What is Application Discovery? Why is it Important?

Author: Keshav Kamble

Industry 4.0 phenomenon is happening as we speak. Cloud based e-commerce and setting up of IT and application systems for businesses are going to be a single click away. We are talking about times when cloud will be an integral part of every business; small or big.

It’s not only about new and emerging applications and technologies; emerging and legacy applications would need to co-exist and inter-operate in cloud environments. And just as is the case with scale and performance, security is high on the agenda.

How is our journey to life-on-cloud looking so far ?
Data Center computing, storage and network environments have been growing in magnitude and complexity. Ecosystems of complex workloads made up of applications from diverse software vendors add to the mix of already overwhelming security challenges. Unexpected damages by Advance Persistent Threats (APTs), Shadow IT, and use of unsanctioned applications by employees have skyrocketed year over year.

Pressure of operational excellence, security compliance, and high availability of services under reduced and constrained budgets are status quo, while taxing the creativity of IT Managers and Executives alike. The simple saying applies: ‘what can’t be counted – can’t be controlled’. Such is the state of the large number of applications in Data Center and computing environments today.

All these issues pose unwieldy problems and risks while migrating your enterprise workloads to cloud environments, not to mention the requirement to re-architect and/or re-engineer existing applications.

Snapshot: Present-day migration of workloads to cloud environments

The below highlights the high-level steps that occur during a typical migration process:

  1. Investigative activity, screening, and application inventory
  2. Target environment, PaaS (Platform as a Service) and security architecture selection
  3. Multi-stage migration
  4. Testing and performance checks for each migration stage
  5. Back to step #3: This process continues until all intended workloads are securely moved to the cloud, with achievement of interoperability in full-motion

However, within the process of application inventory – as one of many steps before migrating workloads to a cloud environment – organizations are required to compile a list of all sanctioned applications, dependent applications, storage requirements, security classification and connectivity requirements, among others.

The action appears simple; though quite the contrary. Cumbersome tasks remain in banding the entire list of all applications and dependent applications. Moreover, large numbers of legacy applications – where support and documentation is virtually non-existent, adds painful and time consuming agony to the process. How can this be achieved in a manner consistent with fluid efficiency? It’s definitely not simple.

So what’s the answer?
Shooting straight and simply put: the answer is Application Auto-Discovery. This intelligent mechanism streamlines all existing or new applications to self-enable themselves for easy identification and discovery. The application auto-discovery process helps in identifying and listing all applications, their processes, communication & application dependencies.

This entails full descriptive identifiers related to the applications – including application names, associated file names, types (binary, JVM, etc.), underlying platform used (java, python, etc.), communication processes, mathematical and un-spoofable signatures of each executable platform, scripts and binary files, and the physical paths of each file. Workload location attributes such as VM details, container details including IP addresses, container IDs, and process IDs of application workloads.

This type of unprecedented precision in Application Auto-Discovery empowers IT Managers, System Integrators, and Architects to flawlessly plan their activities for securing applications, as well as migrations to hybrid and public clouds.

This method provides much more than a baseline listing of sanctioned or unsanctioned applications, and creates laser focused efficiency while delivering a simpler and effective process.

Application Auto-Discovery helps simplify a variety of processes and achieve Operational Excellence across multiple areas, including:

  • Application Security Architecture, Design and Management
  • Selection of PaaS architectures: where based on your application inventory and details,
  • specific PaaS can be chosen or tuned
  • Consolidation and secure migration of applications to varied cloud environments
  • Capacity planning for High Value Assets such as PCI, and PII Databases (HVA)

In summary, I can’t emphasize enough how integrated Application Auto-Discovery helps ease the burden of understanding applications eco-systems and related complex dependencies. And the advantages of IT Managers and IT Security Managers being empowered to estimate their cloud migration efforts, while in tandem understanding provisioning the right kind of protection to their entire set of legacy and emerging applications. Now that’s a ‘Win-Win’.

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