8 strategies for successful hybrid IT environments

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

8 strategies for successful hybrid IT environments

Although agency cloud deployments are growing, they may eventually hit a ceiling. And while most federal IT professionals acknowledge that the cloud is and will be a driving component behind their agencies’ long-term successes, many also have no intentions of moving all of their IT infrastructures to the cloud.

For some, it’s simply too risky.  Because of regulations and security concerns, many administrators feel it’s best to keep some level of control over their data and applications. They like the efficiencies that the cloud brings and want to use it as much as possible for greater agility and flexibility, but they aren’t convinced that it’s suitable for everything.  Even those agencies under pressure to comply with federal mandates to adopt “cloud-first” approaches must remain careful about how they actually use cloud technologies.

Hybrid IT environments offer benefits, but they can also introduce greater complexity and management challenges. Teams from different disciplines must come together to manage various aspects of in-house and cloud-based solutions. Managers must develop special skillsets that go well beyond traditional IT, and new tools must be deployed to closely monitor this complex environment.

The good news is that there are a few strategies managers can implement to close the gap between the old and the new. These tips incorporate cultural, technological and business processes -- a hybrid approach to a hybrid approach, if you will.

1. Use tools to gain greater visibility.
To gain better visibility into on-premises and cloud deployments, administrators should deploy tools that supply single access points to metrics, alerts and other data collected from applications and workloads. With a centralized dashboard, IT staff can remediate, troubleshoot and optimize applications, regardless of where they may reside.

2. Use a micro-service architecture and automation.
Hybrid IT models will require agencies to become more lean, agile and cost-effective. Traditional barriers to consumption must be overcome, which means that administrators should use marketplace services and gain a better understanding of application programming interfaces, distributed systems and overall IT architectures.

Agility also demands greater automation. In a hybrid environment, administrators must integrate the operations layer with machine learning algorithms that automatically scale, move and remediate services. Automation and orchestration workflows should also be integrated with provider APIs.

3. Make monitoring a core discipline.
Much has been written about the need for monitoring (including here and here). It’s even more important in a hybrid IT environment, where administrators must maintain a holistic view of their agencies’ entire infrastructure. Monitoring provides valuable insight into what’s working and what’s not, and it allows staff to react quickly to potential issues, enabling a more-proactive IT strategy.

4. Remember that application migration is just the first step.
Migration is important, but the management following initial move might be even more critical. Managers must have a core understanding of an application’s key events and performance metrics and be prepared to remediate and troubleshoot issues. Backup and recovery plans will ensure continuity.

5. Get used to working with distributed architectures.
Hybrid IT often involves working with distributed architectures managed by multiple service providers in different locations, all of which can impact the quality of service. Managers must become accustomed to working with various providers handling remediation as a result of outages or other issues. The result is less control, but greater agility, scalability and flexibility.

6. Develop key technical skills and knowledge.
The skills and knowledge required to manage a hybrid IT infrastructure are new and different from those needed to manage legacy solutions. Today, agency IT professionals must have a broad range of talents that will help them pivot across multiple domains. They’ll need to learn service-oriented architectures, automation, vendor management, application migration, distributed architectures, API and hybrid IT monitoring and more.

7. Adopt DevOps to deliver better service.
A DevOps approach is a good way for administrators to deliver better quality of service to end users with the least amount of friction. DevOps breaks down barriers between traditionally siloed teams, allowing them to pool their resources to solve problems and deliver updates and changes faster and more efficiently. This makes IT services -- both those that exist in the cloud or on-premises -- more agile and scalable.

8. Brush up on business skills.
As more vendors enter into the mix, federal administrators will need to hone their business-savvy sides. They must know how to negotiate contracts, become better project managers and establish the technical expertise necessary to understand and manage various cloud services. On top of that, they must  understand budget management and service-level agreements, control workflows and deadlines and dissect contract terms and conditions.

Like many new disciplines, managing hybrid IT environments takes managers outside their comfort zones. They must  make themselves more visible within their organizations, commit to learning and honing new skills and use the monitoring and analytics tools at their disposal. It’s a great deal to ask, but it’s the best path forward for those who want to create a strong bridge between the old and the new.

About the Author

Joel Dolisy is the CIO at SolarWinds.

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