Supporting CIO strategies and priorities from the cloud-Part 1

CIO strategyThe biggest eye-opener in Gartner’s recently-published study on the current agenda regarding the digital landscape for Chief Information Officers is that CIO’s recognize that cloud computing will not only be a significant part of the future, but that their own roles and behavior need to be updated to survive in the modern enterprise.

CIOs will have to develop new IT strategies and plans that go beyond the usual day-to-day maintenance of an enterprise IT infrastructure…. technologies provide a platform to achieve results, but only if CIOs adopt new roles and behaviors to find digital value.”

Most CIOs recognize that the future of enterprise IT lay not with sitting and writing code and patching servers, but rather one of strategic development and as an integrator of business goals: riding the sea change from a person plugging in cables to an analyst; from a compiler of stacks to a broker of business needs. For more, read my article Rethinking IT Using the Cloud as a Change Catalyst.

The Gartner survey of more than 2000 CIOs, was indeed fascinating -“Hunting and Harvesting in a Digital World: The 2013 CIO Agenda“- and one of the highlights was a wish list of Technology and Business Priorities for 2013. I, of course, was encouraged (yet not surprised) to see cloud computing, workflow, business intelligence and security on the list. Although they appear on separate wish lists, they represent the key transitions and challenges of the evolving paradigm CIOs must confront to keep their resources relevant and facilitate progress…it’s no leap that the successful achievement of any or all the items on the lists require a unification of technology, process and analysis.

Before you can say “Obvious Things, for $1000, Alex,” what I would like to do is highlight some specific tactics or advantages that integrate the Top Business Priorities with Top Technology Priorities. For this, I am advocating a holistic and unified security platform to demonstrate how a CIO can advance their agenda and ensure the smooth operation of their enterprise IT landscape.

First, the complete lists:


Rather than giving you an example of each line item (I’ll save that for the longer form white paper), I will combine several elements because a strong cloud-based security program unifies several technologies and provides the necessary business priorities. This is not to say other technologies within the purview of the CIO don’t apply, but as this is a security blog, I will keep it within the context to illustrate that the attainment of several goals can be correlated from the cloud. For that let’s look at some of the common threads that stitch together these “wish” lists.

Better visibility (analytics & business intelligence/collaboration/better operation results)-With better visibility comes better, faster decisions based on relevant data. If you can see the giant asteroid speeding towards the planet, better visibility provides the time and the layers of input to devise multiple options to prevent disaster! Yet as so much data criss-crosses the enterprise in so many forms, formats,  and shared ownerships; across so many applications for a multitude of purposes, it can be difficult (and resource-heavy) to monitor and fill vulnerability gaps. Many CIOs have invested in multiple technologies and processes to mitigate risk, however unless they are linked, or work collaboratively, it’s like hiring several children to plug dykes with their fingers. I’ve seen in too many companies that although they have the right intention, the left hand does not always know what the right is doing. There are simply too many devices, agendas, access opportunities and external and internal threats NOT to centralize and unify tools like SIEM, Log Management, single sign on and identity management. The idea here is that each controls a segment of enterprise security. By allowing them to leverage each other’s capabilities—to collaborate and communicate—under a centralized monitoring platform, you get contextual information that otherwise would take considerable more time and resourced expertise to compile, analyze and react.

Unification (centralization in real time), promotes three dimensional data (or 360 degree visibility) which, in turn, improves responsiveness and control. This allows you to deploy critical resources with pinpoint accuracy based on the full measure of intelligence and policy priorities. This is the key to better operational results.

Cost-effectiveness (efficiency/cloud computing/reducing enterprise costs). Security is not cheap. You should not nickel and dime costs when the smooth operation of your enterprise, your reputation amongst customers and partners, and the protection of your IP assets are at stake With that said, not only can security be affordable, but it can actually create ROI if deployed and managed intelligently. No one disputes the need to deploy something more than a firewall or password protection, but I understand that CIOs are now looking for better ROI on their existing poker hand. That’s where the cloud makes so much sense. By packaging (deployed and managed from the cloud) the 4 solution types mentioned in “better visibility,” CIOs avoid the dragging anchor of CapEx. In fact I have seen several case studies that show such an attachment strategy (adding pieces that are not currently an owned asset) operates at a savings that the subscription cost for the entire initiative is less than annual support and maintenance for on premise.  So if acquisition costs are significantly manageable, what you are left with is enterprise capabilities that increase your efficiency to resource quotient.

The whole concept of efficiency is more than just saving money and getting more bang for your buck on a cloud computing solution. If the security protocols and processes are configured using a combination of internal resources and security-as-a-service expertise, you expand your sphere of effectiveness and “protect” more virtual territory using less resources. Efficiency is about doing things better while expounding a minimum of resources. The idea of on-demand scalability (to expand or contract immediately based on business needs and not budget dictates) is another resource, cost savings concept that cloud security offers that makes your initiative right-sized. Too often initiatives are weighed down by bloated costs like investments in hardware/servers, unused licenses and lost protection time while trying to develop and deploy more complex versions.

To be continued….

 PART 2 WILL APPEAR NEXT WEEK. The complete article will be distributed as a white paper available on the CloudAccess website afterwords.

Kevin Nikkhoo

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