How holistic management benefits your hybrid IT infrastructure

Comprehensive management tools simplify hybrid deployments

The IT landscape has changed dramatically in the past decade. Today’s modern enterprises are acutely feeling the transformation, as businesses gravitate toward software as a service (SaaS) instead of packaged software, and cloud computing continues to hit numerous metrics that reflect its growing maturity.

Cloud by the numbers

Cloud use, both public and private, is pervasive. A survey conducted by CompTIA found that 90 percent of respondents had migrated at least some of their infrastructure to the cloud, and 71 percent are using the cloud in full production or for noncritical uses. The remaining respondents are still experimenting with cloud or have transformed their IT organization with cloud.

Far from having peaked, the cloud market continues to exhibit growth. Data from the Synergy Research Group reveals the cloud services and infrastructure market grew 25 percent on an annualized basis in late 2016, reaching $148 billion. Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) had the highest growth rate at 53 percent, followed by hosted private cloud infrastructure services at 35 percent and enterprise SaaS at 34 percent.

The Synergy survey notes that 2016 represented a sea change in terms of spending: Cloud services spending overtook that of cloud infrastructure hardware and software. In aggregate, the cloud services markets are now growing three times more quickly than cloud infrastructure hardware and software.

However, despite this growth and an increase in enterprises taking a cloud-first philosophy, few organizations will rely on public cloud 100 percent. With the exception of startups, organizations rarely undertake green-field IT initiatives. Long-standing investments in legacy infrastructure and storage keep some applications and corresponding data housed in the data center, and regulatory and other compliance requirements restrict some applications and data to remaining on-premises.

Some organizations will address this with private cloud, and indeed, the Synergy study notes that despite the fact that public cloud spending is growing much more rapidly, private cloud spend accounted for more than half of total cloud spend.

CompTIA reported a similar preference for private cloud: Nearly half of survey respondents said they have invested in only private cloud. However, hybrid cloud was also popular and deployed by more than one-quarter of respondents. In addition, nearly three-quarters of respondents have SaaS applications, and IaaS and PaaS are also popular choices.

Addressing the challenges of hybrid IT

This leaves a growing number of enterprises with a hybrid mix of on-prem hardware, applications, cloud-based solutions, and data located both in the data center and cloud. Such environments present a unique set of challenges. Chief among them is managing these disparate components as one cohesive infrastructure.

Managing resources across those clouds and services should be a seamless exercise. To the end user, there should be no difference in accessing on-prem or cloud-based resources. In reality, a hybrid infrastructure introduces a host of management and monitoring complexities and, with that, potential security issues. Compatibility, integration, and control also have the potential to introduce risk and impact the user experience.

Some enterprises opt to cobble together a mixture of siloed tools and build their own management solution. However, this is a Band-Aid approach that will only get increasingly complicated and more difficult to maintain with time.

Others turn to data center infrastructure management tools (DCIM). However, while some DCIM tools extend some degree of visibility to the cloud, they are primarily designed for data center monitoring, and often come up short when SaaS and cloud environments are added to the mix. These tools are available as software solutions from vendors such as Nlyte and hardware vendors such as Schneider Electric, which offers the StruxureWare management software solution. These solutions are tailored to manage data center facilities and can be optimized for specific vertical market users, such as healthcare providers.

Fortunately, tools are emerging to help organizations more easily integrate and manage the entire IT environment from a single solution. Such solutions provide a holistic view, often through a single pain of glass that offers visibility into activity across your entire IT infrastructure. These solutions range from Hewlett Packard Enterprise's Helion, which looks to manage "Any Cloud, Any Environment, Any Technology, for Any Application," to more specialized products like Red Hat CloudForms, which offers support for multiple virtualization platforms, and cloud providers or the Dell EMC suite of cloud management solutions.

Deploying the right tool provides insights that enable your organization to improve automation, orchestration, and security, leading to improved performance. But knowing what tool is optimal for your organization requires a deep understanding of your infrastructure.

Thus, before considering monitoring and management solutions, take some time to consider the role of these capabilities in your cloud environment and the impact changes will have on any its intricacies and dependencies.

