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Hybrid IT is today’s reality and its implementation may seem daunting at times

The Benefits of Hybrid IT: Expectations vs. Reality

Hybrid IT is today's reality, and while its implementation may seem daunting at times, more and more organizations are migrating to the cloud. In fact, according to SolarWinds 2017 IT Trends Index: Portrait of a Hybrid IT Organization 95 percent of organizations have migrated crucial applications to the cloud in the past year. As such, it's in every IT professional's best interest to know what to expect.

Certainly, every business has a varying expectation of what they'd like to gain by migrating applications or infrastructure to the cloud, but the most compelling incentives are by far the opportunity to achieve a simplified management process, faster deployment, or a cost efficiency that benefits their bottom line.

Unfortunately, for many organizations, achieving these benefits isn't always easy-or even the reality. As illustrated by the findings of this year's report, only one-fourth of IT professionals surveyed have received all expected benefits from migrating area(s) of their organizations' IT infrastructure to the cloud. Part of this may be because of too high of expectations for the cloud and not enough consideration prior to migration. Some realities IT professionals should consider follow.

The Cloud Isn't Cheap
IT departments around the world are being pressured by management to migrate to the cloud, as the cloud is often seen as a cheaper model when compared to hosting applications on-premises. But this isn't always the case; depending on what applications are being migrated and which additional services are selected, it could end up costing an organization much more than an on-premises deployment. By the time IT professionals architect and design their entire stack, the price will likely be higher than expected. With the vast amount of services available from companies like Amazon Web Services™ (AWS®), organizations can load up on additional features that offer a greater breadth and depth of application data, but they come at a price.

For example, one organization I'm acquainted with historically maintained their own data centers, but eventually decided to migrate some of their applications to AWS to save money. After all the additional services they added to their AWS solution, they were spending around $7 million a year, which was much more than they anticipated. The company ended up moving some of their services out of the cloud and into a co-location data center model, which cut their IT operational costs down to $2.5 million a year. This example aligns with the research and shows that although cost may be a driver, there are other important considerations-after all, 35 percent of IT professionals who migrated or attempted to migrate infrastructure to the cloud ultimately brought back or left some on-premises.

Continuous Management
What's most important to remember is that in today's on-demand environment, uptime and an acceptable end-user response time are expected no matter where the application is hosted. Application life cycles will also change, becoming shorter and requiring continuous integration and delivery. Once an application is in the cloud, the services become demand-as-a-service and need to be running at optimum levels constantly to meet SLAs.

Operational pieces of the cloud will be more than speeds and feeds. Back in the days of traditional IT, administrators would have to conduct spreadsheet exercises to plan for sizing out their data center. They had to consider current needs and determine what a few years of growth potential would look like before they could make a decision on data center size. Following the shift to the cloud, these services are on-demand, and IT professionals must now place their focus on ensuring SLAs for applications are being met, and work to keep the baseline in check.

One of the ways this can be achieved is by implementing a monitoring system that provides a comprehensive view across the entire hybrid IT environment. Such a system will allow IT staff to make informed decisions about what workloads belong on-premises or in the cloud. It will also show, at any given moment in time, when an application's performance is slowing down or underperforming, whether in the cloud or on-premises, and compare relative performance between these two to make informed decisions. By mastering hybrid IT monitoring tools, IT professionals will be able to understand of how their applications change over time, and track the actual requirements of that application and its workload.

Pre-Migration Considerations
Hybrid IT makes IT environments more complex. Now IT professionals have to face a number of moving parts that they are responsible for, many of which they don't control, but still have to manage. IT professionals may have their applications on somebody else's server and infrastructure, but once the application is there, it doesn't matter where it resides or is hosted-they're still responsible for that application's quality of service, ensuring that it is meeting the SLA.

A recent example is the Amazon® S3™ outage, which disrupted many websites and web applications that used AWS S3 region for storage. Even though organizations around the country had applications running on their servers, the IT professionals were still responsible for making sure their applications worked. This is why it's critical for IT teams to properly architect applications across various cloud services providers: it lowers the risk of downtime and poor performance. Of course, the tradeoff is that this also adds more variables and complexity into the hybrid IT environment.

IT teams should also consider their level of experience with security before migrating applications to the cloud, especially a public cloud. They should start with a non-mission critical application and graduate to migrating more critical applications. To ensure data is appropriately protected in the cloud, IT organizations must be very clear about risk mitigation when working with their cloud services provider, and take steps to deploy careful use of security monitoring and management tools.

Best Practices
With the increased migration to the cloud, IT professionals need to be armed with best practices to keep pace with the changing landscape. They should consider the following:

  • Collaboration: Not only is it vital that IT professionals stay connected with colleagues in their industry, but they also need to take advantage of the communities that are being built around new technologies. If they are able to connect and collaborate with other users and share case studies and discuss what worked best for them, they will be in a good spot to both understand and to reap all the benefits of hybrid IT.
  • Communication: IT professionals need strong communication skills. Being able to communicate successes and issues to their management team is very important. They also have to be able to clearly communicate with their cloud services providers, especially if there are applications spread across multiple locations.
  • Comprehensive Skillset: As the hybrid IT landscape continues to change and evolve, IT professionals need to develop a comprehensive skillset to cloud-proof their jobs. If IT professionals can gain the skills needed to gain visibility and troubleshoot issues that come along with the hybrid IT environment, they will have the skills needed to transition into this era of IT.

If an organization hasn't started migrating to the cloud, chances are it's coming very soon. IT professionals need to set expectations with management when it comes to hybrid IT, and communicating those expectations and realities will be vital to prove the success of any deployment. As the IT environment becomes more complex, IT professionals need to continue mastering new skillsets and cloud-proof their jobs for the future.

More Stories By Kong Yang

Kong Yang is a Head Geek at SolarWinds with over 20 years of IT experience specializing in virtualization and cloud management. He is a VMware vExpert™, Cisco® Champion, and active contributing thought leader within the virtualization community.

Yang’s industry expertise includes performance tuning and troubleshooting enterprise stacks, virtualization sizing and capacity planning best practices, community engagement, and technology evangelism. He is passionate about understanding the behavior of the entire application ecosystem — the analytics of the interdependencies as well as qualifying and quantifying the results to support the organization’s bottom line.

He focuses on virtualization and cloud technologies; application performance; hybrid cloud best practices; vehicles for IT application stacks such as containers, hypervisors, and cloud native best practices; DevOps conversations; converged infrastructure technologies; and data analytics. Yang is a past influencer at Spiceworks SpiceWorld and VMworld events.

He is also the owner of United States Patent 8,176,497 for an intelligent method to auto-scale VMs to fulfill peak database workloads. Yang’s past roles include a Cloud Practice Leader at Gravitant, a hybrid cloud software startup, and 13 years in various roles at Dell.

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