May 25, 2023
How to Realize the Benefits of Hybrid Cloud Environments
While many organizations rushed to migrate data and workloads to the cloud over the past five years, on-premises data centers have shown that they remain relevant for specific uses.
IN THIS ARTICLE
Key Outcomes to Expect from a Hybrid Cloud Environment
Hybrid Work in a Hybrid IT World
The coronavirus pandemic turbocharged many organizations’ move to the cloud. Suddenly, organizations needed to support remote workforces — some of which spanned the globe — and give users access to enterprise tools. The need to support remote workers spurred a rapid adoption of desktop virtualization, cloud-based collaboration and storage tools, and more. Over time, however, IT leaders have begun to reconsider whether it makes sense, operationally or monetarily, to have so many workloads in the cloud.
On-premises IT infrastructure is not going away anytime soon, and IT leaders have discovered that their on-premises infrastructure is very necessary for supporting some critical workloads. Treating cloud applications and services as if they were still on-premises can lead to ballooning cloud costs. IT leaders can help their organizations trim operating expenses by moving targeted workloads back to their data centers.
Hybrid cloud combines private data center infrastructure with public cloud services, allowing data and applications to be shared between them. Such setups give organizations maximum flexibility by allowing them to seamlessly operate in a location that best aligns with their business objectives. Additionally, the model is cost-effective and allows organizations to balance their capital and operational spending. The net result is that organizations get best technical service at the best possible price.
However, a key challenge that many face with hybrid cloud is creating a single team that can manage both on-premises and cloud infrastructures. To be successful in the transition to a hybrid environment, organizations need to adopt not just new tools and automation to help them manage cloud and on-premises IT, but a new organizational mindset as well.
Those tools include orchestration solutions to streamline the deployment of automation, and modern cloud-native software development to speed up innovation and optimization of on-premises infrastructure. Ultimately, though, to operate a hybrid cloud environment effectively, organizations must adopt patterns and practices that are consistent across whatever platform best suits their applications and workloads, whether on-premises, in a public cloud or across multiple clouds. In practice, this means aligning an organization’s operations and processes to common frameworks and principles.
Balancing the Benefits of Cloud
Early in the pandemic, many organizations gained benefits by embracing cloud computing, but those advantages are not cost-free.
The cloud offers a vast array of services that organizations cannot readily access through on-premises infrastructure, including low-code and no-code solutions, as well as database and analytics services.
Many organizations quickly pivoted to the cloud without realizing how much they would incur in operating expenses over the long term.
Organizations with on-premises infrastructure that they have already paid for may find this to be a more cost-effective location for deploying critical workloads.
In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, many organizations moved data and workloads to cloud platforms. However, organizations have had to recalibrate their IT environments to rein in costs, shifting workloads back to on-premises infrastructure.
Organizations embraced the cloud because its flexibility enabled remote workers to access critical business applications via desktop virtualization and other tools. The cloud enabled organizations to quickly spin up infrastructure and deploy low-code or no-code tools, along with a wider variety of services, including edge computing and automatic load balancing.
IT leaders typically deployed new cloud services using existing personnel who were not cloud specialists, believing the cloud operating model to be similar to the on-premises operating model. However, many organizations shifted to the cloud before their internal organizational and cultural maturity level was capable of understanding every nuance of the cloud transition.
While the cloud can be an excellent choice for organizations that want a pay-as-you-go model for computing, many have not automated their systems and processes. Instead, some have simply adopted cloud “ClickOps,” manually clicking through options in a cloud management console to configure infrastructure. This can easily lead to cost overruns because there is no process to decommission workloads.
HIGHER CLOUD COSTS
Some IT leaders realized that not every workload should be in the cloud, particularly those that were simply lifted and shifted from on-premises environments to the cloud. They recognized that this would cause the organization to incur significant costs. In some cases, they did not take full advantage of the benefits of the cloud.
More important, IT leaders also realized that they still had on-premises IT that could run some of the workloads that were not a best fit for the cloud. In fact, many IT teams figured they could transfer some of the automation inherent to the cloud back to their on-premises infrastructure.
CDW can help your organization manage hybrid IT environments.
How Hybrid IT Environments Are Constructed
The percentage of respondents who say they have adopted hybrid cloud
The percentage of organizations that move workloads between on-premises and cloud environments weekly
The percentage of organizations that move workloads between on-premises and cloud environments monthly
The percentage of organizations that use more than two public cloud providers
The percentage of respondents in DevOps and CloudOps roles who say their organization has refactored or will refactor apps using cloud-native technology
The percentage of respondents who say more than half of their workloads run on different hardware across all environments
Source: Cisco Systems, 2022 Global Hybrid Cloud Trends Report, May 2022
Many organizations quickly pivoted to the cloud early in the pandemic without setting up ideal networking infrastructure, identity and security policies, audit logs and more. To rebuild that cloud setup with those ideal conditions in place, organizations may need to move some workloads back to on-premises infrastructure. Additionally, some may need to retroactively modify their cloud setups without tearing them down and rebuilding. IT leaders may realize they have technical debt related to their on-premises infrastructure as well as their cloud environments.
Further, moving to cloud and hybrid environments requires not only upskilling IT workers but also ensuring that organizational structures are aligned with different operating models.
