, provide quick fixes, follow best practices and offer recommendations from multiple services for easy reviews and action under one roof.
However, the tools do not cover an exhaustive list of governance aspects.
While benefits of Cloud and its native services are imaginable the limitations have a list too.
- AWS & Azure are the fastest growing cloud providers offering more than 70 different services despite which constraints with respect to coverage and depth of best practices health checks are encountered.
- AWS platform is vast with multiple features and to successfully manage it, organizations need to invest in hiring and training efficient dedicated AWS teams. Likewise for Azure services, teams need to first get cognizant with Azure specific functionalities making the whole process more time consuming.
- AWS has its own rules and laws that every enterprise needs to recognize and approve of. Likewise, Azure defined guidelines relating to cost, security, and compliance need to be understood and followed first, to begin with.
- To avail a 24/7 technical support, additional costs are incurred as monthly fee has limited assistance. Configuring services like digital marketing solutions, SAP, analytics, disaster recovery and backups to run applications on cloud are definitely a challenge.
- To keep pace with latest developments on Azure governance planning, teams need to visit Microsoft Trust Center for detailed information on security, privacy policies, compliance offerings and practices across Azure.
- It is necessary to partner with cloud hosting experts that possess that kind of knowledge and experience. For instance, as compared to the policy management tools in AWS and Azure, GCP tools prove to be more efficient but lack auditing configuration services and remediating policy violations.
Accelerate Cloud Governance Through Comprehensive Tools
While the Cloud enablement is easy, governance is an area less explored by all cloud adopters. With a consequential set of restrictions on AWS and Azure governance, organizations need to broaden their alternatives and look towards smarter comprehensive cloud governance tools.
An intelligent cloud governance tool that continuously tracks changes in the cloud, monitors compliance against industry standards like GDPR, PCI-DSS, HIPAA, CIS as well as identifies vulnerabilities and recommends implementable fixes under the five pillars of the well-architected framework is the need of the hour.
The platform can help verify most of the vital SaaS, PaaS and IaaS services of existing cloud providers ensuring their inclusion in audit checks. For instance, customized rules can be created and added to AWS config at any given point in time.
The tool can also track cost spends on the cloud, monitor utilization metrics, and recommend potential savings on reserved instances, cleaning unused resources, and rightsizing servers. It facilitates AI-based near real-time monitoring of on-cloud infrastructure to auto-remediate issues, can conduct ML algorithm powered failure predictive analysis, integrate with various ITSM and business communication platforms and takes care of the entire reporting lifecycle that is centralized as well as automated across all functions.
In all, the tool should do what multiple AWS & Azure services are doing but in a more user-friendly & consolidated manner and this is where CloudEnsure comes in. CloudEnsure poses as a full-capacity governance tool covering various governance aspects and such tools are much needed in today’s times.
Fast-tracking with Steppingstone for Cloud Governance
When governance is implemented effectively, there is a significant reduction in time-to-market, increased reliability, security, and performance efficiency. Over time, organizations can mature on the cloud, affirming notable improvement in quality and performance. While the cloud-native tools are a perfect step for someone just starting on the cloud but the sooner one adopts a comprehensive cloud governance tool the better equipped, they are for the long journey called cloud.
Everyone agrees that early adoption of governance tools on the cloud accelerates smoother migrations, aligns multi-cloud management, and allows organizations to shapeshift towards agility paving the way to an effective cloud transformation journey.