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Surprise! You're running hybrid IT

Once you started adding cloud services to your enterprise, you became a hybrid IT provider. It sneaks up on you without you realizing it, so get prepared! Here are some things to keep in mind.

It's been a long, hard road for your IT department. Getting all your hardware and software updated and patched to the latest standard, supporting new business unit IT efforts, and getting control of shadow IT within the company has been an ongoing battle, but you are finally on top of it all. Those rogue developers and business guys who started using cloud for storage, applications, and development have gotten the message, and IT is now aware of those efforts throughout the company. Congratulations.

And whether you realize it or not, you are now fully committed to the hybrid IT business computing model.

Hybrid IT is the new normal. Whether you are currently running a hybrid IT environment, are looking to get control of shadow IT using cloud services, or building out your next-generation data center, hybrid IT will play a significant role. To maximize the value of your data center investment, supporting a hybrid IT environment in its multitude of roles will become the baseline model on which the success of the data center design and deployment will be evaluated.

So what does this mean? After all, the fundamentals of building a data center haven’t really changed; it’s still a box with power and cooling that supports an IT workload. You may be thinking that hybrid IT isn’t something you build but rather a strategy for effectively and efficiently deploying workloads, and spending money to get the greatest value from your IT efforts. And you would be correct. So how does this impact the building of your next-generation data center or plans to upgrade your existing facility?

IT decision makers share insights on the technologies, challenges, and benefits gained from their hybrid IT models.

The changing role of IT

The first issue you need to consider when looking at your data center model is the role IT plays in your business environment. It’s hard to argue that the traditional view of central IT is dying. No longer can IT be a black box where business units send requests that take months or years to accomplish. IT agility is no longer a goal; it is a requirement. Business IT now plays a major role in the direction corporate IT takes. To keep from ending up with an unmanageable mess, with business units running off and purchasing IT services willy-nilly, corporate IT must quickly handle and service those business-driven demands.

Looking toward the future, the next version of your data center needs to support:

  • Rapid provisioning
  • Services on demand
  • Consumption on demand
  • Flexible capacity
  • Management and monitoring
  • IT security

Of course, much of this may already be available in your infrastructure, delivered in a variety of ways. But the more scattered and dispersed these capabilities are, the more difficult it becomes to manage, maintain and secure your operations. This isn’t to say that every capability needs to be contained within a physical data center, but it is a fair bet that having data centers that meet these requirements allows for more flexible and aggressive business growth.

The data center as a component of hybrid IT

We are conditioned to think of the data center as a physical structure where equipment to handle the IT workload resides. But in today’s computing world, it might be better to consider the data center as a virtual construct that delivers the services necessary for the business to thrive.

Virtualization has already moved beyond the ability to deploy and manage virtual machines that can replace physical servers. Software-defined networking, software-defined storage, and the software-defined data center are the new definitions of the computing infrastructure. As you modernize or replace your data centers, they need to support this vision of the future, much of which is already here.

When we look at the promise of the hybrid infrastructure, we see the place of the traditional data center model has morphed into the on-premises portion of the hybrid infrastructure. When off-premises services were added to the existing data center/IT support picture, they were, in almost all cases, add-ons to an existing model. In very few cases did anyone take a step back and ask what adding these services, which often solved an immediate business problem, would do to the overall picture of IT. Business units were just thrilled to get a service they wanted, quickly implemented without the runaround they felt they often got from traditional IT.

It’s already the case that the data center is no longer a single physical structure. Data centers designed for specific roles—such as edge data center, micro data centers, and backup data centers—are all part of the existing data center environment. But flexibility is the key, and the on-demand service environment is shaping the future of hybrid IT.

Two-thirds of firms end up with hybrid by accident—not design. Only 33 percent of firms design a comprehensive hybrid IT strategy from the ground up. 

Forrester ConsultingHybrid IT Strategy Insights

In a well-designed hybrid infrastructure, the role of the data center is increased, not diminished. Services that can be delivered from an on-prem infrastructure offer advantages in security and cost control over cloud-based deployments. The advantages that attracted business users to the cloud (such as ease of deployment, scalability, and on-demand services) all can be deployed from the corporate data centers as necessary, while compelling cloud-based services can be implemented as necessary, not within the data center itself, but within the confines of a well-managed infrastructure.

