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Today's Cloud Needs Centralized Configuration Management

The rise of microservices, Kubernetes, GitOps, and serverless means configuration is becoming distributed, decentralized, and “pushed to the edge.” It's time to simplify and organize your config data to ensure security, reliability, and velocity goals are met.

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Executive Summary

  • Cloud and application configuration is becoming a shared responsbility between DevOps and engineers. This increases speed and innovation. 

  • The unfortunate downside is increased configuration complexity, pressures on customization, and organizational and process misalignment.

  • Three approaches to ameliorate this complexity are reviewing existing configuration integrations, cross team training and awareness, and new solutions to improve visibility across the newly distributed and decentralized world of cloud configuration.

What We'll Cover

Containers, Kubernetes, serverless, and infrastructure as code (IaC) techniques are changing the way modern cloud systems are configured. Applications and their components are becoming self-contained, with substantial infrastructure configuration embedded inside their source repositories. In addition, system configuration is becoming decentralized and distributed, which substantially increases the difficulty of managing the cross-cutting concerns of security, compliance and reliability. And when these self-contained components become inconsistent across time – from development to testing to staging to production – the complexity increases.

Methodology

CloudTuth interviewed five hundred IT professionals across roles ranging from CTO, CIO, VP Eng, DevOps, CISO and SecOps to research.

Cloud Configuration Challenges

Keeping Up with Innovation

As millions of people adjust to working virtually, software as a service (SaaS) applications and the public cloud infrastructure they rely on have expanded overnight to keep up with increased online activity. As a result, application developers are under even more pressure to bring new multi-cloud applications and advanced versions of existing ones to market quickly.

However, application development tools are also advancing quickly. Applications and components are becoming self-contained, with substantial infrastructure configuration embedded inside their source repositories. As a result, there is a more distributed and decentralized definition of the system configuration, which substantially increases the difficulty of managing the cross-cutting concerns of the organization like security, compliance and reliability. When these self-contained components are also inconsistent across time – from development to testing to staging to production – the challenge increases.

The resulting complexity has been an underlying cause of unexpected downtime and security breaches. These days, any organization with a SaaS offering that engages customers via the cloud can recall an incident or close call where the security of their software was made vulnerable or the application experienced unexpected downtime.

This comes at great cost to any business. A 2020 Divvy Cloud study of publicly-reported breaches estimated that 21.2 billion records were exposed in 2019 at the cost of $3.18 trillion. As for downtime, we learned last summer that one to five minutes of downtime cost Google upwards of $500,000 (never mind the cost to those who depend on Google) and an hour of downtime cost Amazon nearly $5 million.

Methodology

CloudTuth interviewed over one hundred IT professionals across roles ranging from CTO, CIO, VP Eng, DevOps, CISO and SecOps to research.

 

69%

of enterprises are moving towards hybrid adoption

84%

of enterprises are adopting a multicloud strategy

75%

of network outages and performance issues result from misconfiguration

How, in a world of increasingly sophisticated rapid development tools and environments, can this be happening? Let’s examine what’s causing the accelerating complexity.

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Advances in Cloud Tech – Greater Speed but Added Complexity

In short, today’s application developers benefit from an expanding tools ecosystem that enables faster time to market for new features. But these new conveniences increase the complexity of managing configurations in development, test, staging and production environments. The impact of this can be seen in three major areas:

Steps to Build Team Visibility + Coordination Around a Single Record of Truth

Of course, wherever possible, cloud customers should decouple systems which have become unnecessarily entangled over time. If component tools can work in isolation, there is less risk of a domino effect of taking down the entire system when a single piece has an issue. A cost benefit analysis of integration for improved efficiency versus system isolation for minimized failure impact needs to be conducted holistically across the entire cloud ecosystem.

In addition, integrated systems require integrated teams, which is why cloud customers are hiring for diverse skill sets, as well as restructuring teams to encourage cross-functional collaboration and communication. As organizations adapt to new tools and technologies, it is vital to ensure that employees at every level and function — from junior developers to middle management to senior leadership — are communicating openly and effectively.

But most importantly, a consolidated view of configurations across all cloud systems – a single record of truth – becomes the glue for teams that now work independently but need to benefit from the learnings of other teams. For simple systems, in-house management tools may be sufficient, but for most scaled-up, tech-savvy companies, a third-party configuration management solution is the missing piece to ensuring that critical systems are always updated and configured properly.

At CloudTruth, we are focused on delivering this single view of truth across the cloud via a SaaS configuration orchestration platform with a central configuration data hub that combines all the cloud ecosystem configuration settings and files in a way that:

  • makes configuration settings understandable to all parts of the organization responsible for application security and support

  • speeds up access control

  • builds confidence in the correct provisioning of new releases

  • makes troubleshooting a matter of minutes rather than hours

  • facilitates audit and compliance

Over time, analytics and machine learning layered on top of the central configuration database will reveal system tuning best practices (not just individual system settings), automate the prevention of configuration errors, and orchestrate global configuration change implementations.

Consider these three steps to manage these highly customizable cloud ecosystems:

Evaluation and decoupling of unnecessary integrations
Hiring, training and awareness to support cross-team collaboration
Sharing a single consolidated view of configurations across the ecosystem

Conclusion

Today’s development teams should not feel like they must sacrifice innovation and speed for reliability and security. But efficient guardrails are needed to make this happen.

While building visibility and coordination across a myriad of cloud tools is a big undertaking, CloudTruth is dedicated to this goal. We make it possible for development teams to choose and customize best of breed tools while maintaining coordination, operations and infrastructure leaders to focus on performance evolution rather than fire drills. We enable security professionals to look ahead to future risk prevention rather than catching existing threats in the making.

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