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Identifying IT operational blind spots to enhance digital transformation

In an email interview NTT and Cisco responded to questions about digital transformation journey, and the need to address IT operations challenges. The responses can be attributed to Henrick Choo, CEO of NTT Malaysia and Hana Raja, Managing Director, Cisco Systems Malaysia.

EITN: What steps are NTT and Cisco taking to align with Government’s Cloud First strategy? 

Over the last two years, cloud adoption has accelerated in Malaysia, driven by changing consumer preferences and priorities for digital channels. Both public and private organisations across the board have adopted a cloud-first approach as more consumers and citizens moved online.  

To keep pace with a new digital era, the Malaysian government has taken a number of initiatives to fast-track its digitalisation goals such as MyGovCloud, as part of its efforts to migrate 80% of government data to the cloud this year. 

A big reason for this trend is Cloud’s ability to provide access and provide data to make informed, real-time decisions to drive business agility and resilience in its innovation cycle.  

With public cloud, on-premises legacy systems, and private cloud in operation, customer and organisational data sitting across a variety of sources, technologies such as multi-cloud orchestration, visibility and automation are key in helping businesses deliver digital experiences that meet the expectations of Malaysia’s digital-first consumers. 

As part of NTT and Cisco’s partnership, we look at how we can provide greater clarity around businesses’ transformation journey with the following steps: 

  • Plan and design: As a trusted advisor for customers, our first step is to help identify the technical and business requirements and outcomes in their journey.  
  • Deliver and migrate: Understanding their workloads and technical architecture that helps us outline a roadmap that fits with their specific governance model and IT infrastructure. 
  • Managed Services: Our hybrid cloud solutions provide a fully managed offering of the business environment, where over time we provide continuous service improvement and optimisation. Other managed services such as Cisco ThousandEyes Digital Experience Monitoring software delivers end-to-end visibility into their digital experience by tracking performance data to get to the root cause on any downtime and performance issues. 

From there, we use these data-driven insights to help our customers’ IT teams to implement more effectively planning and optimisation of the operational experience. 

EITN: What can be done to enable classification of data (sensitive and non-sensitive) in accordance with the CGSO’s circular to government agencies in August 2021?

NTT and Cisco have agreed that data localisation is an important issue, as also evidenced by Cisco’s 2022 Data Privacy Benchmark Study, which found that 92 percent of technology professionals think likewise. 

This sharp increase in awareness is highlighting that the growth and importance of data privacy are moving far beyond compliance exercise. It has become mission-critical for businesses to consider how they secure the free, interoperable flow of user information across borders.  

In order to do this, organisations should revisit their data classification efforts to ensure that they are compliant with existing data-related laws, as it pertains to local jurisdictions in which they operate in and are well-positioned to meet new ones on the horizon.  

First, they need to understand the different types of data they have in their organization, locate where that data is stored and how it is managed. With this information on hand, they can define the security controls that need to be in place to protect each data type. Once these security controls are in effect, there needs to be routine checks to evaluate their effectiveness.  

Customers can leverage on NTT’s Cybersecurity experts (2,000 cybersecurity specialists worldwide) to develop a strategy and actionable security roadmap aligned with the customer’s business objectives, with optimised security controls and next-generation security architecture, policies, and framework. 

We see three core principles driving privacy, data ethics, and responsible data handling, and they are transparency, fairness, and accountability. Especially as the data landscape grows in complexity, it is important for businesses to anchor on transparency such as publishing their privacy data sheets, being clear and public about what data they are collecting and why and how it is protected with security controls that are already in place. 

EITN: Please do share some of the common (top 3-5) blind spots that organisations face as a result of taking on more complex IT environments and external dependencies.

The last two years have made clear that what can be delivered digitally, probably should be delivered digitally. This has shaped a new landscape where more and more organisations are gravitating to the hybrid cloud world. Hybrid cloud strategies should help to define IT practices and technology decision-making within an organisation. However, the complexity and pressures that arise from having to support these hybrid and distributed experiences can be challenging. We see several common blind spots that organisations face in a distributed environment:   

Skills gaps – This presents a chief hurdle to execution of hybrid cloud strategies, but the absence of skills is not always clear to an organization in the development stages. As enterprises move from plan to pilot and then to production, more of them are encountering the native complexities of cloud platforms along with the challenges of architecting, deploying, securing, operating and optimising the hybrid cloud environment.

As a result, we have observed a steady growth in the idea that the role of service providers like NTT goes beyond providing the underlying infrastructure to offering strategic input and operational support around each of these challenges. 

There is greater speed and value in working with one provider capable of delivering end-to-end services – from cloud resources to strategic consulting – and of delivering consistent infrastructure, management and security experience across public and private cloud. NTT’s 2021 Hybrid Cloud Report uncovers how organisations utilise hybrid cloud to their advantage; to seek agility, enhanced security, better performance and increased efficiency. 

