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Cloud Native Ecosystem / Cloud Services

Intelligent Diagramming Makes Sense of Cloud Complexities

The key to optimizing cloud technologies and reaping their benefits lies in an organization’s ability to master potential complexities, making their apps work for them. 
Mar 18th, 2022 7:57am by
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Dan Lawyer
Dan Lawyer, chief product officer at Lucid Software, is passionate about creating value by solving problems in delightful ways. Prior to Lucid, he led product and design organizations at Adobe, Ancestry and Vivint.

Research from Flexera’s recent State of the Cloud Report indicated that the average organization used 110 different cloud applications in 2021, up from an average of 80 in 2020. This demonstrates that while operating in the cloud streamlines many processes, it also presents new levels of complexity.

The sheer number of applications from which each business can choose poses a significant complexity issue for companies pushing toward digital transformation. According to a study of 400 IT decision-makers by Aptum, 62% of respondents felt the number of apps from which their companies could choose was hindering their cloud transformations.

The key to optimizing cloud technologies and reaping their benefits lies in an organization’s ability to master potential complexities, making their apps work for them.

Knowing What You Have

One major issue IT leaders face is simply knowing what components their cloud environments contain. At any point, a company can have SaaS apps, databases, containers and workloads that sometimes spread across multiple cloud providers, as well as on-premises systems.

The first step in mitigating these cloud complexities is to know what you have — in other words, to take inventory.

Depending on which cloud providers you use — Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform (GCP) — you may need a variety of inventory tools. Learn what your provider’s default management console offers. In some cases, you may need to write scripts in order to pull data on every resource type from every corner of your cloud environment (different regions, for instance, might require separate queries).

If your environment is complex enough, management consoles and scripts won’t cut it. Automated inventory tools can make it much easier to identify every component of your cloud environment. But there are still opportunities to simplify how that inventory is pulled, viewed and understood.

Knowing all the applications in your cloud environment is a good first step toward mitigating cloud complexities. It provides a way for the technology team to keep track of computing and storage resources, and that, in turn, allows business stakeholders to see how the cloud budget is being spent. Additionally, once you have a complete picture of what apps and services you have, it’s much easier to know what upgrades and replacements are necessary, whether those are for budget, performance or security reasons.

Seeing What You Have

Knowing the components of your cloud environment is one thing, but it is only the first step in managing cloud complexity. The next step is understanding the relationship between each of these components.

That’s where visuals come in. Even for experts, it is not easy to parse through a spreadsheet or database of components and dependencies. However, a well-constructed cloud diagram will help stakeholders make visual sense of how each portion of the cloud works together so they can make more informed decisions.

There are many digital diagramming tools that will help in this process. In building this diagram, you may want to make use of icon libraries for AWS, GCP and Azure components so you can show relationships between all the components within each cloud.

Manually diagramming your cloud environment is a possibility. However, this can be a time-consuming process spanning several days, depending on the size of your cloud environment. And by the time you’re done, there’s a good chance the diagram will no longer be accurate.

Automation can simplify your life here. Using an automated diagramming solution will transform a multiday process into something that takes minutes. Automated cloud architecture diagramming solutions, like Lucidscale, allow you to quickly create accurate, dynamic visualizations using the inventory data provided directly by your cloud environment. You can even create specialized diagrams of a subset of your environment — focusing on just one region, or solely on the components related to marketing applications, for instance. This allows you to curate a cloud architecture diagram specific to your needs, depending on what individual stakeholders may want to view in the cloud. As relationships in the cloud change, the diagram can be updated in real-time.

This ability to “show your work” with visual cloud diagrams, whether automated or manual, will enable easier, more effective conversations when discussing cloud resources, especially with non-technical stakeholders. This is particularly necessary in an environment where many C-level execs feel their organizations have rushed into remote work, leaving them dependent on the cloud without fully understanding what it means for their organizations. As companies continue to adjust to remote or hybrid work environments, and consequently come to depend more on cloud technology, being able to pinpoint relationships between different cloud components will be invaluable.

The Path Forward

According to a November 2021 Gartner statement, more than 85% of organizations will be cloud-first by 2025, and more than 95% of digital workloads will be deployed on cloud native platforms. This means an unprecedented number of companies will be using a record number of cloud services — only enhancing the need for insight into cloud environments.

Navigating these new complexities, through proper inventory and appropriate use of visuals, will help ensure success in this new cloud-based future.

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TNS owner Insight Partners is an investor in: Pragma.
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