Gerardo Dada is Vice President for SolarWinds.
Today’s business leaders place tremendous pressure on the IT function to align its technology to the latest business initiatives, to move faster, to maintain higher levels of uptime, and to invest in innovation, all while reducing costs where possible and minimizing risk.
At the center of all this are applications and data. Both of these elements help organizations define and differentiate themselves, are essential for the business to operate effectively, and often, are key to delivering value to users and customers. To adapt to these needs, IT organizations are removing barriers to consumption, simplifying processes through automation, and accelerating the rate of change.
As organizations undergo these transformations—implementing cloud, virtualization, analytics, digital experience management, etc.—that lay the new foundation for delivery of applications and data, IT professionals must be prepared to manage, secure, monitor, and remediate issues not only on-premises and in the cloud, but for both environments at once (hybrid IT).
Most organizations already have at least some of their infrastructure in the cloud, and they are often using at least some basic monitoring features—most likely the tools provided by the cloud service provider, which are mostly tactical and infrastructure-centric. In addition, it’s common for organizations to use more than one cloud environment: IT professionals can individually be monitoring multi-cloud environments (for example, Amazon Web Services™ and Microsoft® Azure®), public and private cloud, and even SaaS applications that should be monitored (for example, Salesforce® and Marketo®).
While discrete monitoring tools may cover the basics, there is clearly a missed opportunity to improve IT efficiency and effectiveness by simultaneously monitoring all their cloud and on-premises environments together, creating holistic insight into all the environments they’re responsible for, inclusive of applications, storage, databases, servers, and the network.
Such visibility across environments is essential to solve one of the biggest challenges organizations face when it comes to hybrid IT: the decisions around how to make the best use of the cloud. Important questions include: what workloads should we move to the cloud? What is the baseline resource consumption we should consider for provisioning resources? How will applications perform in the cloud relative to their on-premises performance? What are the likely resource contentions? What is the most resource-effective way to run a specific workload?
IT professionals should not assume that providing more cloud resources, larger instances, and faster databases will be the right answer to all performance questions—that’s often how sticker shock and technical issues arise. The cloud makes the correlation between performance, efficiency, and cost more evident.
Therefore, what’s missing from the puzzle is unified visibility across cloud, on-premises, and hybrid IT services. Here are some ways this “single point of truth,” made possible through end-to-end hybrid IT monitoring, is helpful:
- Using data to make provisioning decisions: At the end of the day, the cloud shouldn’t be used as a cost savings strategy. It’s inexpensive to get started and easy to provision additional services, but the bill can grow quickly. Without the right monitoring data to make good provisioning decisions, buyer’s remorse will surely follow.
- Working towards performance certainty: This one can be difficult, but with an experienced IT professional and a wealth of performance metrics available, the IT function can understand how their systems perform, why they perform that way, and what the performance drivers are. They will also have a deeper understanding of systems optimization.
- Course correcting when needed: Some organizations may want to move applications back on-premises, whether it’s for cost reasons, security, or if they’re not performing well in the cloud. Each of these can only be recognized early on before an incident through holistic monitoring of hybrid environments. A true hybrid system will use a mix of cloud and on-premises resources—good data provides the insight to find the optimal balance between the two.
Finally, here are some suggestions for getting started:
- Create an inventory of what’s being monitored: Most IT departments have a variety of monitoring tools for a number of different things. Are there applications in the cloud that are monitored by one tool? Are workloads being hosted in a different data center that leverage a separate tool? Before standardizing monitoring processes, organizations need to create an inventory of everything they are currently monitoring (or that needs monitored) and the tools being used to do so.
- Focus on what matters (end-user performance): IT departments are ultimately accountable for the end-user experience. An application-centric mindset with end-user experience as a key metric can be a powerful force to align a traditionally siloed team behind a common goal towards which everyone contributes.
- Standardize all systems: This should be done for every workload, independent of what tool is being using, especially if an IT department is using multiple tools. It’s impossible to optimize what isn’t being measured, so it’s in every IT department’s best interest to create a standard set of monitoring processes. Determine what key metrics are needed from each system, the necessary alerts for each system, and what the actionable processes are.
- Unify the view: IT departments should work towards having a comprehensive set of unified monitoring and management tools in order to ensure the performance of the entire application stack, from on-premises to the cloud.
- Adopt the discipline of monitoring: Often, monitoring has been somewhat of an afterthought. For most organizations, it’s been a necessary evil, a resource that the IT department can leverage when there are issues to be remediated, and often a job that’s done with pre-loaded software. However, the concept of monitoring as a discipline, which places a greater emphasis on proactive monitoring, is designed to help IT professionals escape the short-term reactive nature of administration, often caused by ineffective, ad hoc practices, and become more proactive and strategic for their digital transformations.
In summary, IT professionals should look to establish the practice of monitoring as a discipline to succeed in hybrid IT environments. As companies look to become more strategic and transform themselves into truly digital organizations, the onus falls on IT professionals to get them there. With a unified approach to monitoring that aims to turn data points from across infrastructure components and various environments into actionable insights, coupled with some of the best practices mentioned above, IT professionals can ultimately increase the overall effectiveness and efficiency of their organizations and businesses on the whole.
Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Penton.