Kunal Thakkar | Director of Integration and Engineering at Apcela

Palo Alto Ignite | June 3-6, 2019 | Austin, TX

I had the opportunity to attend the Palo Alto Ignite conference with some of my fellow network engineers at Apcela. It was a great event – always fun sharing war stories with fellow engineering and operations leaders moving their big ships into the cloud. 

I’m on the far left, with Will George in the middle, and Ryan Quinlan on the right.

Although there were a ton of great discussions and insights, here were some of our big takeaways:  

  1. As fast as cloud adoption is progressing, enterprises are still (painfully) managing legacy infrastructure
  2. Securing workloads in the cloud is becoming the linchpin to digital transformation 
  3. Visibility into traffic across the network is hot … and getting hotter 

Cloud Migration…Slow and Steady

While you could not escape ‘the cloud’ during any session, it was abundantly clear that almost all of the enterprises currently lived in the transitional, hybrid-IT world. When companies like USAA, Vanguard, and Allergen shared stories about their journey to the cloud, they resonated. The ill-fated enterprise data center hosting legacy applications, the security stack, and the internet gateways that go with them are still a headache for many.  

But the transition is definitely happening. Coke was a shining star in this arena commenting on how they moved 100% of their IT infrastructure to the cloud over 4 years. That’s pretty incredible. At the same time, think about how long ago 4 years ago seems? How much organizational transition have you seen? It definitely is a journey that takes a commitment to change. 

Security Holds the Key

One of the featured products discussed throughout the event was Palo Alto’s new Prisma Cloud Security Suite. I won’t do the product justice by talking about it here, but you can check out more information in Palo Alto’s announcement. What I will say is that it definitely energized the discussion around the common challenges in security that enterprises are facing with a highly mobile and distributed workforce. 

It was a mixed bag between presenters highlighting the benefits of virtual firewalls while others discussed the mismatch in expectations vs reality. This ranged from the operational overhead required to manage cloud security solutions to the difference in actual cost savings realized. That said, solving the security piece of the puzzle was the linchpin for almost every enterprise on the cloud journey.  

We Want to See ALL of it

There was unanimous call for visibility into user traffic in almost every session. “We can’t act upon what we don’t see.”* This included:

  • North-South: Traffic in and out of the physical or cloud data centers (such as Azure VNETs, AWS & Google VPCs)
  • East-West: Traffic between the VMs within a data center or within a VPC, or cross talk between end-user devices
  • Cloud/SaaS: Traffic from corporate and personal devices, connected to corporate or personal networks, accessing sanctioned and unsanctioned cloud applications

Actually contextualizing that traffic into actionable intelligence takes on a life of its own, but while some struggled, others are rapidly getting their arms around it.  

Thanks to all the presenters and the team at Palo Alto for putting on a great event … definitely worth the trip. 

To read more about the Ignite Conference, click here.

*Random dude sitting next to me in the morning session who was definitely a senior network operations leader charged with making this a reality, judging by the head nods and ‘Yes!’ comments that he kept whispering under his breath 

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