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By Robert Christiansen
Hybrid cloud is mainstream, and many enterprise leaders embrace it as part of their IT’s repertoire to fuel the organization’s growth. But the journey to hybrid cloud can be bumpy. Each organization must balance a unique mix of tools and culture with the outcome they desire. Hybrid environments are highly complex – multiple vendors, disparate systems, different security concerns, and operational models. Businesses lack alignment in technology and operational models, which makes the process of balancing operations and developer agility a challenge.
Even the most experienced CIOs struggle to solve these challenges and adapt to this ever-evolving environment. The challenges IT organizations face are difficult, yet the opportunities for speed and flexibility are equally as great. The IT operations (ITOps) team has a significant role in supporting and easing this journey. I’ve come up with five key strategies for ITOps to help make the journey to hybrid cloud smoother.
No. 1: Standardize where you can
Standardization sounds like an obvious place to start in your hybrid cloud journey, yet it is often overlooked as a workstream. Where possible, use a set of common services that span both on premises and public clouds. The default way of solving this problem today is just to extend the tools used on premises to the public cloud. Unless the toolset used on premises is cloud-enabled, with the ability to scale out and up using cloud-native technologies, you’ll be limiting the value of the cloud. And in your race to standardize, you’ll simply be treating the cloud as an extension of your datacenter – which is not a good move.
Consider alternative solutions in these areas as you look for a better balance. These include identity and access management (IAM), networking, firewall management, security (IPS, IDS, WAF), common logging and monitoring processes, cost controls, and the most common services necessary to operationalize the environments for both on-premises and public cloud environments.
No. 2: Automate everything
Change the paradigm of how the IT environment is managed. Historically, change operations have required coordination across multiple teams, multiple tools, and complex interdependent processes that often take weeks to complete. According to IDC, system administrators spend over one-third of their time focused on configuration, patching, provisioning, migration, and capacity planning tasks.
The goal of automation is to eliminate problems that cause these issues. Look to collapse the approval cycles through automated workflow solutions, abstracting away operational minutia and replacing it with high-level, automated operations. This means fewer human hands are on problems for both the cloud and on-premises infrastructure.
If you can write a piece of software to do the operational piece, then do it. Systems engineers must look to root cause issues and put automation in place to reduce or eliminate the occurrence in the first place. This process saves countless downstream hours for many people and frustration across the teams.
No. 3: Disconnect the apps from the operating system (OS)
Server overhead is a burden on the ITOps team. Patching and image management of servers is an overhead the development community has little concern for. Containers enable the first move to abstraction of applications away from the hardware and open a door to faster software release cycles in the future.
Public cloud has standardized application development around microservices and container strategies. Therefore, the goal is to align your on-premises developers with the cloud development teams. This is easier said than done, because legacy app refactoring is not turnkey and often lacks financial justification. However, the teams must look for common ground in tools and processes. Without common tools and processes, you’re creating new silos of tech and people, adding to the agility problem that exists today.
No. 4: Enable application intelligence
Application intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply environment insights for the benefit of the application. Today, ITOps will measure and manage the platforms, while developers are focused on the behavior of the app. Both of these points of view are closely intertwined and require a holistic solution to gain the desired outcome.
Application intelligence empowers ITOps and DevOps (development and operations) teams with visibility to span from the user level down to the bare metal, and all variables in-between. The goal is to improve the app’s behaviors to provide a better quality of services to the end user, while driving the cost down as fast as possible.
For example, it’s important to know how storage is affecting the app’s ability to read and write. On the surface, this capability is strictly an infrastructure concern. However, in the new world of hybrid IT, many cloud platforms have API access to storage features that enable real-time performance capabilities. Application intelligence systems monitor and take action when potential bottlenecks occur, eliminating finger-pointing arguments over who should be solving the performance issues.
Application intelligence systems span more than performance and technical issues, they include governance, audit, geographic restrictions such as GDPR, and cost management. Aligning your hybrid cloud strategy to include application intelligence, no matter the location of the apps and data, is critical to a holistic and balanced approach.
No. 5: Train, train, train
The added complexity of managing a hybrid cloud environment requires an increasingly diverse skill set for IT. To address a rapidly evolving landscape, modern IT teams require a wide-ranging mix of technology expertise — from twists on traditional network and OS technology all the way to security on data itself. But they also need softer skills, such as knowledge of compliance regulations and vendor-management skills. I’ve listed a few examples below to help get your team up-to-speed:
Conduct an assessment to identify where your people need more skill development
Create virtual teams to share best practices and expertise
Provide practice areas and sand boxes and encourage your teams to utilize them to build their knowledge
Encourage proof of concept and test cases before you dive into the deep end of the pool on any technology
Balancing Your Program
Hybrid cloud is the reality for most enterprises, as it allows a mix of applications, services, and platforms all tailored to their needs. Many enterprises struggle with the complexity of operating different clouds and having the right skill to oversee and manage their cloud’s implementation, which can lead to unknown, unrestrained cost and risk.
Cloud adoption across an enterprise is a major undertaking. Let the Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) team of experts help you launch your successful cloud initiative so you can quickly realize the benefits of cloud technology. Leverage the expertise from HPE Pointnext through its acquisitions of Cloud Technology Partners and RedPixie.
Robert Christiansen is a cloud technology leader, best-selling author, mentor, and speaker. In his role as VP, Client Advocate, Robert is a key member of the HPE CTO Office. His client base includes Fortune 500 and Global 2000 customers, and his team’s leadership model encompasses the entire IT transformation journey, from inception to execution. To read more articles by Robert, please visit the HPE Shifting to Software-Defined blog.