IT & Systems Management

What hybrid IT really means for your organisation

This is a contributed piece by Kong Yang, Head Geek at SolarWinds


It should come as no surprise that cloud services adoption has seen enormous growth over the past few years. Businesses are keen to wholeheartedly embrace an approach that opts for both on-premises and cloud infrastructure services, with the rich potential of hybrid IT becoming increasingly enticing for organisations looking to meet the demands of a more modern, agile, and interconnected workforce.

The issue, however, is that too few organisations educate themselves in the complexities of hybrid IT adoption, which poses a significant challenge to IT departments hoping to tap into its potential benefits.

SolarWinds recently released the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2017: Portrait of a Hybrid Organisation, an annual study that explores how hybrid IT is impacting the modern organisation. The report captures responses about the benefits, barriers to consumption, and key considerations of implementation from UK IT professionals who have adopted hybrid IT in their organisations.

The research found that 92% of survey respondents said their organisations have migrated critical applications and IT infrastructure to the cloud over the past year, citing benefits such as scalability, improved efficiency, and cost savings as reasons for the move.

The study also sheds light on the struggles, from security/compliance issues to—most pressing—difficulty in ensuring their IT departments are equipped with the skills required to manage a complex new environment.

Why, then, is a gap appearing between the role IT professionals are currently capable of doing, and the role hybrid IT requires them to do? And how can it be addressed?


IT is complicated

For IT professionals, life is growing more complicated. IT professionals can no longer expect straightforward roles and a clear sense of where their duty begins and ends. Cloud services introduce new complexities and technology abstraction. For IT professionals, their role is to figure out a way to monitor and manage the infrastructure while still maintaining the Quality of Service (QoS) that end-users expect. Essentially, they are expected to act as “a master of all trades,” with the ability to turn their hand to any issue throughout an organisation and turn it from a sow's ear into a silk purse.

This expectation has been cultivated by the increasing number of complex applications within an organisation, particularly the evolution towards hybrid IT environments. An IT professional is now expected to address all issues with cloud services, even though they are directly managed by the cloud service provider (CSP), while maintaining the tech debt associated with their on-premises IT services.

This has resulted in a skills gap between the expectations placed on the IT professional and their ability to manage such distributed environments. According to the study, the most important new skills and knowledge required to manage hybrid IT environments include hybrid monitoring/management tools and metrics, application migration, automation, and data analytics.

Many IT professionals, however, are too stretched for time and resources to take on the education and training to learn these new skills. The research found that six out of ten respondents find the skills gap to be the biggest challenge of hybrid IT, while 45% of the study's respondents do not believe that IT professionals entering the workforce now possess the skills necessary to manage hybrid IT environments.

Bridging the skills gap should now be the priority for the vast number of organisations hoping to witness the full extent of hybrid IT's potential. So, how can this be accomplished?


Mind the skills gap

The SolarWinds study revealed that organisations and IT professionals are working together to address the skills gap; in fact, 57% of organisations have already hired/reassigned IT personnel, or plan to do so, for the specific purpose of managing cloud technologies. Yet, more can be done to address the issue holding many companies back.

First, IT professionals need to be able to see across on-premises and cloud environments with single-pane-of-glass visibility throughout the application stack. This is essential to their successful understanding and management of issues that arise in a hybrid IT environment.

A lack of control/visibility into the performance of cloud-based applications and infrastructure was cited as the greatest challenge of hybrid IT, but a comprehensive monitoring and management toolset helps address this, offering the ability to consolidate and correlate data to solve issues faster. Monitoring as a discipline can also be embraced to deliver greater results.

Comprehensive hybrid IT monitoring can also help build trust with cloud providers, ensuring that both IT professionals and those directly managing the consumption of cloud services have the visibility required to manage the environment successfully, understanding performance behaviour and root cause issues. While cooperation within an organisation is a vital factor in the success of a hybrid IT environment, it's equally important to build a relationship with the CSP, where IT professionals have less visibility and control into how the network is run.

An adaptable, flexible approach is also a huge benefit for businesses if they are to make the most of hybrid IT. While plans should be in place regarding continuous integration and continuous delivery, the ever-changing world of cloud computing means that businesses must remain open and agile when opting for a hybrid IT environment.

The research illustrates that successfully managing a hybrid IT environment is a balancing act—not just between on-premises and hybrid solutions, but between realising the approach's benefits while successfully minimising the risk and negatives from its challenges. The SolarWinds research found that nearly three in five organisations have received either most or all expected benefits of the cloud (i.e., cost efficiency, availability, and scalability), so it's no surprise that businesses are eager to turn to hybrid IT.

As the new ecosystem of hybrid IT reveals itself and organisations improve upon integrating and delivering on cloud technology to drive innovation, it will be increasingly critical for them to bridge the skills gap and create a more global, interconnected, and agile workforce.


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