What hybrid IT professionals can learn about support from cloud middleware

Public cloud usage within the enterprise has grown dramatically in the last decade. It has migrated from the preserve of testing and development into more business-critical systems like CRM and HR. Industry analyst firm Gartner recently predicted that the global market for public cloud would grow by 16.5 percent to $204bn in 2016 with IaaS seeing a growth of almost 40 percent.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Public cloud usage within the enterprise has grown dramatically in the last decade.” hashtags=”cloud, tech, hybrid”]

Many – if not most – organisations will find themselves using public cloud services from more than one provider. It is increasingly common for different departments to buy cloud services individually. Additionally, some IT teams may find that one public cloud is superior to another regarding pricing, support or suitability for their specific workloads.

This diversity in cloud platforms has resulted in a parallel diversity in automation and orchestration technologies – all of which can either partially or entirely aid organisations in managing the various application workloads across their different suppliers. Many experts have gone so far as to say that automation and orchestration technologies are intrinsic to the definition of a ‘true’ hybrid IT environment. These technologies are rapidly becoming the norm. According to Rightscale, 82 percent of enterprises are now using multi-cloud environments, compared to 74 percent in 2014, demonstrating just how rapidly the hybrid IT ecosystem is growing.

The increased reliance on public clouds for multiple business functions comes with increased complexity, despite clear improvements in the quality, cost and security that public clouds have achieved in just a few short years. Each cloud environment usually comes with its management platform, SLAs, APIs and characteristics, making management difficult – especially when data needs to travel between clouds or ‘burst’ from private clouds to public clouds at peak demand periods. So how can IT professionals most effectively manage their hybrid environments?

Complexity and automation

There is a myriad of management tools from vendors such as Flexera, Scalr, xStream and ElasticBox that can act as an intermediate layer, enabling organisations to manage multiple cloud providers from a single platform. However, these platforms are often limited to management, monitoring, load balancing and scaling rather than addressing problems – like outages or issues with APIs – that may occur. Problem remediation in enterprise IT is a difficult problem in even the best of times, and will become even more complicated as interdependence between all segments of the IT estate increases.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Many software solutions have started to offer the ability to self-diagnose problems.” hashtags=”hybrid, tech, cloud”]

Remediation among interconnected public and private clouds is why automation is now so critical to hybrid cloud usage. Many software solutions have started to offer the ability to self-diagnose problems and automatically fix them without the need for human intervention.

Power to the people… as long as they’re in formation

Although cloud automation is moving forward by leaps and bounds, even the most advanced automation providers are still limited to solving relatively simple issues such as discovering and registering new IT assets and handling ticketing for IT support events.

This means that human intelligence is – and will continue to be – critical for the foreseeable future. There are not yet robots or programs that can physically visit a server rack and make a judgment call based on years of expertise in the industry or even simply unplug equipment.

Handling such issues in-house, however, can be challenging and a drain on an IT department’s limited resources. IT teams often find themselves working with multiple external support teams or spending a lot of time driving from location to location – all while finding a time that is convenient for everybody to carry out maintenance operations. This is especially problematic for customer-facing services that can’t be unplugged without impacting revenue. Due to these logistical constraints, many organisations find themselves appointing support and management companies to facilitate IT maintenance. Choosing to outsource this work raises the issue of finding the right support company that can successfully navigate all the different parts of the IT estate.

Cloud management software can indirectly help organisations learn how to organise their IT suppliers most effectively. These platforms often sit as intermediaries between IT staff and cloud resources, and can be mirrored within the ecosystem of an organisation’s IT suppliers, vendors and services.

Rather than having a large number of vendors operating in isolation – with each reporting to the corporate IT team like a ‘hub and spoke’ model – the future may lie in appointing one managing supplier to oversee operations, like an operating system mediating between applications and the underlying hardware. This gives the in-house IT team one single point of contact and a familiar partner to work with for support.

[easy-tweet tweet=”These platforms often sit as intermediaries between IT staff and cloud resources” hashtags=”cloud, tech, hybrid”]

Supercharging hybrid

Whilst private cloud revenues are slowly increasing; public cloud consumption continues to grow fast. As the majority of organisations move to a ‘hybrid by default’ approach to technology, there is little doubt that systems will become exponentially more complicated over time – raising the importance of both system automation and experienced IT staff.

Therefore, it is important to look closely at the current IT organisational structure and culture. Hybrid IT enables flexible technology solutions that are cost efficient and do not include services that are beyond the scope of the application workload. Given how rapidly the use of public cloud has been adopted by enterprises until systems for automation and orchestration become more autonomous in respect to fault remediation, capacity management and elasticity, skilled IT professionals will continue to be intrinsic to the successful operation and management of these environments.

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