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Are You Hybrid Cloud Ready?

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Are You Hybrid Cloud Ready?

Written By Leon Adato, Head Geek, SolarWinds

If it hasn't already (which, honestly, would be surprising), cloud is coming to your IT department. Despite the promises of some marketing materials, cloud services aren't completely "bullet-proof," nor are they one-size-fits-all solutions. If you're having a crisis of IT faith when it comes to the inevitable move away from on-premises and into the world of cloud-native and hybrid IT installations, fear not. More and more IT departments are faced with customer expectations for cloud-enabled experiences in their applications, and hybrid cloud strategies can be implemented to help meet those demands. In a sense, hybrid cloud is the best of both worlds for companies who are still on the fence about cloud, or don't have the flexibility to migrate to the public cloud. For those companies, hybrid cloud provides the peace of mind of on-premises with the agility, scalability, and flexibility of cloud.

Know Your Use Case and Your IT Department

As with any IT project, the first step is to understand goals and set expectations accordingly. IT departments must remember the cardinal rule of cloud mentioned above: one-size-fits-all does not fit all. In SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2018: The Intersection of Hype and Performance, 94% of respondents indicated that cloud/hybrid IT are one of the top five most important technologies to their organization's IT strategy, so cloud isn't going away any time soon. Although most installations will be multi-cloud, remember that each organization requires their own strategy and you must be prepared to deliver it.

If it hasn't happened to you already, you'll probably be approached and asked to do something that you simply don't know how to do. Maybe you've never written a single line of code and only know one definition of "chef" and "puppet"-the ones that are decidedly non-technical-but now the DevOps team has asked you to take over the entire set of Jenkins, Kubernetes, Chef, and Puppet-based provisioning tools. After all, you're in the IT department, this is IT stuff, you're the tech pro, and that title clearly spans every piece and aspect of technology. So how do you prepare?

Preparing to Build

To illustrate the first step in this process, let me start with an old joke. A truth-seeker goes up a mountain to meet a wise guru and asks him the secret to happiness. The guru replies, "good judgment." When the truth-seeker asks the guru how to cultivate good judgment, the guru responds, "experience." For his final question, the truth-seeker asks how to gain said experience, to which the wise guru responds, "bad judgment." What can you learn from this story? There is no greater teacher than experience.

Here's the good news for IT: there are plenty of opportunities to gain experience to help avoid unintentionally using bad judgement. These are ways to "fail" without costing your company money, jeopardizing your staff, losing your data, becoming vulnerable for a security breach-whatever keeps you up at night. Remember all those cloud services you were worried about? Start experimenting with them now. Every cloud platform has a free tier. Every cloud environment has both vendor-employed advocates and external voices of experience that nail down several "gotchas" quickly, simply, and clearly. While these are not step-by-step instructions or the keys to success on a single brass ring, if you're dedicated to exploring all things cloud, these resources will help guide you. In fact, get "good" at this the same way you got good at installing Windows from disks (would those quality as the "good ole days?").

Additionally, always remember to fight the good fight, even if the going gets rough. Because so much depends on you providing good guidance, don't let the accounting department or the C-suite dictate poor technical choices without a fight. When you do, be sure to make the reasons compelling to the business, not the technicians, and you'll have a solid chance. I know you're thinking that's easier said than done, but you have a few tools at your disposal: Use data to your advantage. Distill data into actionable, business-digestible insights that management can use to make informed decisions that will help move the business forward. Your opinion will become more valuable and you may even earn yourself a long-term seat at the strategy table. Along these lines, don't be afraid to ask questions or question assumptions if you think something can (or should) be done differently or better. If you offer helpful solutions that avoid potential issues, your colleagues or customers will be glad you did.

Setting Up for Success

Just like cloud is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, there isn't one single best practice for building and implementing hybrid cloud solutions. It's contingent upon your IT department's journey to the cloud, the team's specific skill levels, intentions/planned use of cloud solutions, and, as mentioned above, your customers' cloud needs. If moving something directly to cloud seems overwhelming, look at migration to a vRO/vRA system and see how it performs. Test the waters if you don't feel comfortable diving in head-first and recognize that you're not alone-last year at VMworld, AWS announced an on-premises solution. Meaning, you can build for cloud inside the DC, and if it has the correct operating parameters, it's push-button simple to move to the actual cloud down the road.

One universally relevant best practice, however, is-say it with me-monitoring. If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: monitor. How can IT work to best align workloads and applications to specific needs? Well, you can't know "best" or even "normal" if you don't have a baseline. Monitor workloads to get that baseline and go from there. In cloud, monitor for the bottom of the graph as well as the top; in this case, make sure you do not have systems that are running but not used. Incorporate monitoring into your solution from the get-go to ensure it's not pushed to the back burner and never implemented.

Cloud is Coming for You (in a Good Way)

I can assure you, cloud is coming for your IT department if it hasn't already set up shop. There are plenty of ways to set yourself and your department up for success. One more trick to get your "head out of the sand" about cloud is to work on a small project that matters to you, something that brings you joy. Use something where you're already familiar with the complexities of the topic-Dungeons & Dragons (my personal preference), a comic collection database, a bowling league scorekeeper, or an online fantasy football app are all great options. Or, if you want the whole IT department to get on board, try building a comp time tracking system. Whatever you do, pick something you care about and know inside and out, and bring it to the cloud.

Full disclosure: you probably won't achieve cloud nine at first, but we all know experience is the best teacher. There are plenty of ways for you to learn cloud in a safe place and bring the skills and knowledge you gain from experimenting to the workplace. If you want to hear me discuss this further, check out a recent episode of SolarWinds new podcast, TechPod.


About the Author


LEON ADATO, Head Geek, SolarWinds

Leon's 30 years of network and systems management and monitoring experience spans the financial, healthcare, food and beverage, and other industries, with 20 years focused specifically on monitoring and management.

Before he was a SolarWinds Head Geek, Adato was a SolarWinds software user for over a decade. He launched his IT career in 1989 and his expertise led him through roles as a classroom instructor, courseware designer, desktop support tech, server support engineer, and software distribution expert.
Published Thursday, March 14, 2019 11:45 AM by David Marshall
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