Visibility and observability – On a customer front, what seems like a simple exercise as connecting to an app is really a complex journey across home networks, the internet, hybrid, and multi-cloud environments. With applications being at the center of the digital experience, delivering a seamless digital experience for the end-customer is critical. Today’s apps are modular – made up of individual components stitched together with APIs. Application performance hinges on bringing these components together in a seamless way for the end user.  

As a result, we have observed a steady growth in the idea that the role of service providers like NTT goes beyond providing the underlying infrastructure to offering strategic input and operational support around each of these challenges. 

This rise in IT complexity has significantly increased the amount of data created across the technology stack, from the application, through the infrastructure to the network and security.  A lack of visibility on hybrid and multi-cloud connectivity can damage these experiences. According to global research by AppDynamics, 75% of technologists polled said they are already struggling to manage overwhelming ‘data noise’ and 85% of those surveyed struggle to quickly cut through noise to identify root causes of performance issues. 

Optimising hybrid cloud strategy – Cloud strategies are defining IT initiatives that outline the way cloud will be consumed by the organisation. Cloud isn’t a single destination for businesses. It is made up of multiple different clouds. While investing in the cloud is easy, organisations may find themselves lost in their cloud journey if they are making haphazard cloud deployments based on application-specific needs. It is crucial for organisations to have a cloud strategy which is synchronised and optimised.  Enterprises should view cloud as a core, strategic initiative with the intent of extracting maximum value. They are not simply a means of tying together disparate technology platforms. 

Cybersecurity – Finally, networking and security teams struggle to connect users to applications in today’s distributed environment, protect against evolving threat vectors and deliver high quality and consistent user experience. Organisations need a new approach to cybersecurity to ensure end-to-end integrated security from the network to the cloud and endpoints. 

EITN: What is NTT doing to address these operational inefficiencies?

Henrick: Observability is businesses’ superpower. The ability to penetrate the vast and complex data ecosystem which underpins application delivery is powerful because it allows businesses to see the full context of the ecosystem, its interdependencies, and correlations, to pinpoint where problems sit – whether it is with a SaaS infrastructure, hybrid, or multi-cloud third-party or Wi-Fi at an end-user’s home. 

NTT together with Cisco ThousandEyes provide comprehensive solutions for cloud transformation journeys. When it comes to full-stack observability, Cisco ThousandEyes Internet Insights delivers the industry’s only application and network provider outage detection, powered by collective intelligence, that empowers operations teams to: 

  • Rapidly identify, escalate, and resolve outage incidents in critical providers including ISP, public cloud, and edge service provider networks 
  • Easily visualise and correlate outages to user experience and engage with your workforce, customers, and providers using validated insight rather than social sentiment. 
  • Improve vendor governance and management by using trusted third-party data to enforce Service-Level Agreements (SLAs) 

It’s time for customers to reconsider how they think about operations and networks. To become a platform for innovation, an agile business requires an agile network. This entails eliminating complexity, simplifying operations, and embracing automation in order to provide a dynamic and responsive software-defined infrastructure. Customers can engage NTT on our Managed Services offerings.  

NTT’s Managed Services Platform includes automation, AIOps and predictive analytics capabilities, resulting in an efficient network operations service to suit the most demanding requirements. In addition, software-defined lifecycle services help manage software assets and entitlements for improved consumption and ROI. Customers will also reduce risk through NTT’s adaptive networks that are secure by design and with security embedded and integrated as part of the network function. 

As you may be aware, NTT has been named a Leader in the 2022 Gartner® Magic QuadrantTM for Network Services, Global, and we’re ranked first in three out of five Use Cases in the Gartner Critical Capabilities for Network Services, Global. As a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Network Services, Global for the ninth consecutive year, we have a unique position in the market to communicate our end-to-end value proposition highlighting our secure, high-performing cloud-to-edge network fabric to deliver the transformation and agility to support our clients. 

EITN: How do NTT solutions and Cisco’s solutions work together to protect clients’ IT environment against any business threat?

Security practises can be applied more evenly across a consistent and centrally managed infrastructure landscape, and specific security requirements can be met in infrastructure environments designed for that purpose.  

We bring together security, networking, cloud and data center experts, best practices and processes, flexible financial and procurement programs, best-in-class technology, and a full lifecycle of security services to build an agile and intelligent cybersecurity posture for our customers. 

NTT’s security services include a Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) architecture that uses a cloud-delivered firewall, which is now available with Cisco Umbrella, to support threat detection, enterprise security monitoring, and device management for customers. 

Powered by the latest technologies, these managed security services incorporate threat intelligence from Cisco Talos and AI detection capabilities to optimise security controls and enable organizations to identify and respond to vulnerabilities. This spans across the different areas of infrastructure security, workplace security, digital business security, ransomware protection and IoT security. 

We bring together security, networking, cloud and data center experts, best practices and processes, flexible financial and procurement programs, best-in-class technology, and a full lifecycle of security services to build an agile and intelligent cybersecurity posture for our customers. 

We also provide security consulting services to help businesses apply the right resources and control effectively, in the right places, from security governance, risk and compliance to incident management and response.