Buying Decisions

The role of hybrid cloud management tools in today's IT shops

Hybrid cloud is still a new concept for many IT shops. Learn about the most common enterprise use cases for hybrid cloud, and how automated management tools play a critical role in deployment success.

When organizations pursue a hybrid cloud platform, it's often because end users on the business side sell the idea of going hybrid to the CIO or IT director. Then, it's up to the IT team to explain the concept of hybrid cloud management tools to a CEO and, most importantly, ensure executives understand the ramifications.

IT today is cost-conscious, so every IT decision becomes a dollars and cents discussion. Real issues like data loss, security and agility need to be quantified in dollar terms, or at least ballparked, to move forward with a decision. Cloud decisions, in particular, are also ongoing, as data center teams must react to new hardware and software approaches in a quickly evolving space.

A hybrid cloud platform offers a way to structure the dialog around IT automation, agile workflows, departmental autonomy and security and governance, all while streamlining operations. But the first step in this selling process begins at home. Buyers must understand the value proposition of hybrid cloud and the hybrid cloud management tools it requires, as well as how those tools apply to their set of use cases.

Hybrid cloud management tools and use cases

Hybrid cloud deployments and the automated tools IT teams need to manage them vary considerably by use case. The tools an organization needs is determined by what it is trying to do with hybrid cloud.

Let's dive into some common use cases -- such as cloudbursting, unique security and cost requirements, and test and development -- for hybrid cloud.

1. Cloudbursting is characterized by bursty or highly variable workloads that normally remain on premises in a private cloud, but then use public cloud resources when more capacity is needed. The approach is a major benefit of hybrid cloud, since it allows IT teams to size on-premises resources to average rather than peak workloads. It also helps reduce software licensing and hardware costs.

Let's dive into some common use cases -- such as cloudbursting, unique security and cost requirements, and test and development -- for hybrid cloud.

Cloudbursting requires an agile control structure for vLAN configuration, data positioning, image management and security, as there's little value in a cloudbursting system that takes minutes to start up. Responding to transient changes in cloudbursting demand is also important, since setting up public cloud instances to handle possible peak loads, rather than minute-by-minute levels, also wastes money.

Cloudbursting requires a sophisticated and automated orchestration tool that can handle hybrid environments, especially since many organizations will use multiple public cloud platforms simultaneously in the future.

Data placement is a major issue in cloudbursting. Anticipatory caching is one answer, which involves using the public cloud as the lowest-cost primary storage, with the caching happening in-house on the private cloud. Alternatively, colocation of storage is also an answer. More sophisticated approaches use a form of data sharding to apply bursting to a limited segment of the data set and thereby limit cross-zone transfers. In all these cases, IT teams need some form of tool set to ensure data is available as soon as instances can use it.

2. Unique security and compliance requirements demand that some applications be left on premises, while others move to public cloud. These are governance issues, but remember that departmental users drive the apps, build images and place data.

Policies that list approved apps for public cloud are not an effective way to control app and data governance. This requires a tool set of its own, with policy-based controls, automated app screening, controls on image, app and software as a service (SaaS) sourcing, as well as a data firewall that limits what data can move out of house.

Security and governance in hybrid cloud also require a monitoring system that can detect out-of-compliance situations. Such a system should offer up red-flagged issues across both in-house and public cloud operations, while also monitoring attempts -- accidental or deliberate -- to circumvent compliance controls.

3. It makes sense to apply some form of cost control to cloud usage. This gets much more pressing with public cloud usage, which could easily expand to serious levels if departmental cloud tenants fail to apply good management.

With many options open to cloud users, it can be difficult to keep control. Waste will occur unless some guidance comes forth from central IT regarding which apps to run and where to run them. Admins can achieve this by using an in-house storefront tool to limit choices and prices. Services such as virtual desktops figure into the equation, and this will require users to properly apply high-level policy agreements.

The tenants will be well served if central IT negotiates bulk pricing and controls licenses. The latter may have implications on where apps can run, and admins will again need policy management software to limit users. License restrictions may control whether apps can run solely in-house or also in public clouds.

4. Test and development occurs more and more in a public cloud sandbox, especially if developers want to experiment with new instance classes and storage features. At some point, though, they'll likely want to pull the experiment into mainstream operations in either or both the private and public cloud segments.

The chosen hybrid cloud management tools for test and dev need to simplify this process, either by providing migration features or allowing sandbox segmentation within the hybrid cloud environment.

5. Storage capacity on the public and private cloud is already complex. We have a variety of storage spaces for backup and archiving, as well as day-to-day operations, all of which need monitoring and management. Again, policy controls are required to properly follow legal and internal governance rules.

One challenge for IT teams is to control the total storage pool to protect against data loss, while also limiting costs. SaaS approaches attempt to address this challenge through offering a completely managed pool that the customer can divide up as needed.

This approach solves the hardware platform management and most procurement issues, but still leaves the question of allocation and the separation of private data and data allowed to flow into the public cloud. This is a developing area for hybrid cloud management tools, as satisfactory tools are generally lacking.

Selling the CIO on hybrid cloud management tools

After admins assemble and sandbox potential hybrid cloud management tools, the next step is to approach the CIO or IT director.

Consider presenting a PowerPoint with a cost-benefit analysis to support your pitch to the CIO. Some strong, supporting points for hybrid cloud management tools are:

  • Policy driven management tools reduce central IT workloads by allowing those admins to focus on building robust, efficient and cost-effective templates that departmental staff can easily use. Financially, there are savings from:

a)     Central IT admin headcount dedicated to the support of departmental work;

b)    Reductions in central IT support;

c)     Elimination of human error in setup and control;

d)    Elimination of delays in defining and testing setup scripts for instances and vLANs; and

e)     Automated, app-driven triggering of instances for cloudbursting, with reduced wait times during instance startup and a timelier tear-down of unneeded instances.

  • Improved security due to the virtual elimination of shadow IT through the policy-based control of apps, images and data flows, and reduced risks of hacking or accidental data loss
  • Automated governance processes that limit costly mistakes and reduce the cost of demonstrating compliance
  • Financial benefits from cloudbursting, archiving and backup to the public cloud and the ability to support rolling upgrades and similar cost mitigations in-house
  • Overall financial benefits from a more responsive IT department, reflected not only in shorter projects and improved productivity in IT itself, but improved agility and responsiveness at the departmental level.

Adding automated management tools to a hybrid cloud platform is both essential and beneficial. As always, the devil is in the details, but the outline above should help teams narrow their choice of management tool based on the hybrid cloud use case.

Next Steps

Learn the basics of hybrid cloud management and what the tools do

Read about the challenges facing hybrid cloud management tools today

Learn how to keep up with the fast evolving market of hybrid cloud management tools

This was last published in December 2016

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