You might have noticed that as many traditional hardware and infrastructure vendors have or are in the process of transitioning toward a more services-oriented business, they often use the term “cloud managed” to describe their offering. It is a term that we hear more often especially since the advent of hybrid cloud computing and software-defined infrastructure.
What does Cloud-Managed mean?
What makes cloud managed different from cloud? Well, it is typical that a cloud-managed solution is a solution that is not hosted or delivered from the cloud, meaning, the service is not necessarily cloud based. It means that the solution or service that you are subscribing to or buying is administered by management software hosted in the cloud.
Many of the vendors who provide a cloud-managed element with their offering often try to attach themselves to the “cloud” premium by representing themselves as such. It might be great marketing for the vendor but it can be confusing to customers. It has confused me on occasion.
We see cloud-managed quite a bit with so-called IoT platforms and network platforms that manage devices and infrastructure services deployed in an enterprise or industrial edge environment. These cloud-based management tools allow administrators to manage the entire lifecycle of devices and hardware, bare metal and virtual resources in the field. This can include device and system provisioning, configuration, security, and monitoring.
Benefits and risks of cloud managed solutions
Cloud managed solutions provide a number of benefits to the enterprise end user.
Firstly, ease of deployment. In most instances, all the IT department has to do is subscribe or register with the cloud-based tool. It’s often an integral part of the vendor offering unless the tool is offered as a standalone product or service.
Secondly, they can provide central control and visibility which can be handy if administrators are looking to manage a number of geographically distributed sites. We hear about single pane of glass all the time. Well, there you go. You can get it for multiple sites.
Thirdly, no software to install or maintain. The management console and functions that manage the stuff running in your edge environments are hosted and delivered from the cloud. This means you can get the tools up and running quickly with reduced deployment related configuration.
On the risk side of the equation, it is always about security.
Despite the myth that the cloud is secure managing your infrastructure from the cloud has associated security challenges and risks.
For those of you who don’t know about the SolarWinds hack, SolarWinds is a leading service management software company whose Orion platform is used by enterprises and cloud service providers for IT performance monitoring. In 2020, Orion was hacked by a suspected nation-state hacker group affecting more than 30,000 public and private organizations including many U.S. government agencies including the Department of Defense.
Unfortunately, when you are a tenant of a cloud managed service management platform, you can become a collateral victim of a scale out hack of a rich, multi-tenant target. As the SolarWinds hack taught us, there is truth to the idea of security by obscurity.
Key Takeaway for the C-Suite
Cloud managed is going to be a thing going forward. Vendors will push it to foster reoccurring XaaS type revenue for their solution offerings while catering to the convenience of their customers.
As an buyer, it is important to understand that cloud managed is not the same as a cloud-hosted service whether it is IaaS, PaaS, SaaS or a managed infrastructure. Consider the benefits of on-premise deployments and local administration of your edge infrastructures and the things populating your edge environments. Take a tiered approach to exposing your infrastructure and providing access to your environments to cloud managed administrative/management tools.
Frankly, the cloud is not “more secure” in many scenarios at the edge, especially industrial ones. Exposing your environment to the Internet opens up security risks at many levels. With cloud managed solutions, it’s up to your organization to adopt and implement Zero Trust other important security practices and measures. Your vendors can’t do that for you.
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