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Hybrid cloud management: What you need to know

Hybrid cloud is the new reality. Learn how your organization can effectively manage the challenges of a multicloud.

Many businesses that didn’t consider themselves leaders in cloud adoption or hybrid IT are finding themselves in a quandary. They have a new problem: how to deal with the multiples of emerging clouds, due to the rapid adoption of something-as-a-service technologies.

In a perfect world, cloud adoption is the end result of carefully considered decisions. In that fantasy world, the company mixes on- and off-prem cloud services based on an optimized view of the hybrid IT infrastructure and a thorough understanding of the deployment, operational, management, and cost issues that will result.

Unfortunately, the reality is often a mix of software-as-a-service (SaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) solutions that are deployed without establishing any overarching plan or strategy. It is sometimes too easy for different groups to whip out the company credit card to spin up services with public cloud providers, enabling them to speed up development efforts that keep them ahead of the competition.

While it’s good to have just-in-time project management, it results in different applications running on different public cloud platforms. And that is just a small part of the multicloud story. But as IT organizations get all of these rogue activities under control, they find themselves spending an exorbitant amount of time jumping from console to console in an attempt to stay on top of the management issues presented by the multiple clouds in use.

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The future is clear: In enterprise computing, hybrid cloud is the new normal. As much as anyone would like to move to a pure cloud play, that isn’t realistic. A cloud-only approach may have more traction in the SMB space, but as businesses grow, they find themselves in a multicloud environment. The reasons could be simple (such as business units seeking best-of-breed applications to enable their own growth) or complex (perhaps a need to deploy on specific clouds to meet HIPAA and GDPR regulatory requirements). Which brings us back around to the need to manage multiple clouds with minimum aggravation.

Cloud services, often touted as a solution to the siloed infrastructure of traditional IT, ironically have themselves become a siloed environment, with different cloud service providers becoming the vendor of choice for specific applications, which adds another facet to the management problem.

This is less about end users than it is about IT management challenges. IT’s goal is to deliver—as quickly as possible—a seamless experience to the end user, no matter where the services reside. And user experiences are similar with cloud and hybrid services the further up the stack you move.

The bulk of the management issues occurs deep in the entrails of your hybrid IT deployment. Enterprises build what works for them, and every enterprise has unique deployment requirements. Managing and controlling that unique infrastructure is the hybrid cloud’s primary challenge.

Facing the management challenge

Take a step back and consider what a management tool for the multicloud needs to be. Management tools need to be complete enough to handle any challenge the user throws at it, but they must also be usable by business IT units, whose focus is on business operations, not just by narrowly focused traditional IT administrators. Personalized portals into the details of the management process, with a focus on the user's management needs, will make the tools that much more compelling to use.

Because any multicloud management tool needs to be accessible throughout the enterprise, the tool itself likely needs to be cloud-based, making this a SaaS application. There should also be sufficient flexibility to give different types of users their own view, which suggests easy-to-configure portals that expose the information necessary for individual users to do their jobs.

A soup-to-nuts approach to dealing with the hybrid cloud means that the tools are not for single tasks. Rather, a tool should allow the IT operations professional to go through the entire process that gets services into the hands of the end user. That starts with the ability to build and deploy services, and extends across the ecosystem to a management tool to keep the multicloud efficient.

A single tool that gives you a combined view of your cloud and hybrid IT infrastructure should provide the ability to build new services from within the tool, allowing the system administrator to provision and deploy services across on-prem, private, and public cloud; to integrate the catalog services offered by the clouds; and concurrently support the use of internally defined system and application images. Integration with as many of the available resources as possible, be they within the on-prem data center or the public cloud, allows the system administrator to build a compelling and effective business solution with minimum fuss and bother.

As mentioned, each enterprise-class hybrid deployment is unique. That means management tools must be flexible. Whether it’s the Amazon Web Services cloud or on-prem virtualized data centers, a hybrid cloud management tool needs to give the user—any user—a meaningful view into what is happening to the organization's services and applications.

And while the building, deployment, and management of the multicloud is a top-of-mind issue for IT and business users, let’s not forget that somebody has to pay for all of this.

Who’s footing the bill?

Tracking everything going on in the cloud and determining how much it costs the business would seem to be the first thing on everyone’s mind. However, the actual expense involved can obscure the perception that the move from CapEx to OpEx is saving the company money. Even if an individual process has well-documented costs, determining who pays for it can be a daunting task.

The buck stops…somewhere. An enterprise needs to watch the actual expense of running its cloud-based applications, and who within the organization pays for specific services. That’s aided by a tool that can collect and tag data from any given process within the clouds and link resources used to the appropriate application or service, with detailed cost analytics that support public and private cloud deployment. Conversely, with the ability to provide cloud-based services from on-prem facilities, it is important to provide cost summaries and analysis for those internally provided services as well.

Detailed cost analysis needs to be a simple part of the process of building and deploying applications and services. The expense should never be a surprise at the end of the process. Budgeting or billing correctly for cloud services, wherever they reside, is far more efficient (and not nearly as career-limiting).

It’s all about the cloud. Except when it’s not.

With hybrid cloud becoming the way corporate enterprises do business, the cloud is no longer the enemy; it is simply the latest tool that can solve specific sets of problems. While it is a major change to traditional IT and a major enabler of a more independent approach to business IT, the bottom line is that hybrid cloud still needs to be monitored and managed with an understanding of how IT works, how the various pieces interact, and how money is best spent.

This boils down to business as usual. IT continues to adapt to the latest technologies that change the way that IT can be approached while still needing to deal with the day-to-day aspects of a corporate IT environment and all of the issues that don’t go away just because the cloud is in the house.

Managing multicloud environments: Lessons for leaders

  • Hybrid cloud is the new reality, but building and effectively managing multicloud environments presents a host of challenges.
  • Every enterprise has its own unique requirements and infrastructure, meaning management tools must meet the needs of both IT organizations and business units.
  • Just because cloud changes the way IT is approached doesn't mean all the issues of managing enterprise IT go away. While cloud is a valuable tool to solve specific problems, it must still be managed based on what the business needs, how all areas of the business interact, and financial factors.

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