Adam Fore is Director of Marketing for Virtualization and Cloud Solutions at NetApp, a network storage solutions company that creates innovative storage and data management solutions that deliver cost efficiency and accelerate business breakthroughs.
The value of hybrid cloud environments for enterprises continues to grow as cloud services—both private and public—become more and more refined with each passing quarter. Although perceived risks remain, new management tools are quickly closing the gap, allowing data and applications to be managed seamlessly in blended IT environments.
The types of hybrid models available are also expanding. They include familiar models in which applications and operations span public and private environments, such as cloud-based backup, DR, and cloud bursting. They also include new hybrid data-center architectures that connect public compute with private storage. The latter allows businesses to reap the cost benefits, elasticity, and responsiveness of the public compute cloud while maintaining control of their data and continuing to use the same data management services and tools they use internally.
This growth in the use of cloud services requires IT managers to re-evaluate their role.
Instead of building infrastructure to support applications, IT managers need to use their expertise to assess cloud services and deploy applications to the best-suited resource, public cloud, private cloud, or infrastructure, becoming service brokers instead of infrastructure builders. This is an important change and an opportunity to further elevate the value of IT.
Anticipating these changes in key areas can accelerate your transition to this model. Start preparing your organization and staff, the business users of IT, and the IT infrastructure itself.
There are three critical areas that companies need to prepare for a successful transition to the hybrid model: the business, the IT organization, and the IT infrastructure.
Prepping the Business
Many companies’ internal organizations are looking externally to cloud-based services that they feel are more responsive to meeting IT needs. A first step is to change the way businesses look at IT. It’s important for IT departments to be seen as the “go-to” resource for any IT-related matter.
It’s important to build the larger organization’s trust in IT’s ability to select the right service without significantly impacting speed, cost, or capabilities. This can be achieved by providing deep expertise on cloud service options with a balanced perspective and then educating the business on the risks and implications of choosing the wrong service provider.
Also, by factoring in the organization’s existing policies (regulatory, SLAs, and so on) when choosing a new cloud service, application, or management tool, IT can better maintain consistent services without impeding an organization’s workflow.
As brokers, IT departments will add value to the operational performance of the business, providing assurances that selected cloud services or hybrid services meet the company requirements and ensuring that services employed aren’t putting the company at risk.
By becoming the intermediary between the business and third-party service providers, IT departments can be the gatekeepers of the data and applications. This will enable better management across hybrid environments and eliminate shadow IT, so business units don’t try to provision IT resources on their own.
Prepping Your Staff and the IT Organization
Traditionally, IT has been organized in a siloed fashion. However, the advent of virtualization, in which server, network, and storage are more tightly integrated, has started to collapse this model. Cloud services require even tighter coordination because infrastructure is highly automated. Infrastructure management needs to be centralized and horizontal. New skills are also required to consult with the business and to broker cloud services.
To minimize this difficulty during transition, it is critical to restructure the organization and to elevate the roles. By doing so, people won’t see outsourcing as loss of control or loss of responsibilities. As brokers in a horizontal model, they will be accountable for managing the resources, elevating the roles of IT staff.
It is important that IT staff be trained beyond traditional technology. The IT team requires new skills when they move from being service providers to being brokers of services. In their new roles, IT staff must understand how the business operates and how it can be affected by such things as the health of service providers, contract terms, sensitivity of data, and so on.
A stronger business acumen will help to limit risk when making critical IT decisions.
Prepping the IT Infrastructure
Once the macro (business and IT organization) changes have been implemented, IT workers can turn their attention to the micro changes: prepping the IT infrastructure.
IT workers need to develop a framework that identifies which workloads and applications can move to the public cloud and which need to be kept in a private environment, based on cost, security, risk profile, governance, compliance, and regulatory measures. Additionally, understanding the larger business objectives will aid in determining the technological requirements around portability and management that are necessary to make the move.
How and where workloads and applications can be moved can be determined by evaluating their strategic value and their dynamic nature, as the chart below illustrates.
The X-axis shows the strategic value of applications and workloads: the further out they are, the more strategic they are. Usually the more strategic they are, the more likely they will be kept in a private cloud. The Y-axis illustrates operational flexibility: the greater the flexibility is needed further out, which lends itself to the public cloud.
It is important to build a blended IT environment that has the flexibility to allow data to move freely between different resources. When it comes to data management tools, a lot of options are available, since more vendors offer hybrid management solutions (for example, the Data ONTAP operating system, OpenStack, and CloudStack).
Whatever solution the business chooses, it’s critical to buy into a platform that has a strong commitment to building hybrid cloud management capabilities.
Ultimately, as hybrid cloud services evolve and their benefits to businesses become more pronounced, the pressure on IT workers from the C-Suite to make the transition will grow. By taking the necessary steps now to prepare the IT organization and IT infrastructure, businesses will be ready to extend their IT environments with a hybrid-cloud future in mind.
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