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INDUSTRY INSIGHT

A single path to hybrid IT success

We seem to always be searching for that all-in-one solution. Take smartphones. When they were first introduced, people had a vision of single-device nirvana. Finally, a tool that could replace the PC, e-reader, GPS, phone and more!

It did not take long to realize that while smartphones are great at many things, they do not do everything so well that users could toss their other devices. A PC is still better for work, an e-reader is still better for reading and a dedicated GPS device is still better for driving long distances. (The phone part is indeed better.)

The idea of moving IT infrastructure to the cloud elicited a similar response from federal network administrators. Many initially thought, “Great! I can move everything to the cloud, which will save money and make my life easier.” That was quickly followed by, “Hold on a minute! What about security? What about compliance?”

Just like the folks who sold their e-reader when they got a larger iPhone, administrators quickly realized that the cloud may not be a panacea, and a complete migration to the cloud may not be the best idea. Organizations still needed to keep at least some things on-premises, while also taking advantage of the benefits of the cloud.

A complex hybrid IT world

Thus, the concept of hybrid IT was born. In a hybrid IT environment, some infrastructure is migrated to the cloud while other components -- data-sensitive applications or critical services, for example -- remain onsite. With hybrid IT, agencies can have their cake and eat it, too. They can gain the economic and agile benefits of a cloud environment while still keeping a tight rein on security.

However, hybrid IT has introduced a slew of challenges, especially in terms of network complexity. Indeed, respondents to a recent SolarWinds survey of public-sector IT professionals listed increased network complexity as the top challenge created by hybrid IT infrastructures. That survey discovered that nearly two-thirds of IT professionals said their organizations currently use up to three cloud provider environments, and one out of every 10 respondents claimed to use 10 or more.

Compounding this challenge is the fact that hybrid IT environments are becoming increasingly distributed. Agencies can have multiple applications hosted in different data centers -- all managed by separate service providers. Even applications that are managed on-premises will often be located in different offices.

Connecting to these various applications and services requires multiple network paths, which can be difficult to monitor and manage. When an agency employee does a Google search, for example, that search originates on an agency’s home network, gets routed to an ISP, through Google’s internal network and then back to the agency's servers. That simple search requires many paths and hops to monitor. Traditional network monitoring tools designed for on-premises monitoring are not built for this type of complexity.

A single-path approach to simplicity

While administrators cannot actually combine all of their network paths into one, they can -- from a monitoring perspective -- adopt a single-path analysis approach. This form of monitoring effectively takes those multiple paths and creates a single-path view of the activity taking place across the hybrid IT network. Formulating a single path helps create focus, which allows administrators to get a much better perspective on the performance, traffic and configuration details of devices and applications across hybrid networks. This, in turn, makes it easier to ascertain, pinpoint and rectify issues.

Single-path analysis can help managers quickly identify issues that can adversely impact quality of service. Highly distributed networks can easily lead to deterioration in QoS, making delivering consistently high QoS is one of the biggest challenges in hybrid IT environments.

A single-path monitoring strategy can circumvent most QoS issues. Managers can more easily track network outages and slowdowns and tackle these problems before users experience the deleterious effects. Managers can also gain better visibility into connections between end users and services, as single-path analysis provides a clear view of any network infrastructure that might be in the path and could potentially impede QoS.

While we continue to strive for simplicity in other areas of life -- a single device, tool or method that will eliminate complications -- IT professionals can take solace in the fact that there is a simpler way to manage complex hybrid IT infrastructures. By following a single-path analysis strategy, managers can greatly reduce the headaches and challenges associated with managing and monitoring the many different applications and services within their hybrid IT infrastructures.

About the Author

Joe Kim is executive vice president engineering and global CTO at SolarWinds.

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