Plan Well for a Hybrid Cloud Environment and See Efficiencies

Agencies operate hybrid computing environments that cross the cloud/on-premises boundary, but how can these operations be made more efficient?

Early on, cloud computing promised to simplify enterprise computing, transferring mundane work to service providers. But agencies that have not completed cloud migration — or for whom total migration is impractical — wind up operating multiple computing environments.

Hybrid IT environments, whether they involve multiple cloud providers or a mix of off- and on-premises facilities, bring flexibility to agency technology operations, yet also add complexity that can be a management challenge. This is especially problematic in an environment of shrinking financial and human resources.

Let’s take a look at ways that agency technology leaders can get their arms around hybrid cloud operations and put their limited resources to the best possible use.

MORE FROM FEDTECH: Follow the 5 R’s of rationalization for an effective cloud migration.

Define the Scope of Hybrid Cloud Environments

Well-designed hybrid technology environments offer a compelling business case for agencies seeking to address specific technology requirements. For example, agencies that operate on-premises data centers for their base capacity might design cloud-bursting capabilities that allow them to scale to meet peak demands.

Similarly, agencies might decide to operate all public-facing services in the public cloud, while leaving internal serv­ices on-premises. These well-­articulated strategies clearly define the scope of operations in each segment of a hybrid cloud environment.

74%

The percentage of organizations that use a hybrid or multicloud strategy

Source: David Bartoletti, Forrester Research

However, many hybrid IT operations lack well-defined scope; instead, they are the by-product of incomplete migration plans that haphazardly moved some resources to the cloud while leaving others on-premises indefinitely.

This approach leaves technologists confused about the proper environment for new and existing services and creates tremendous operational inefficiencies, as core services must be replicated across environments.

Agencies seeking to simplify hybrid cloud operations should ensure that they have a clearly articulated vision for the services they operate in each of their computing environments. This vision will serve as the roadmap for migration initiatives and a guide for the proper placement of new services.

MORE FROM FEDTECH: Find out how SBA, CBP, USTDA turn to the cloud to keep work flowing.

Unify Cloud Management Tools

In agencies with hybrid IT, technologists often find themselves tasked with managing similar services across computing environments or even regularly migrating workloads between those environments.

Agencies can ease that burden by supporting and encouraging the adoption of management tools designed to work across environments. This may be as simple as integrating the use of existing monitoring tools to consume data feeds from systems in multiple locations.

For example, agencies seeking to develop a mature security operations center capability should provide the SOC with a “single pane of glass” view of security information across cloud and on-premises systems. This allows for the rapid correlation of events that might occur across environments and facilitates quick response to security incidents.

The SOC team can achieve this goal by configuring systems across all environments to report information to a centralized security information and event management solution, rather than using distributed solutions across multiple environments.

MORE FROM FEDTECH: Follow these tips to protect your data in the cloud. 

Leverage Cloud Orchestration Tools

Agencies seeking to take operations to the next level may choose solutions specifically designed to work across environments. For example, they might adopt an IT service management solution that integrates directly with public cloud providers and on-premises resources.

This approach to ITSM aims to provide a layer of abstraction between technologists and the implementation environment, allowing them to design technology services that may be automatically deployed on whatever environment the agency later deems appropriate.

Mike Chapple
Agencies seeking to simplify hybrid cloud operations should ensure that they have a clearly articulated vision.”

Mike Chapple Professional and Associate Teaching professor of IT, Analytics and Operations, University of Notre Dame

Deployment of services isn’t the only way that agencies can take advantage of automation in a hybrid cloud environment. Cloud orchestration tools take it to the next level by allowing the automation of entire technology workflows across hybrid cloud environments.

Consider the deployment of a ­database-driven web service. An agency seeking to automate this work might create scripts that build web and database servers, create accounts and perform many other routine actions ­ that are components of the service deployment process.

Orchestration tools allow agencies to assemble these pieces into a completely automated workflow that triggers the provisioning and configuration of resources as needed to rapidly deploy the service with minimal or no user intervention.

For example, an orchestration tool might detect that an on-premises data center is nearing capacity and automatically migrate workloads from that data center to the cloud. Conversely, if the on-premises data center has unused capacity, the orchestration tool might notice this and trigger a migration away from a cloud environment that incurs hourly charges to take advantage of this slack capacity.

Orchestration Is a Heavy Investment That Pays Off

The move from automation to orchestration is a heavy lift that requires a significant investment of time and energy. System engineers, developers, database administrators and cloud specialists must work together to carefully define and test workflows that adapt to changes in the operating environment, operating seamlessly without impacting the user experience.

However, agencies that make this investment will find that it pays significant dividends, allowing them to shift workloads between environments at will.

Cloud computing offers tremendous flexibility, agility and economic benefits to agencies seeking to modernize their IT environments. Hybrid cloud strategies allow agencies to achieve these benefits while still leveraging existing capital investments in on-premises computing environments.

While these operations may add complexity, the judicious use of hybrid cloud monitoring, automation and orchestration tools can help agency IT teams achieve the best of both worlds.

Illustrations by Rob Dobi
Nov 14 2019

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