A team is only as strong as its weakest player, so the old adage says. As IT teams flex their muscles to address modern infrastructure challenges stemming from e-commerce, exploding data volume, emerging technologies and new environments alike, it’s a competitive market – where wins are fiercely fought for and the “championship” of long-term business vitality is always up for grabs.
Hybrid cloud is changing the game for IT infrastructure. As public cloud adoption escalates, companies pivot from “Should I adopt public cloud?” to “How should I incorporate the public cloud into my existing on-premise infrastructure alongside private cloud environments?”
Many companies might wonder where to start: what to migrate first or how to find the optimal balance of public and private cloud for their infrastructure needs. A rule of thumb may be to keep databases with confidential information and your organizations’ “special sauce” – such as financial systems, HR systems and payroll, personal customer data – on premise, while moving web servers, storefront servers and the like – basic servers doing minimal processing, passing data over to locally-hosted servers – to public cloud environments.
And companies are choosing to migrate more of their data and workloads to the public cloud, as the perceptions of risk related to data security have begun to diffuse and public cloud offerings have revealed their ability to tackle fears head-on.
However, as companies become more open to public cloud adoption as part of a hybrid cloud strategy, new reservations replace fears of compromised data. What resources are needed to tackle public cloud?
Certainly there are different skills necessary when compared to traditional infrastructure provisioning, deployment, monitoring and management. What’s driving hybrid cloud adoption – reduced total cost of ownership, the ability to more quickly scale, building redundancies that make sense and creating greater efficiencies – requires new skillsets; or rather, smart ways to build upon existing skillsets to adapt most quickly to change.
Building the Dream Team
Talent that works well together builds teams that are most effective: this as true in the world of sports as it is in the world of IT. Because building a good team and identifying talent is arguably the most important component of a successful hybrid cloud strategy, they deserve careful consideration.
There should be synergies between public and private cloud management, whether done in-house or outsourced to a managed service provider. As hybrid cloud becomes more prevalent, lines of communication between hardware and software must be ramped up: server gurus, web masters, networking mavericks and database whizzes should be on speed dial to keep hybrid cloud running in harmony.
With hybrid cloud, it’s not either/or – companies need both traditional server engineers and developers to address both sides of the hybrid coin. Skillsets are becoming more nuanced, too – so as new public cloud vendors and applications appear on the horizon, additional certifications and a growing depth of knowledge across different cloud platforms are in order to stay fresh and competitive.
Who do you need on your team? No one skillset trumps the other as team members work together to keep hybrid cloud infrastructure humming. Here’s the lineup:
1. Networking Maverick: A tried-and-true teammate, they’ll handle the network for private cloud infrastructure, while understanding network design and DMZ base for public cloud environments like AWS.
2. Security Expert: Public cloud offers security tools that can be built upon, and security experts know when to deploy IPS intrusion prevention systems on top of IDS intrusion detection systems to stop DoS attacks in their tracks. This includes dual factor authentication for an additional layer of security on the web.
3. Server and Storage Guru: This teammate has sophisticated knowledge of one or multiple operating systems and servers that house them, as well as the back-ups required to build redundancy. Managing utilization like CPU and memory help drive underlying efficiency across infrastructure, making the decision to deploy hybrid cloud supported by service improvements. Business continuity is essential to digital business, and having hybrid cloud provides new options to protect your data across environments. Defense is the best offense, so they’ll make sure you’re covered.
4. Application Database Prodigy: Installing and monitoring applications and databases ensures businesses have what they need at their fingertips to make things happen. With data running fluidly from cloud-based applications, ensuring data can be collected properly and that everything runs as it should with necessary updates is paramount.
5. Developer Dynamo: The new all-star in town is the developer, as the public cloud requires a completely different skillset than traditional rack-and-stack infrastructure supports. All things web development runs through them, making sure you’re building on the cloud with ease.
It’s clear many skills are needed to create a deep IT bench for successful hybrid cloud deployment and management, and with public cloud in particular having a strong developer in the mix is the lynchpin for success.
Regardless of how you build your infrastructure and devOps teams, leveraging public cloud adds an additional level of complexity when dealing with behemoths like Microsoft and Amazon. Businesses may have a firm grasp on their private cloud management, but want to separately deploy a public cloud. Will relying on AWS or Azure support staff be sufficient given existing staff and headcount? How can companies benefit from shared knowledge and team integration with their existing infrastructure support? And, are they monitoring your systems 24 x 7, watching for alerts, and taking action to fix and elevate issues for SOP-driven work?
Adding a Face to Public Cloud
When taking on the public cloud, having the strategy and resources to scale quickly from your virtual servers helps make the most of what public cloud has to offer. Rather than continually scouting for talent or dealing with generic support from the public cloud major players, having a single resource to oversee it all – one who understands your existing infrastructure, applications and business objectives and can proactively monitor across environments – helps drive efficiencies across the board.
If a business, for example, knows they’ll need to add 1,000 web servers for a high-volume period, a service provider could easily spin up new servers to take on that load in the cloud in a matter of days – so that it’s business as usual for in-house IT without having to worry about surges in activity.
To simplify a complex process and remain as agile as possible, companies should seek to consolidate the number of stakeholders needed to communicate changes, troubleshoot and escalate issues when necessary: with more cooks in the kitchen, outsourcing different components of this work is a clear advantage for time-strapped IT departments. And because IT talent is in high demand, having one entity to call to cover all of your bases for hybrid cloud management saves time, money and sanity. But companies need to feel confident in the talent of service providers when calling upon them to be a seamless extension of their IT.
Outsourcing: The Best Offense
To counteract the complexities of modern infrastructure, service providers stay on top of their game. By providing foolproof back-ups and being the first to flag and correct issues and trends spotted from 24/7 monitoring, your MSP becomes your MVP – it’s their job to rotate the resources and keep the right players in motion to make IT run smoothly, so that new value can be added to business goals by in-house IT.
When business thrives, the benefit of hybrid cloud is that infrastructure can easily stretch when you need it, as you need it, so decisions can be made without high capital expenditures on hardware. Having a proactive go-to on hand to keep tabs on that activity will help make it easy to envision a can-do attitude toward taking on growth.
“Who can I call when issues arise? Do I know the person on the other end of the line?”
These questions might keep companies up at night spinning up to public cloud from an existing private cloud environment. The need to establish trust comes up again and again as a characteristic that moves to the top of the list of necessary (albeit soft) skills to seek out when navigating uncharted territories. The person – or people – a company can rely on to break down a complex process into a digestible set of steps makes hybrid cloud seem more feasible; a partner that a business can lean on to troubleshoot issues swiftly, an ally to investigate and spot system issues before anyone else can, an expert to seek counsel from when new trends create opportunities for infrastructure development.
All of these scenarios play out in the real world of IT: day in and day out, companies must both react to system activity and look ahead to anticipate what standards they must comply with, what technology they must adapt and what applications they must incorporate into their domain.
If a business is in it to win it, the quality of IT that supports it will make or break its strategy in a digital world. Having the right team at the helm for hybrid cloud management means game-on to advance IT infrastructure.
(About the author: Peter Salamanca is vice president of infrastructure at TriCore Solutions)
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