Best of both worlds? Hybrid is here to stay

Hybrid is here to stay, but is managing these complex environments cloudy or clear?

Huge swathes of enterprise data are being shifted into the public cloud, but very real fears surrounding loss of control, long-term security risks, compliance and data sovereignty mean that few CIOs are willing to jump into public cloud wholesale.

Research by Vodafone shows that less than a quarter of IT leaders believe that self-owned datacentres will have disappeared in 10 years time. Datacentre firm Equinix declared that hybrid cloud is the future, as the company is witnessing a rapid growth in the colocation market which offers a middle ground of private storage with lower infrastructure overheads plus superfast, low-latency connection to the public cloud.

Hybrid IT adoption

Several recent studies on hybrid IT adoption back up this claim. A survey of 1,200 IT professionals conducted by ScienceLogic finds that 81 per cent of enterprises have established hybrid IT environments, whilst another by RightScale reports that 82 per cent are pursuing a multi-cloud strategy. These numbers from 2015 all showed significant growth year-over-year, indicating one thing - hybrid is not a transitional strategy, it's the new normal.

Wholly-owned, colocated, public cloud, or multi-cloud? The reality is that each company will have its own unique mix of all of the above, reflecting its legacy IT infrastructure, its current budgets, and operational requirements, and ultimately its ambitions for the future as a business. Which creates a major headache for IT leaders.

Flying blind?

The same survey by ScienceLogic reveals that 62 per cent of IT professional are 'flying blind', with little visibility into their hybrid IT. Given the breadth of types of infrastructure available today, the result is not surprising. While monitoring, reporting and troubleshooting solutions exist for physical, virtual, and cloud environments, they typically exist separately, with different data structures and levels of detail, and require manual intervention to deliver a comprehensive view of the IT infrastructure.

Network managers too regularly 'give up' on the idea of comprehensive monitoring when they place elements of their network into the cloud - it's often seen as the trade-off for the cost and flexibility benefits. But enterprises without 'single pane of glass' visibility will be unable to head off or respond to issues in real time. In January this year, HSBC saw a failure in its servers that left UK online banking customers unable to log in to their accounts for 9 hours. The cause of the issue took more than a day to identify and resulted in national media headlines and angry customers venting their frustrations to millions on Twitter. Failures that cannot be quickly identified have the potential to cause losses ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions of pounds, as well as untold reputational damage.

This situation should no longer be necessary. Intelligent tools are now emerging on the market which offer end-to-end visibility in a hybrid environment. This can involve complete infrastructure monitoring that extends from existing legacy infrastructure—such as physical routers, switches, load balancers, and firewalls— to virtualised and private cloud environments, as well as the public cloud, including Amazon Web Service, Microsoft Azure, IBM SoftLayer, and VMware vCloud Air.

These tools go beyond basic monitoring to include diagnostics for real-time troubleshooting. Beginning with automated discovery and listing of assets across disparate environments, tools can now: map dependencies between assets, processes and services; visualise storage, network and compute components of public cloud vendors; support multi-tenancy by delivering secure, partitioned views to multiple stakeholders in the organisation; and capture packets for analysis. It is certainly not trivial to address these needs through the boundaries between on-premise infrastructure, private clouds, and numerous public cloud platforms, in real time, especially as changes can occur in any one of these segments without notice.

As cloud services have matured and scaled, enterprises are increasingly comfortable transitioning business-critical computing processes and data to those environments. However, few organisations have adopted cloud exclusively, and established companies will need to indefinitely maintain legacy IT infrastructure. Network monitoring is vital to the health of an enterprise, and the perceived complexity of managing a hybrid environment is today no longer an excuse for failure to maintain visibility and control of your firms' essential information.

Sameh Yamany, Chief Technology Officer, Viavi Solutions

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