The hybrid cloud approach, using a combination of on-premise, private, and third-party cloud computing services to tailor cloud delivery to fit the varied needs within the organization, is more popular than ever. Today, more than 65% of companies implement a hybrid cloud environment, according to Forrester Research, and that is expected to climb.
But many companies also struggle with the complexities of hybrid cloud delivery models that result from adding internal or external cloud platforms to their delivery model over time, creating an uncoordinated cloud patchwork. In order to survive and thrive with hybrid cloud, these varied platforms must be managed, through orchestration and automation, to ensure hybrid cloud benefits are realized—and unintended consequences are mitigated, says James Williams, IT Advisory Director at KPMG and co-author of the new report, “The Hybrid Cloud Survival Kit.”
“These are challenges my clients face all the time,” says Williams. “Many organizations are held back by application architectures and systems development processes that are not yet optimized for a hybrid environment — instead, those processes are scattered across multiple teams and enabled by different tools.” Many of the benefits that organizations expect are not realized due to a higher total cost of ownership, he explains, resulting from duplicate or under-utilized infrastructure, inefficient maintenance and support structures, and complex processes for on-boarding and chargeback. It is no surprise that 25% of IT professionals say that operational complexity is among the biggest challenges they encounter in trying to utilize hybrid cloud delivery models, according to a survey by Interop ITX/InformationWeek.
Hybrid cloud evolution requires orchestration and automation
As cloud platforms evolve, so do their associated management layers and integrated toolsets. “Additionally, organizations often bring new platforms into the mix” says Williams. By introducing light orchestration and automation to manage hybrid cloud operations, IT organizations can broaden access to cloud service capabilities, better manage operations, and embed governance policies while staying flexible enough to take advantage of new technologies and platforms as they emerge.
“It’s a way for IT organizations to remain relevant,” says Williams — which is essential in an age when business units can engage cloud providers on their own, potentially adding infrastructure that IT doesn’t even know about.
In a hybrid cloud operating environment where multiple platforms are present, some challenges have been addressed by hybrid cloud management systems. These systems provide a common user experience for application teams and infrastructure teams, drive workloads to the most suitable platform and integrate with common security and service management systems.
However, the market has not yet matured enough to offer a comprehensive, out-of-the-box orchestration solution or platform for hybrid cloud delivery that will coordinate, manage risks, and fully support business needs. Still, CIOs need to figure out how to manage the current cloud complexity, which they can do through a cloud capability model that offers a framework for all of the tools and processes an organization needs. One of this kind of model’s capabilities, in particular — operations automation — is the “survival kit” where IT organizations should focus their initial efforts to help manage hybrid cloud complexity and stay relevant with business leaders.
Within operations automation lie the functions that manage the hybrid cloud lifecycle, from the earliest stages of determining the best cloud resources for workload placement to ongoing application management and infrastructure updates, and the eventual teardown or decommissioning of resource consumption. By focusing on these functions, IT organizations can simplify hybrid cloud operations, says Williams.
“It’s essential to establish a performance-led, process-oriented target operating model, which standardizes the tools to manage the hybrid cloud environment ,” he says. “These standard tools enable the management of common functions to provide value, as long as they are integrated with the cloud management system and provide the flexibility to adjust as operating models change.”
As companies implement hybrid cloud delivery models with an emphasis on operations automation, they should focus on two important considerations: One is a robust pilot program, which:
- Identifies areas for improvement
- Incorporates API management and integration
- Provides end-to-end financial management
- Improves quality of service
- Establishes performance management.
This should provide the confidence that hybrid cloud management and automation can be expanded to handle additional delivery models.
The second is organizational change management: The adoption of a new hybrid cloud model by an established enterprise technology organization can lead to significant disruption for employees and deep cultural conflict. Failing to manage the disruption properly can introduce just as much risk to the cloud strategy — and maybe even more risk to the enterprise — as failing to execute effectively.
The future of the fast-moving hybrid cloud landscape
By deploying light orchestration to manage hybrid cloud delivery, companies maintain flexibility — which is essential at a time when cloud computing continues to evolve at lightning speed. According to Williams, cloud service providers have recognized the hybrid cloud delivery model trend, so they have worked hard to stay in front of it by becoming service integrators. “I would expect the CSPs to provide more robust hybrid cloud management systems with proprietary tools to keep them ‘sticky,’ ” he explains.
The CIO should remain forward-thinking to stay out in front of these kinds of challenges, he adds. “They will be looked at to drive innovation — as new platforms and capabilities are being offered, CIOs and their organizations need to determine how they should be integrated with the overall solution that they offer to their organization,” he says. “Then, you need to talk about improving availability, agility and responsiveness in addition to the innovation itself — all of which are elements automation can help with to cut down on cycle time and improve quality of service.”