Get our report: Navigating IT Transformation - Tales from the front lines

What to look for in a solution

Cloud management and monitoring tools have grown in sophistication alongside the cloud. Today’s management tools can easily tackle a host of tasks, including deployment and provisioning of resources, monitoring, governance, compliance, auto-scaling, and auto-healing. Many include security and budget optimization features, as well as service lifecycle management.

Being able to perform these tasks from a unified tool with a single console goes a long way toward reducing complexity and simplifying the environment, making it easy to streamline actions like cloud bursting or disaster recovery.

Monitoring this complex infrastructure from a single console allows it to be managed as a single entity. A cohesive view results in a more holistic perspective and reduces the time that must be allocated to administration and troubleshooting tasks. This ultimately leads to improvements in integration, performance, usability, security, and cost.

Integration: The beauty of a single solution is that all data and metrics are derived as though they flow from a single funnel. For this to work, a great deal of integration must go on under the hood. Data is gathered from multiple sources that follow different standards and protocols. The data must be integrated from different vendors and locations so it is accessible as though from a single source. This will facilitate a set of consistent metrics across all platforms and provide a clearer picture for setting automation and governance policies.

Performance Impact: Improved performance is a key selling point for a unified monitoring and management tool. After the tool has pulled and integrated data, it should be able to analyze log data, correlate events, and alert staff about incidents that need attention. The tool should offer a variety of methods to warn of impending problems as well as issue alerts when problems occur.

Policy-driven automation tools should also be part of its functionality, with governance policies that drive this automation carefully crafted and customized. Consider devising a variety of monitoring profiles, each with its own set of priorities and privileges to differentiate access to data and applications. Automation driven by such policies reduces the chance of errors and frees up staff to focus on other activities.

Usability: The ability to manage applications and services from a single console reduces complexity, streamlining operations management across the entire infrastructure. Automating IT tasks and processes further enhances usability by reducing errors, downtime, and risk of noncompliance. This ease of use enables IT to focus on the entire infrastructure and make changes proactively to prevent errors or downtime.

Security: Security is a top concern for enterprises regardless of where data and applications reside. While some organizations keep sensitive information on-prem or in a private cloud for compliance reasons or to mitigate cloud security concerns, this alone is not enough, and it does not eliminate the need for good security practices. Adequate security measures must be implemented to ensure data is secure regardless of location. With a unified management tool, consistent and location-agnostic access control policies based on data and application sensitivity can be established.

In addition, management tools that provide automation and ensure adherence to governance policies go a long way toward ensuring security by reducing potential for human error and preventing unsanctioned actions. Further, patching and updating application can also be handled via automation, which ensures the most up-to-date versions of software are running and reduces potential breaches.

Cost: Finally, consider costs. The lure of lower costs (whether it actually pans out or not) drives many companies to the public cloud or helps persuade them to deploy a SaaS-based solution. But a monitoring and management tool, especially one comprehensive enough to oversee an entire infrastructure, adds costs to the mix. While this cost is sure to be higher than that of a single solution, it will likely be far less than the aggregate cost of multiple point solutions jerry-rigged together. In addition, the benefits afforded by a comprehensive solution have the potential to reduce risk and operational costs in terms of time and resources saved through automation, governance, and more.

Consider also that a single-solution product may offer the ability to integrate with large-scale operations management platforms from vendors such as BMC, HPE, and ServiceNow.

A hybrid infrastructure enables enterprises to build an IT ecosystem consisting of best-of-breed components. While the benefits are many, the result is an increasingly complex hodgepodge of solutions that are best managed from the single console of a unified monitoring and management tool. For many enterprises, finding the right tool kit to manage this mixed environment is fast becoming a key differentiator for success.

 Hybrid IT management: Lessons for leaders

  • Integrated management tools will allow for a more optimized hybrid infrastructure.
  • Building management in from the start simplifies the growth of your enterprise environment.
  • Quality tools will address concerns ranging from traditional systems management issues to governance and compliance issues.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.