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Eight Strategies for Successful Hybrid IT Environments

Level 12

Hybrid IT continues to grow as more agencies embrace the cloud, so I wanted to share this blog written last year by our former Chief Information Officer, Joel Dolisy, which I think is still very valid and worth a read.

Most federal IT professionals acknowledge that the cloud is and will be a driving component behind their agencies’ long-term successes; no one expects to move all of their IT infrastructures to the cloud.

Because of regulations and security concerns, many administrators feel it’s best to keep some level of control over their data and applications. They like the efficiencies that the cloud brings, but they aren’t convinced that it’s suitable for everything.

Hybrid IT environments offer benefits, but they can also introduce greater complexity and management challenges. Teams from different disciplines must come together to manage various aspects of in-house and cloud-based solutions. Managers must develop special skillsets that go well beyond traditional IT, and new tools must be deployed to closely monitor this complex environment.

Here are a few strategies managers can implement to close the gap between the old and the new:

1. Use tools to gain greater visibility

Administrators should deploy tools that supply single access points to metrics, alerts, and other data collected from applications and workloads, allowing IT staff to remediate, troubleshoot, and optimize applications, regardless of where they may reside.

2. Use a micro-service architecture and automation

Hybrid IT models will require agencies to become more lean, agile, and cost effective. Traditional barriers to consumption must be overcome and administrators should gain a better understanding of APIs, distributed systems, and overall IT architectures.

Administrators must also prepare to automatically scale, move, and remediate services.

3. Make monitoring a core discipline

Maintaining a holistic view of your entire infrastructure allows IT staff to react quickly to potential issues, enabling a more proactive strategy.

4. Remember that application migration is just the first step

Migration is important, but the management following initial move might be even more critical. Managers must have a core understanding of an application’s key events and performance metrics and be prepared to remediate and troubleshoot issues.

5. Get used to working with distributed architectures

Managers must become accustomed to working with various providers handling remediation as a result of outages or other issues. The result is less control, but greater agility, scalability, and flexibility.

6. Develop key technical skills and knowledge

Agency IT professionals need to learn service-oriented architectures, automation, vendor management, application migration, distributed architectures, API and hybrid IT monitoring, and more.

7. Adopt DevOps to deliver better service

DevOps breaks down barriers between teams, allowing them to pool resources to solve problems and deliver updates and changes faster and more efficiently. This makes IT services more agile and scalable.

8. Brush up on business skills

Administrators will need to hone their business-savvy sides. They must know how to negotiate contracts, become better project managers, and establish the technical expertise necessary to understand and manage various cloud services.

Managing hybrid IT environments takes managers outside their comfort zones. They must commit to learning and honing new skills, and use the monitoring and analytics tools at their disposal. It’s a great deal to ask, but it’s the best path forward for those who want to create a strong bridge between the old and the new.

Find the full article on Government Computer News.

Level 21

I'd consider all of the above, and some basics that might even come before them:

  1. Evaluate the COS and ROI for hybridizing your environment.  What reasons would you do it, not do it, continue to grow it, or move away from it?  What pain points and price points are significant to your organization and its budget and its customers?
  2. Staff appropriately for it--don't just foist it off on your team without building up their numbers, since this is something new and potentially huge.  You must not prevent them from filling their current tasks by adding more and telling them to "just work smarter--get more done in the same amount of time."
  3. Train your staff so they can succeed.  It's one thing to hybridize your environment--it's another to do it without staff who know what they're doing, who understand best practices, who can implement it efficiently and securely.  Relying on third-party vendors to design, build, and implement your hybrid environment is a guaranteed path to becoming dependent on them for making future changes--and that's expensive.  It's better in the long run to teach your staff how to do what's needed and have them invested in the planning and deployment.  That way you don't lose important people and aren't forced to go through the expensive learning curve of replacing staff who've left because you didn't invest in them, didn't involve them.
  4. Ensure your hybrid vendors' environments are compatible with your needs, and the needs of your customers.  That includes physical and logical security, monitoring both within the cloud and from outside the cloud by your own trusted tools & staff.
  5. Understand the dollar cost and employee-hour costs of going this route.  Maybe it's a no-brainer and you'll save tons of money and be super flexible.  Maybe not . . .  Remember, this might be that bridge your parents talked about when you were a kid.  ("So if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it to?"  Or, "If other companies went to the cloud, or hybridized, or bought into Enron, would it be smart for you to do the same?"

