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Four pointers on managing a hybrid IT environment

What’s known as multicloud IT operations today often involve more than just cloud computing. A company might have data and applications with several cloud providers — on cloud infrastructure provided by Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, on a developer-friendly platform as a service and on an internal private cloud, built on premises.

But unless the company was recently founded — in which case it most likely is all cloud — it probably has at least a portion of its data and software on physical servers. That’s why hybrid cloud, and the larger universe in which it exists, the hybrid IT environment — part cloud resources, part on-premises — is becoming the norm today.

‘A better IT’

Adroitly managing that mix of cloud and on-premises IT operations is key to getting benefits such as greater IT efficiency and lower overhead costs, said Murali Balcha, founder and CTO of Trilio, a data protection service provider in Hopkinton, Mass.

“Essentially, the idea is to leverage the capabilities of various cloud software to implement a better IT for yourself,” Balcha said at the recent OpenStack Summit in Boston, a gathering of users of and contributors to the open source software platform.

Organizations that properly manage a hybrid IT environment, Balcha said, can take advantage of the public cloud when they need it — for moving workloads from on-premises to cloud as needed; shifting applications among different cloud deployments; and dialing up public cloud resources if business demands call for it.

But setting up such an operation is no simple task, Balcha said. On-premises servers and cloud need to be in sync – they must have access to the same data sets. “You need to have this layer where this data access flows between on prem and all the clouds within the hybrid cloud,” he said.

Characteristics of hybrid IT

Balcha detailed what he called four enablers of a hybrid IT environment:

Data capture must be platform-agnostic. Data has to be captured — acquired and stored — and applications have to run in not just one provider’s cloud, but in each one an organization uses, Balcha said.

“We deploy lots of applications in IT, but [most organizations] don’t capture these data sets in a way that is consumed across all the clouds,” Balcha said. “If you can’t consume your data sets that you are deploying on one cloud on a different cloud, that limits what you can do with the hybrid cloud.”

Standardizing on a common platform such as OpenStack is one way to go, he said. That way, on-premises servers and cloud deployments are all running on the same operating system.

Data sets need to be mobile. Organizations have to be able to securely move data from cloud to cloud, Balcha said, so they can “run some applications on the same data set on a different cloud.”

The best way to move data among clouds is by using cloud storage, Balcha said, Amazon’s Simple Storage Service being the most popular. Cloud storage can also be used to access the data wherever it lies.

Applications have to be reorchestrated. For cloud deployments, orchestrating means rearranging processes and components so systems running in far-flung locations are connected. Once applications can be moved among on-premises and cloud deployments, organizations need to reorchestrate them, Balcha said.

For example, an application running in a private cloud built on OpenStack has to be refitted for AWS, but that’s relatively easy, Balcha said, as long as virtual machines and other resource types are in a standard format.

A single pane of glass is needed to manage all clouds. In a hybrid IT environment, Balcha said, all cloud deployments should be managed through one management console on a computer monitor, say, or a mobile device screen.

If an organization has four cloud deployments, “You should not feel that you need to log into all four different clouds,” Balcha said, so single sign-on is necessary. The less complexity exposed to users, the better. “The single pane of glass should hide all the details and provide you one simple interface.”

To find out how organizations today are dealing with multicloud environments, read this SearchCIO report.