The Growth of Hybrid IT and What it Means – Q&A with SolarWinds’ Kong Yang

According to Unisphere Research, over the past 5 years, storing data in the cloud has become an increasingly important feature of the overall data management infrastructure, and the amount of data stored in the cloud continues to expand at a healthy rate.

The growing assortment of private cloud, virtual private cloud, and public infrastructure-as-a-service offerings means IT professionals must start thinking about how to be successful in this increasingly hybrid context as well as strategies for managing what are becoming highly complex environments.

Kong Yang, head geek at SolarWinds, a provider of IT management software, believes the rise of the mobile workforce and the pressure to implement new technologies means that modern IT professionals must be able to quickly evolve beyond the confines of on-premises deployments and shift into the realm of hybrid IT. Here, Yang reflects on some of the ways that IT professionals can begin that journey.

What is changing in IT environments now with respect to cloud and on-premises deployments?

As the technology industry continues to transform, IT environments are becoming increasingly hybrid. A hybrid IT environment encompasses a mix of cloud services and on-premises deployments, and has positive and negative effects on IT professionals and organizations in general.

For example, hybrid IT gives organizations the opportunity to consider a workload’s resource, security, and performance needs before determining whether it’s a better fit for the cloud or if it should remain on-premises. Public cloud vendors supply IT organizations with the services necessary to implement hybrid IT on an as-needed basis; this ultimately gives organizations opportunities to choose services and scale as they are needed.

While convenient, affordable, and full of choices, hybrid IT also creates a host of problems for IT professionals as they have to manage mission critical layers of their application services across networks, systems, and services that they neither own nor control completely. This decreases their visibility into performance and challenges their authority to identify and resolve problems such as downtime and outages. With deployments that were previously onsite spread across cloud service providers, IT administrators need to monitor their environments more efficiently and effectively than ever, and develop new skills to succeed.

What do these changes mean for IT professionals?

With these changes, IT professionals must continue to develop new skills to keep pace and avoid being “left behind.” IT professionals can no longer have a single area of expertise; as their IT environments become increasingly de-siloed, their areas of expertise must also extend beyond their usual discipline.

Discerning what can be moved outside the data center to best realize the benefits of hybrid IT requires a deep understanding of cloud services and how they integrate with on-premises deployments. IT professionals must learn to use this knowledge to determine what services and applications are best suited for on-premises, as the decision to migrate a portion of existing IT services to the cloud should not be taken lightly. IT professionals and their ultimate value will be in balancing the cloud’s benefits with performance, cost, governance and security objectives.

What are the skills needed to succeed in a hybrid context?

An IT professional operating in a hybrid IT environment must surpass traditional roles and develop a keen understanding of enterprise networks, data centers, and application delivery; these skills are actually a mix of adapting existing skills and acquiring new ones. They must hone their skills of managing infrastructure services and vendors, integrating cloud services and ensuring quality-of-service that meet business performance needs for any given service.

Embracing monitoring as a discipline is of great importance to successfully implementing and maintaining hybrid IT. IT professionals are still responsible for overall performance and availability, regardless of the direct control and visibility issues hybrid IT creates. It is critical to monitor resource utilization, saturation, and errors across the application stack, regardless of location.

Where does DevOps fit in?

DevOps’ core tenets of increased collaboration and communication with continuous integration and delivery of services needs to be applied to hybrid IT. The introduction of cloud services creates more complexity with change management, as the service being consumed as-a-service—either software-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, or anything-as-a-service—can change. That’s part of the cloud premise—a high rate and large amplitude of change.

Applying DevOps principles, such as monitoring with discipline and continuous collaboration, will help IT professionals mitigate the risk associated with this high frequency of change. The biggest benefit of applying a DevOps culture to a hybrid IT environment is allowing the IT team to quickly deliver services that the business and customers need exactly when those services are needed with better quality assurance.

You introduced the DART framework as a series of skills that virtualization administrators can use.  What does it stand for?

The DART framework encompasses four key principles to successfully adopt monitoring as a discipline. These skills apply to any IT professional, especially one looking to enable hybrid IT service models. The four tenets of the DART framework are: discover, alert, remediate, and troubleshoot. Through these principles, IT professionals can ascertain what’s going on in their environments, learn when something is going wrong (without having to constantly sit in front of a monitor), fix problems fast, and determine the root of those problems to prevent future issues.

What does it add that is missing?

Hybrid IT is leading to increasingly opaque IT environments. The principles of the DART framework enable the success of hybrid IT at every layer, from surfacing truths into an IT environment to resolving problems in the application stack and preparing for future integration. This framework is built to quickly surface the single point of truth in the hybrid IT environment.

If all goes according to your expectations, 5 years from now, what do you think will be different in enterprise environments?

In 5 years, enterprise environments will be increasingly affected by changes that are already taking place and the host of additional problems, resources, and skills that this hybrid IT world has created. We will see changes from every angle, from expanded cloud vendor services to IT professionals’ skills. While some systems and applications will remain on-premises, new services will give IT professionals and end users more incentives to move to the cloud. I anticipate more seamlessly integrated hybrid IT with more cloud services, especially around serverless architecture, artificial intelligence, and virtual/augmented/mixed reality. And, in the coming years, IT professionals will need fully developed cloud skills. In fact, IT pros without cloud skills will likely become obsolete.



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