Organizations are losing control of their IT environment.
Think it over for a moment, and it might start to make sense. Sure, your IT and security teams are working hard — too hard, often. Yes, they’re making progress against their roadmap, and making meaningful improvements that benefit the business.
But how in control does your organization feel?
If the answer is “not very,” chances are you’re not alone. For most security and IT teams, so much stands in the way of managing users, applications, and networks effectively. Contradictory dashboards and visibility gaps. Outages that can strike at any moment. Policies and permissions that take forever to update — and that’s just scratching the surface. With every new application, API, user, and cloud instance, the digital environment gets more complex, leading to all too common situations like these:
“We were paying a lot of money, but we had no visibility into our global digital footprint.” - Global Director of Governance, Risk, Compliance, and Security at a Fortune 200 auto parts company
“Lack of integration across tools made investigating and resolving security and performance issues a complex and time-consuming effort.” - Operational Security Manager at a global retailer
“The vast majority of our computer fleet runs MacOS…[Our access management provider’s] limited Mac compatibility often delayed our releases.” - Head of Security at a cloud consultancy
“Just keeping people online created a series of administrative bottlenecks.” - Head of SRE and Cloud Technology at an electronics company
Though loss of control manifests differently in every organization, it’s become endemic across various industries and regions. And often, it can start to feel horribly inevitable. Digital environments are getting more complex — that’s just the world we live in. And even the most dedicated and well-resourced IT and security teams have no choice but to try to manage as much of the chaos as they can.
Not necessarily. There’s a new model, a connectivity cloud, that cuts through all of this confusion and complexity to give IT and security better control over their applications, users, and data. Here’s what it looks like — and how it can help restore some sanity to your organization’s digital strategy.
Chances are, most security and IT leaders will find at least some of the symptoms above familiar.
Recent research bears this out. A 2023 Forrester-conducted study surveyed over 400 security and IT leaders to ask about loss of control — defined as the ability to effectively and efficiently respond to new challenges, be they attacks, technical issues, or new business requirements. In the survey, leaders said they found a variety of foundational security and IT responsibilities more complicated than they had been three years previously:
Ensuring connectivity for in-office workers: +47%
Maintaining IT and security team productivity: +40%
Setting and enforcing access and security policies: +37%
Leading the organization in the adoption of new technology: +32%
What’s driving all of these challenges? The Forrester study paints a complex picture. When asked which factors were driving loss of security and IT control in their organization, surveyed leaders identified a wide variety:
66% blame having more applications to manage
62% blame greater variety of application locations
49% blame a shift to remote/hybrid work
48% blame multi-cloud deployments
Clearly, the problem doesn’t just lie in one area. And this makes sense, considering the challenges that have landed in IT and security teams’ laps in recent years. Over time, these teams have gone from mostly being responsible for one technological domain — the on-prem environment — to many others, including clouds, SaaS apps, and remote/hybrid workers connecting over the public Internet.
Security and IT need to connect and secure all of this so it functions as something like a single environment for internal and external users everywhere. But these different domains are managed, connected, and secured differently by design. The only answer, historically, has been a mind-bendingly complex combination of hardware, on-prem software, leased lines, point products, and vendors of all shapes and sizes.
This approach only partially works. It provides some measure of connectivity and security — but not always, and not without a lot of wasted effort. And, when a new challenge comes down the road — a new attack, a new technological requirement — teams have a mess of interdependencies and workarounds to navigate, leaving the overall organization less agile, less secure, and less able to use resources efficiently.
Customer experiences suffer. Attacks are more likely to succeed. And, as the previously mentioned anecdotes show, IT and security teams can’t respond as effectively as they’d like.
If the leading cause in loss of control is the tangle of hardware, software, leased lines, and vendors holding enterprise IT environments together, then the solution must involve simplifying that tangle.
This is where the connectivity cloud comes in. This new cloud model — a unified, programmable cloud platform that delivers secure, performant, any-to-any connectivity between all networks (enterprise and Internet), cloud environments, applications and users. It encompasses a variety of security, connectivity, and developer services giving it the ability to fit in wherever needed and consolidate many critical services onto a single platform with unified visibility and control.
A connectivity cloud is built around four fundamental principles. Here is what they look like in practice, and how they help restore control:
The public Internet and various other enterprise networks are large components of the “tangle.” A connectivity cloud is integrated natively with the Internet and enterprise networks, offering secure, low-latency, infinitely scalable connectivity. It offers complete control of a request from source to destination — not just via software-defined overlay or underlay. And its connectivity scales infinitely on demand across every location, with no configuration during setup or operation.
All of this restores control by requiring no hardware or virtual appliances to activate, manage, or scale; reducing the latency that can cause support tickets to spike, and providing a single control plane for all services running on all servers.
Every enterprise has proprietary infrastructure, multiple clouds, unique compliance needs, and other highly specific tooling, processes, and configurations. A connectivity cloud provides limitless interoperability and customizable networking. Every connectivity method and cloud service is interoperable with each other in every network location. And Layer 1 through 7 connectivity is fully API programmable everywhere.
All of this restores control by providing efficient management and consistent user experiences regardless of specific use cases. Organizations don’t have to compromise on security, networking, or innovation as they switch between clouds (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS), on-prem networks, and users.
Integrating everything in the “tangle” is onerous and trying to manage it all causes inefficiency and security gaps. A connectivity cloud has a wide range of services built in at a foundational level and analyzes extremely high volumes and varieties of traffic in order to automatically update intelligence models. Cross-functional threat intelligence sees attacks and vulnerabilities that crop up everywhere on the Internet. And cross-functional network intelligence that sees all Internet paths and accelerates any request along the fastest route.
All of this restores control by making better intelligence more accessible, by closing more security gaps automatically, and by reducing trade offs — e.g. having to deactivate security services to ensure application availability or compliance.
Too many IT and security services means too many dashboards, leading to inefficiency, poor visibility, and alert fatigue. A connectivity cloud greatly reduces tool sprawl and dashboard overload by managing much more of the IT environment from a single pane of glass. This includes consolidated logging and integrations with any cloud log storage or analytics platform.
All of this restores control by simplifying policy updates, user account creation, and other day-to-day security tasks, along with simpler setup and management of any business resource (on-prem or in the cloud). This leads to faster employee onboarding and simpler troubleshooting and customer support.
Cloudflare is the world’s first connectivity cloud — a unified, programmable platform of security and connectivity services that’s spread across a global network spanning more than 310 cities.
Cloudflare services have always been built on the principles of integration, programmability, platform intelligence, and simplicity. And the overall Cloudflare portfolio is comprehensive in helping customers achieve these benefits when tackling a huge array of security and IT needs.
This article is part of a series on the latest trends and topics impacting today’s technology decision-makers.
Learn more about the first ever connectivity cloud in the The connectivity cloud: A way to take back IT and security control ebook.
After reading this article you will be able to understand:
The circumstances that have led to a loss of control in security and IT
How to simplify the tangle of hardware, software, leased lines, and vendors
4 core benefits of a connectivity cloud