Cloud Computing and Hybrid IT: Evolving Norms

The cloud and hybrid IT are a reality for the majority of organizations today, unlike just a few years ago when they were limited to early adopters. Today, we are in a new era in regards to how we work and how compute workloads are processed—one that is more global, interconnected, and flexible than ever — and organizations of all sizes are implementing cloud computing to better meet the demands of a modernized workforce. At the same time, the benefits of the cloud and hybrid IT introduce greater complexity and technology abstraction, and IT professionals are tasked with devising new and creative methods to monitor and manage this infrastructure in order to deliver the Quality of Service (QoS) end-users expect. All of this means hybrid IT can look drastically different from one organization to another; however, there are overarching trends worth exploring that paint a portrait of a modern hybrid IT organization.
To more closely examine the variety of ways in which IT departments and professionals around the world are evolving with the integration of cloud services, and the overall effect hybrid IT is having on their organizations and IT job roles, SolarWinds recently released the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2017: Portrait of a Hybrid Organization. This annual study consists of survey-based research that explores significant trends, developments, and movements related to and directly affecting IT professionals.
The findings are based on a survey fielded in December 2016 that yielded responses from 205 IT practitioners, managers, and directors in the U.S. and Canada, from public and private sector small, mid-size, and enterprise companies whose organizations are leveraging cloud-based services for at least some IT infrastructure. The results help illustrate what a modern hybrid IT organization looks like — notably, they are realizing the cost benefits of the cloud, but continue to struggle with shifting job and skill dynamics.
Overall, the 2017 key findings show that today’s hybrid IT organizations are:

1. MOVING APPLICATIONS, STORAGE, AND DATABASES FURTHER INTO THE CLOUD

■ In the past 12 months, IT professionals have migrated applications (74 percent), storage (50 percent), and databases (35 percent) to the cloud more than any other areas of IT
■ By weighted rank, the top three reasons for prioritizing these areas of their IT environments for migration were greatest potential for ROI/cost efficiency, availability, and elastic scalability, respectively
■ More than half (56 percent) said cost efficiency is one of their top three reasons for selecting the particular areas they have migrated to the cloud

2. EXPERIENCING THE COST EFFICIENCIES OF THE CLOUD

■ Nearly all (95 percent) organizations have migrated critical applications and IT infrastructure to the cloud over the past year, yet over two-thirds (69 percent) spend less than 40 percent of their annual IT budgets on cloud technology
■ Nearly half (45 percent) of organizations spend 70 percent or more of their annual IT budgets on on-premises (traditional) applications and infrastructure
■ Nearly 3 in 5 (59 percent) organizations have received either most or all expected cloud benefits (i.e., cost efficiency, availability, and scalability)
■ Cost efficiency is at times not enough to justify migration to the cloud: 35 percent migrated areas to the cloud that were ultimately brought back on-premises, mostly due to security/compliance issues and poor performance

3. BUILDING AND EXPANDING CLOUD ROLES AND SKILLSETS FOR IT PROFESSIONALS

■ Over three-fifths (62 percent) of IT professionals indicated that hybrid IT has required them to acquire new skills, while 11 percent said it has altered their career path
■ Nearly three-fifths (57 percent) of organizations have already hired/reassigned IT personnel, or plan to do so, for the specific purpose of managing cloud technologies
■ The top cloud-related skill IT professionals improved over the past 12 months was monitoring/management tools and metrics (38 percent)
■ 63 percent said an IT staff skills gap was one of the five biggest hybrid IT challenges, while 46 percent said increased workload/responsibilities
■ Nearly half (46 percent) do not believe that IT professionals entering the workforce now possess the skills necessary to manage hybrid IT environments

4. INCREASING IN COMPLEXITY AND LACKING VISIBILITY ACROSS THE ENTIRE HYBRID IT INFRASTRUCTURE

■ 7 out of 10 (69 percent) said their organizations currently use up to three cloud provider environments, with the largest percentage using two to three; however, one out of every 10 (9 percent) uses 10 or more
■ By weighted rank, the number one challenge created by hybrid IT is increased infrastructure complexity, followed by lack of control/visibility into the performance of cloud-based applications and infrastructure

For IT professionals to succeed as the hybrid IT era continues to evolve, they must arm themselves with a new set of skills, tools, and resources. Consider the following recommendations:

1. ENSURE CENTRAL VISIBILITY ACROSS ON-PREMISES AND CLOUD ENVIRONMENTS

In the face of enterprise technology’s exponential rate of change, a management and monitoring toolset that surfaces a single point of truth across those platforms is essential. The ability to consolidate and correlate data to deliver more breadth, depth, and visibility across the data center will allow IT professionals to proactively identify and remediate problem areas and reduce the mean time to resolution.

2. CONSIDER MORE THAN JUST COST EFFICIENCY

The findings of this year’s report indicate that cloud’s ability to increase ROI is less important to today’s IT professionals, with security, compliance, and performance now top of mind. With end-user expectations for availability, durability, and an acceptable response time no matter where an application is hosted or from where it’s delivered, IT professionals need to factor in the security and performance requirements of each application prior to migration to cloud services to ensure that Quality of Service is still met throughout the distributed stack.

3. CLOUD-PROOF YOUR JOB

Over the past 12 months, IT professionals ranked hybrid monitoring/management tools and metrics, application migration, automation, and data analytics as the most important skills and knowledge needed to successfully manage hybrid IT environments. In addition to leveraging their peer communities to better understand technology adaptations and abstractions, IT professionals need to establish monitoring as a foundational IT skill, also known as monitoring as a discipline, to drive a more proactive, efficient, and effective IT management strategy.

4. FORECAST FUTURE MIGRATION, BUT REMAIN FLEXIBLE

As illustrated by this year’s report findings, every organization's hybrid IT environment is unique and the velocity, variety, and volume of new technology services are giving ample opportunity to realize innovation. To that end, IT professionals must be open to and agile in adopting the best-of-breed elements of cloud computing and hybrid IT. The best thing for any IT department to do in the year ahead is to build a roadmap for future integration and delivery that will help illustrate ROI and business advantages, or the lack thereof, for business management.

5. BUILD TRUST WITH CLOUD SERVICE PROVIDERS THROUGH IT COMPETENCY

“Trust but verify” should be the IT professional’s mantra in the year ahead, as organizations work to identify how best to maintain an element of control and visibility into workloads and applications that are hosted in the cloud. It will be critical to leverage comprehensive hybrid IT monitoring, beyond what is typically offered by cloud service providers, to ensure they have enough data and visibility to truly understand how workloads are performing in the cloud and the reasons for that performance. Similar to traditional on-premises strategies, application availability and durability are key trust tenets in hybrid IT.
Cloud computing’s mounting importance and the shift to hybrid IT are evolving norms. With the report’s findings in mind, it’s crucial that IT professionals continue to learn new skills and adapt to the ever-changing hybrid IT environment.
Leon Adato is a Head Geek at SolarWinds.


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