To accomplish this, the data center modernization process can take advantage of technologies that meet the needs of the future of business. Concepts and technologies such as hyperconvergence and composability allow a business of any size to deploy an IT infrastructure that can deliver everything from rapid provisioning to services and capacity on demand. This means building or equipping an existing facility with the capability to support the equipment needed to deliver these services.

And that means the data center needs to be provisioned to support the power and equipment densities required by the hardware to deploy scalable infrastructure. Even with a consumption-on-demand model, capabilities remain limited by the ability of the data center infrastructure to support upgrades that match growing business needs.

It’s easy to think that the data center is not the limiting factor and you can just place more emphasis on cloud-delivered services, but the reality is that, for now, there is a breaking point where cloud services are no longer cost effective and issues such as management and security in the multicloud environment become exceptionally difficult to mitigate. 

Securing it all

In the current threat environment, your data center and its IT equipment need to have security baked in from the ground up—from physically securing the premises to implementing security in servers and appliances starting at the firmware level. Keeping servers updated with the latest security patches and operating system fixes remains a basic task of IT. Offloading responsibility to maintain applications to a cloud-based service doesn’t remove the responsibility of IT to ensure that its off-prem solutions are adequately secured. A security management team responsible for security across the enterprise, from user BYOD equipment through the data center to the off-prem solutions, simply makes sense in these days of constant revealed attack vectors.

So where does this leave us?

On one hand, it is likely that we will see an increase in the use of colocation. Actually building your own dedicated data center becomes less cost effective as we move forward in the hybrid IT/hybrid cloud universe. Moving into a colocation facility rationalizes the facilities side of the equation, but it doesn’t change the way businesses need to provision the IT load.

With a focus on scale, the investment in data center hardware will focus on hyperconverged and composable infrastructures for compute capabilities and advanced storage systems, led by all-flash arrays, as the new basic model for equipping the hybrid data center.

Once a business has decided on the combination of services that will be available from on- and off-prem providers, the issue of managing everything rears its ugly head. While the image of an operations center with consoles looking into every service and capability available is a common one, the data center management scheme of the future will look to management as a service. A single, overarching view of the enterprise—with the ability to easily deploy business- and service-appropriate consoles for users, with access limited to specific roles and tasks—will allow an enterprise to grow without outpacing its ability to be managed appropriately.

Comprehensive management capabilities will foster business growth. IT benefits from reports on how services are used and by whom, which can lead to sensible investments in both physical infrastructure and cloud services. IT can bill back to departmental budgets based on actual usage and look for ways to improve operational efficiencies.

While the methodology for expending the use of cloud services can be well-defined, and is in fact simplified when accurate and effective management is in place, expanding physical facilities is more complex. This is another advantage for hyperconverged and composable infrastructures: The rack-mounted hardware can be added (or reduced) as business needs change, which is also a win for a consumption-on-demand model for data center deployments.

What does the future hold?

To reuse that Mark Twain trope, reports of the death of the data center are greatly exaggerated. The role of the data center in the enterprise will continue to evolve, and as hybrid IT becomes the standard across the enterprise, the role of on-prem solutions will also continue to evolve. Ever-increasing security threats will drive businesses to keep their cards closer to their vests, making hybrid solutions ever-more appealing to the large corporate enterprise. Data centers will continue to be an important component of the corporate IT world for the foreseeable future.

How hybrid IT impacts your data center model: Lessons for leaders

  • Hybrid IT is the new normal in business computing, and it will play a central role in next-generation data centers.
  • Data centers of the future will be designed for specfic roles, such as edge computing or backup, and support flexible, on-demand provisioning, consumption, capacity, and security.
  • To connect all the pieces, businesses will look to data center management as a service, an approach that will enable growth via a well-managed and secure IT infrastructure. 

Related links:

5 Steps to Better Identity and Access Management for Hybrid IT

Get to know Micro Focus as an HPE Alliance partner

Great reasons to go with Hybrid IT

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