Extract greater value through better hybrid cloud management

Hybrid cloud is now the default infrastructure for most enterprises. In fact, 82 per cent now have a hybrid cloud strategy – with an average of 2.6 public and 2.7 private clouds per organisation. But a lot of this adoption has been tactical, so many lack a strategic cloud management platform. This limits the value enterprises get from the hybrid cloud and creates governance, risk and operational problems. Instead, organisations must pivot towards higher-value, more robust use of the hybrid cloud.

The optimal position is to have a single-source view of cloud environments in order to simply optimise cost, standardise automation and manage security. This makes it easy to deploy workloads to the right location – public, private or non-cloud – to exploit the capabilities the workload needs, at the right price points. Good cloud management platforms enable enterprises to understand their resource needs and assign them appropriately using one tool. Monitoring resource allocation easily and transparently also allows the IT function to make better decisions in relation to cost and the distribution of resources.

But this is difficult for many enterprises: Many inherit complex legacy environments which lack effective management tools, and they also struggle with the fast-paced development of cloud management tooling. There are also the limitations of either cloud-native or cloud-agnostic management platforms in delivering the full end-to-end needs of an enterprise to contend with.

So, how can IT teams implement the most appropriate hybrid cloud management system for their needs, and how this will translate into cost savings and efficiencies?

Align cloud management with infrastructure requirements 

Firstly, enterprises need to understand how their infrastructure helps them drive value. Specifically, which capabilities help them deliver their core services better, and which should be simply managed for cost. This insight can then be used to design the best architecture and management platform for them. For example, an enterprise that drives value from data through analytics will pay particular attention to this as they architect micro-services spanning cloud and on-premise and select and configure the management tooling in relation to data.

To qualify any cloud management software, it is important to consider what the target cloud footprint is going to look like in the future. Given the acceleration of digital transformation the need to plan ahead has never been more vital. Important questions to consider are, “Which business services span multiple cloud platforms and why?”, “What is my operating model?”, and “How will I manage business continuity?”.

Once the most suitable cloud infrastructure management software for the business is determined, the next step is to consider how to actually use it to its full potential. 

Federated vs. centralised cloud management 

Broadly speaking there are two options; federated cloud management (where the cloud infrastructure management software sits on top of each platform) or a centralised cloud management approach (using one piece of cloud infrastructure management software that manages everything under the enterprise’s cloud footprint in one place).

With the former, if business services span more than one cloud platform, IT teams then immediately lose the complete view of their cloud infrastructure estate. On the flip side, federated cloud management is very easy to roll out because it is normally offered alongside the cloud platform, meaning there is no development or management involved. 

A centralised cloud management approach does what is said on the tin – it is a platform where information from each cloud can be integrated into one place. The benefit of this is that it creates an in-depth overview of the entire cloud estate. For example, the finance team can access spending information, the security team can receive a continuous compliance report (or a security posture report), and the platform owners can see how many services are running, as well as how many are up or down. 

The drawbacks are that IT teams must integrate each individual platform into the centralised cloud management software, and they will need to customise it to some extent which can be quite time-consuming (but it can be automated). That said, many come with features that help guide IT through the customisation process. Ongoing management is also required – another drain on resources. Despite this, when a multi-cloud infrastructure is used, centralised cloud management is the strategic approach.

How to avoid cloud inefficiencies

Even with the most finely tuned hybrid cloud management process, no enterprise is immune to cloud value leakage. This is where the automation of hybrid cloud management comes to the fore. Starting with the ethos of automating everything from the outset is a strong choice. If an enterprise has started without that, then pivoting to that mode today is the next best option to save time and increase control for the long term.

By driving automation to the next level, enterprises can reach top-quartile efficiency. It also allows them to manage their infrastructure uniformly and securely across multiple cloud platforms and improve application portability between platforms.

Similarly, having a clear understanding of which hybrid cloud platforms should be used for what purpose helps to avoid inefficiencies in application placement and operating costs. Defining a strategy on how each cloud platform is to be used and consistently managed against those rules is key.

Finally, having a clear view of cloud-native cloud infrastructure management software can save time and money, but often cannot alone give a complete view of the cloud estate – a single source of truth which is crucial for optimising the management process. Working out whether this is appropriate for the organisation, based on how hybrid the target architecture is, enables a good strategic choice to be made.

Moving from poorly managed, to well managed

For many enterprises, the big challenge is how to take today’s imperfect solution and improve it. Having established what the optimised target architecture should look like, the question is then how to pivot towards it.

Firstly, this requires investment. Even outside the management tooling, the cloud requires constant investment – or “lifecycle management” – to maintain modern, cost-optimised architecture. If well managed, this investment should be consistent and deliver a return in terms of reduced like-for-like run costs.

Secondly, it also requires time. It may take two to three years for a reasonably sized estate to be aligned with a strategic cloud management approach.

Finally, it should be automation-led – prioritising automation both reduces delivery costs and risks but also sets the right culture on the programme.

Don’t miss out on the value opportunity 

Hybrid cloud has numerous benefits for the enterprise, but it’s important that IT teams give considerable thought to how the technology is going to be used in the long term and to determine the best management software for their specific needs. Not getting this right at the outset has the potential to erode value, create cost inefficiencies and drive up the cost of change. Furthermore, there is a chance that the opportunity will be missed to extract the most value from the good, focussed use of the cloud. To exploit cloud capabilities and maintain a continuous, high level of governance, organisations need to tailor how they govern, monitor and manage their cloud services. 

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