Younger developers may not be familiar with the physical hardware that underpins on-premises IT environments. They often know those functions only as software tools. Those workers may need training on how to manage on-premises infrastructure.
Troubleshooting is also different in a hybrid environment. If organizations have a network or server issue for on-premises IT, admins can log in to devices to look at logs and even the underlying code. The cloud requires a different type of troubleshooting skill, and organizations must rely on the cloud vendor to respond when troubleshooting is needed.
There are many solutions and services that organizations can tap to optimize their hybrid IT environments, including an array of automation tools.
AUTOMATION DRIVES EFFICIENCY
One of the benefits of the cloud is the ability to automate the setup of containers, virtual machines and more. Bringing those tools to an on-premises environment is key to spurring efficiency, and the benefits of deploying automation tools far outweigh any costs. Automation also offers a more seamless way for users to request services regardless of their location.
SOURCE OF TRUTH VS. SOURCE OF RECORD
When optimizing their IT environments, IT organizations must ask, “What do I have?” That question is often answered through a Configuration Management Database, which serves as the Source of Record. To answer the next question — “What should I have?” — and find the Source of Truth, organizations need automation and infrastructure as code (IaC) toolsets.
ORCHESTRATORS TO THE RESCUE
Orchestration and IaC tools can stage and execute an entire pipeline filled with automation scripts designed to keep IT operations up to date and running smoothly. These tools can plug into dashboards, ChatOps automation and other applications developers use. They can provide IT teams much-needed visibility into different environments and help organize and manage complex IT architectures.
MODERN SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT
Cloud-native software development can help organizations build applications designed for cloud platforms. Organizations can use Kubernetes to automate and scale multiple containers across different deployments. Further, by treating infrastructure as software, IT teams can work smarter and faster. Organizations can also partner with trusted third parties to develop the right hybrid IT strategy.
STORAGE AS A SERVICE
Many vendors offer Storage as a Service to organizations. STaaS is a managed service that provides access to a cloud-based data storage platform, enabling organizations to scale operations and quickly spin up new storage as needed. STaaS also helps save costs, since organizations aren’t spending extra money on power and cooling to run disk arrays and related infrastructure on-premises.
In addition to scalability, cloud storage offers organizations the promise of immutability. With immutable infrastructure, servers are never modified once they are deployed. If the organization needs to update or patch anything, they simply spin up new servers from a common image with those changes. The new, updated servers then replace the original ones, ensuring consistency, reliability and simpler deployments.
OPTIMIZED DATA CENTERS
Organizations can partner with trusted third parties whose experts will visit the on-premises data center to assess both the IT infrastructure (including the networking, compute and storage infrastructure) and the organization itself. These trusted third parties work with IT groups, analyze organizational structures, and evaluate business goals and workloads.
MANAGED LAUNCH OF AUTOMATION
As organizations move to a hybrid cloud model, they likely will deploy automation tools. Partners can help organizations launch automation via workshops that provide training on automation tools. These sprints can help IT managers and their teams learn how to automate workflows and develop playbooks for automating common tasks.
CDW’s Digital Velocity Solutions team can help you deploy modern IT, from code to cloud and from data center to database.
Key Challenges of a Hybrid Cloud Environment
The road to an optimized, efficient and modern hybrid IT environment is not necessarily a smooth one for many organizations. IT leaders face cybersecurity challenges, operational complexity and cost concerns, among other hurdles. However, many organizations are eager to move to hybrid cloud models and are deploying new technologies to help them along the way.
The percentage of respondents who say security is a significant challenge when using multiple clouds
The percentage of respondents who say increased operational complexity is a prominent challenge in deploying a hybrid cloud environment
The percentage of respondents who cite managing costs as a key operational challenge of hybrid cloud
The percentage of respondents who say adopting a cost/benefit approach or artificial intelligence for IT operations model helps improve operational and cost efficiency
Source: Cisco Systems, 2022 Global Hybrid Cloud Trends Report, May 2022
Hybrid cloud environments can help organizations achieve many benefits, including enhanced security, lower costs and streamlined IT operations.
IT leaders must ensure their organization’s systems have proper security configurations. This ranges from ensuring that system settings meet the organization’s security standards to installing the tools and agents that carry out cybersecurity functions. Thanks to immutable infrastructure, IT leaders can automate the build process for servers and containers. This allows these components to be baked into systems, reducing the possibility of error and eliminating the burden on security teams of post-deployment changes.
A hybrid approach also allows organizations to streamline their costs. IT leaders have recognized that not every workload is an optimal fit for the cloud, and many are moving those workloads back to on-premises infrastructure. That can save on operating expenses by allowing organizations to use infrastructure they already own. This on-premises infrastructure may not be the primary location for workloads, but it can prove very useful in trimming costs.
Streamlined IT Operations
IT leaders can streamline operations by adopting many of the cloud’s hallmark automation tools for their on-premises IT environments. Automation tools can act as translators for bringing workloads from the cloud back to on-premises infrastructure. Some of the code for those workloads can be hidden behind automation, allowing IT teams to request services more seamlessly.
Story by Andrew Fanning, Chris Gibes, Neil Graver, Steve Jones, Robert Herriage, David Richardson, Melissa Walsh