Gartner predicts that by 2020, a “no-cloud policy” will be as rare as a “no internet policy” is today, and hybrid is expected to be the most common usage of cloud infrastructure. Despite more companies moving to hybrid clouds, however, the creation of hybrid infrastructures can be extremely challenging. The environment change requires significant modification to IT departments, as well as operational processes and general procedures. But “rip and replace” tactics, or simply throwing more bodies at the task, almost always results in failure.
Hybrid Cloud Challenges
As it stands today, experts estimate that hybrid cloud computing is still two to five years away from achieving mainstream adoption, with just 15 percent of companies currently using hybrid environments. One of the primary barriers to successfully building and managing hybrid clouds is a lack of resources. While hybrid infrastructures require fewer physical servers, typically the number of server instances are higher, which requires systems and IT administrators to manage the entire stack of operating systems, applications, network, and storage.
Another hurdle for companies looking to transition to hybrid cloud environments is the sheer complexity of the associated technology. Solutions from infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and software-as-a-service (SaaS) all offer varying levels of service and capabilities, and combining those with existing, internal IT solutions requires continual coordination of teams spanning operations, security, storage, network, servers, and applications.
In addition to requiring additional resources and a clear understanding of complex technologies, hybrid cloud infrastructures also require companies to implement integrated data center management systems that are specifically designed for virtual and cloud environments. While these technologies can aid companies as they work to overcome the difficulties of hybrid cloud computing, automation, management, and process integration are the real keys to solving hybrid infrastructure challenges.
Evolving Virtualized Data Centers
To avoid the risk of hybrid cloud “analysis paralysis” and successfully evolve a data center from its current use of virtualization to also include hybrid cloud automation features and IT-as-a-service capabilities, companies and their IT will need the following five capabilities:
- Resource Optimization: It’s critical to ensure all physical data center resources are properly configured, being used efficiently, and remain at optimal levels, and it’s even more important to do so with dynamic virtual data centers. Make sure you’re able to monitor and manage configuration in your environment, track changes, and proactively plan infrastructure capacity needs by understanding growth and performance trends and identifying and optimizing over and/or under-provisioned assets.
- Lifecycle Management: The lifespan of virtual machines (VMs) and IT services can range from minutes to years, and they’re inherently mobile, so your lifecycle management processes need to be designed with this in mind. Ensure only approved and compliant VMs are provisioned, for instance. Make sure they’re managed and controlled while they’re in the environment, and that they’re decommissioned at the end of their life in order to free up valuable resources for reuse. Whether it’s on-premises private cloud or public cloud, the consumption mindset needs to move away from “ownership” and towards “rental.”
- Workflow and Automation: Manual provisioning, maintenance, and support can quickly become overwhelming as the volume of IT services increases in your environment, so implement automated workflows and policy-driven automation to effectively wrangle the complexities.
- IT Costing and Chargeback: Because private cloud architectures are based on the concept of “on-demand computing,” it’s crucial to implement chargeback models to ensure the benefits of this elasticity aren’t left unchecked. Even if your organization is not ready for chargeback, showback models can also serve as effective cost and consumption monitoring tools, as they can calculate and present the cost of services in real time.
- Self-Service and Service Catalog: These capabilities are key for hybrid clouds that offload admin teams and engage business teams by providing them with the ability to request IT services on demand and track the request all the way to the provisioning of the VMs. Also, make sure your self-service features allow for stakeholders to obtain real-time information about their virtual/cloud resources, but without creating more work for admin teams or requiring accounts in the underlying management systems like vCenter or the Amazon Web Services (AWS) console.
Integration Is Key
Different management and IT needs will always surface during the process of adopting a hybrid cloud infrastructure, so companies are often tempted to turn to individual tools to help satisfy those requirements one-by-one. However, hybrid cloud management capabilities shouldn’t be viewed as standalone features, because there’s a great deal of interaction between them. Discovery and reporting features feed into every capability, for instance, and self-service feeds into lifecycle management, as well as change and configuration management.
An integrated cloud management system is the best first step to building and successfully maintaining hybrid cloud architectures long term, particularly because each management capability relies so heavily on the others. Another advantage to integrated cloud management systems is that often, they include out-of-the-box virtualization and cloud best practices in each of the management disciplines, which can be invaluable as companies adopt different features for the first time.
Most importantly, though, by leveraging integrated cloud automation systems for hybrid cloud infrastructures, companies can instantly gain the ability to see all dimensions of their environment from a single pane of glass. They’ll be able to automate routine tasks, implement and standardize repeatable processes, identify roadblocks and inconsistencies, and understand growth patterns and their impact. Better yet, they’ll be able to productively prioritize the next step in scaling their hybrid cloud environment to support their growing business.