Level 16

Nice article

Level 14

I like all 8 of those points.

One comment for rschroeder​ #2 though - don't be afraid to get outside help. No team can know everything about a new or changing environment, often the needed skills can be sourced externally to help bring the whole team up.

Level 15

TCO - so often things like this are considered as a cost savings without looking at the entire picture.

For example

When we had Exchange on premises adding a user was 1) create account in AD, make sure the email field is populated

With hybrid Exchange 1) Create account in AD 2) Create email account in cloud 3) assign license 4) create sync job 5) run sync job 6) wait up to an hour 7) verify that account exists in both environments. (These steps don't include all the special handshakes, code words and the specific way that one must stand on one foot on top of their desk chair while a co-worker gently spins the chair at just the correct rate to ensure that things actually work properly - else one needs to start over)

So hybrid did save money, unless you look at the cost of broken limbs from chairs spinning too fast, etc.

Level 19

Hmmmm brush up on business skills... I've thought about getting an MBA as it seems the easiest route to becoming an executive officer... I'm just not sure it's worth the time and investment.

Level 16

Just curious. Do you get 50 Thwack points with your post. Do I get 50 Thwack points with this one?  :-)

Level 18

what about backups ?

Just because you have it or part of it in the be successful you need to have backups and the ability to move it somewhere else without data loss in case of a catastrophic failure....

Level 15

That's a good point that gets missed by all of the "hype." All of the cloud vendors make important points about their redundancy, diversity, (insert many, many more buzz words here) and "in theory" you should never need to restore anything from a quality cloud vendor, but that's only in theory - as we all know the only certainty in this business is that there are no certainties.

Level 18

you never need to until that one day when things align just right...taking their word for it is never good enough.  The contract likely has a clause that indemnifies them in case things go awry.  Then the salespersons word is good for what ?

Level 21

I keep that option in the back pocket, but I'd rather receive training than bring an outside contractor in at $250/hour to accomplish something.  A week of that kind of service billing is money gone quickly for a one-time task.  Instead, that week of training for me or one of my peers would last us the rest of our professional lives at this business.

We've talked about "train the trainer" events, and having the outside contractor do the work while one or more of us learn at their side.  It hasn't worked out successfully in the past, so I'm still in favor of the employee knowing how to do something instead of relying on outside contractors.

On the other hand, if the project fails, the contractor bears the shame & scrutiny, so they have a hidden benefit to their work.

Level 16

I imagine that that the lines between Cloud and on-prem in the Hybrid IT environment aren't clearly drawn. There are plenty of cross-dependencies. Be careful with your transport. Make sure it is sufficient and reliable. Check to see that your provider isn't charging you based on usage (unless you are fine with that). And if those dependencies are mission critical you better have redundant connections taking different paths to the Cloud...

Level 21

We are a managed hybrid cloud service provider and the points in this post couldn't be more true.  The one I most agree with is the point about moving beyond your comfort zone to learn new things and new ways of deploying and running your infrastructure. 

About the Author
Joseph is a software executive with a track record of successfully running strategic and execution-focused organizations with multi-million dollar budgets and globally distributed teams. He has demonstrated the ability to bring together disparate organizations through his leadership, vision and technical expertise to deliver on common business objectives. As an expert in process and technology standards and various industry verticals, Joseph brings a unique 360-degree perspective to help the business create successful strategies and connect the “Big Picture” to execution. Currently, Joseph services as the EVP, Engineering and Global CTO for SolarWinds and is responsible for the technology strategy, direction and execution for SolarWinds products and systems. Working directly for the CEO and partnering across the executive staff in product strategy, marketing and sales, he and his team is tasked to provide overall technology strategy, product architecture, platform advancement and engineering execution for Core IT, Cloud and MSP business units. Joseph is also responsible for leading the internal business application and information technology activities to ensure that all SolarWinds functions, such as HR, Marketing, Finance, Sales, Product, Support, Renewals, etc. are aligned from a systems perspective; and that we use the company's products to continuously improve their functionality and performance, which ensures success and expansion for both SolarWinds and customers.