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A DevOps Approach to Hybrid IT Management

Cloud computing and adopting a cloud-first/cloud-native/born-in-the-cloud mentality continue to dominate data center conversations. However, although more and more businesses are taking advantage of the cloud’s benefits, the reality is that for organizations with cost and security considerations, which is most, a hybrid environment of on-premises and cloud services will continue to be the norm for the foreseeable future. Despite that, organizations are still able to realize the agility and efficiency that cloud-first organizations experience by embracing the core principles of a DevOps culture into their environments.

First, however, it’s important to distinguish between the two terms: DevOps is a process and culture more likely to be associated with cloud-native organizations —especially those in the business of developing software applications. Whereas hybrid IT is simply another method of delivering IT services to endusers. However, they are 100% compatible and DevOps’ core tenets of increased collaboration, continuous integration, and delivery of services (all with a greater focus on enduser quality) can and should be applied to hybrid IT.

The introduction of cloud services also creates a more complicated change management scenario...Applying DevOps disciplines, such as continuous monitoring, performance orientation and collaboration will help IT professionals mitigate the risk associated with the high frequency of change.

Consider the flexibility inherent to a hybrid IT environment: having the choice between leveraging on-premises or cloud services affords IT professionals the ability to consider each workload resource, security, and performance needs, among other things, before deciding whether it’s a better fit for the cloud or if it should remain on-premises. This freedom also allows organizations to deploy and provision infrastructure much more quickly, which is a prerequisite of some of the main benefits of cloud: agility and scalability. Along these lines, a hybrid approach also delivers greater organizational efficiency, as the IT department is able to better align with business needs and proffer a specific fit and finish for workload allocation.

Unfortunately, the biggest hurdle in hybrid IT management is that the introduction of cloud services also creates a more complicated change management scenario, as the service being consumed as-a-service — either Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) or Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), or Anything-as-a-Service (XaaS) — can change in the blink of an eye. Applying DevOps disciplines, such as continuous monitoring, performance orientation and collaboration will help IT professionals mitigate the risk associated with the high frequency of change. Ultimately, the biggest benefit of applying a DevOps mentality to a hybrid IT environment is allowing the IT team to more quickly deliver, provision, and manage what the business needs and with better quality assurance for the enduser.

Of course, the integration and application of a DevOps culture presents several challenges to the IT team, whether running a hybrid or completely cloud-based environment. First and foremost being the required change in culture to adopt a DevOps mindset. The good news is hybrid IT professionals are already a step ahead by implementing and managing an environment with integrated cloud resources, and should take every opportunity to streamline their processes and create a better enduser experience. To successfully leverage the core principles of a DevOps mentality and approach within a hybrid IT environment, IT professionals should consider the following best practices:

Enduser focus and service orientation: In a DevOps environment, the ultimate goal is to deliver greater Quality-of-Service (QoS) for endusers. To that end, minimizing friction across departmental silos is designed to speed up updates, changes, deployments, and time-to-resolution for problems, all of which deliver a better enduser experience. Hybrid IT professionals should leverage the benefits of a hybrid approach — faster and more provisioning choices, greater agility, and organizational efficiency — to more quickly make updates and changes to the infrastructure, which makes the application more agile, lean, and scalable. Optimize visibility: With both on-premises and cloud resources to manage in a hybrid IT environment, a management toolset and dashboard that surfaces the single point of truth across those platforms is essential. The normalization of metrics, alerts, and other collected data from applications and workloads, regardless of their location, will enable a more efficient approach to remediation, troubleshooting, and optimization. At the end of the day, the faster one can identify the problem, the faster one can remediate and deliver a quality enduser experience. Monitoring as a discipline: Investing in a comprehensive approach to monitoring is central for any DevOps/hybrid IT initiative. Key metrics should be quickly identified and monitored to generate better visibility. In addition, the impact of key changes should be well understood. A monitoring tool that offers actionable insight, such as details on utilization, saturation and errors, is critical for speed, collaboration, and QoS. This is especially true in hybrid IT environments, where performance and change must be monitored for applications and workloads running both on-premises and in the cloud. Poor performance monitoring can result in costly remediation efforts and missed business development opportunities. From a DevOps perspective, third-party tools for configuration and code management like GitHub, Puppet, Ansible, and others, can be integrated for a greater level of automation. Collaboration is key: Whether an application is on-premises or in the cloud, the ultimate objective is to provide the enduser with the most optimal application experience. Everyone is accountable for QoS, which includes application performance. This approach requires transparency, visibility, a consistent set of monitoring tools, and teamwork.

The cloud is here to stay, and for many businesses it represents the future of IT. But that doesn’t spell the demise of on-premises IT infrastructure anytime soon. To bridge these two approaches to IT— traditional IT infrastructure and cloud services —organizations can adopt the core principles and best practices of DevOps, including an enduser, service, and performance orientation; end-to-end visibility and monitoring, and collaboration to achieve a more agile, available, scalable, and efficient data center.

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