A: Cloud migration is at the core of an IT organization’s digital transformation. But it is also a highly disruptive force. Supporting legacy systems with cloud offerings creates a hybrid IT infrastructure, which poses challenges: breaking down silos and integrating processes, managing data across different systems and software, determining which workloads to migrate, establishing governance and security measures and dealing with shadow IT. But the benefits can be significant: more speed, agility and resilience.
Cloud just doesn’t make the business more efficient - it can transform it.
Organizations need to recognize that a hybrid IT infrastructure is fast becoming the norm. The role of the traditional data center will be relegated to that of a legacy holding area, dedicated to very specific services that cannot be supported elsewhere. In fact, for many organizations, the data center is no longer the center of their data. Hybrid infrastructures are the new reality – encompassing not only on-premises, but colocation, edge, microdata center's, public cloud, SaaS and private cloud.
Gartner's planning assumption is that by 2025, 80% of enterprises will have shut down their traditional data centers, versus 10% today. As interconnect services, cloud providers, the Internet of Things (IoT), edge services and SaaS offerings continue to proliferate, the rationale to stay in a traditional data center will have limited advantages. This is not an overnight shift, but an evolutionary change in how we deliver services to our customers and to the business.
IT infrastructures are changing. Architects and IT leaders need to prepare for that. As a vehicle for next-generation digital business, modern IT infrastructure will be distributed, to wherever it’s needed, to support specific workload types. Essentially, your data center will be everywhere.
A: Workload placement strategies, container management and multi-cloud management, are three areas with significant impact to infrastructure and operations (I&O) organizations.
Let’s start with workload placement strategies.
Workload placement will become a key driver of digital infrastructure delivery. While most organizations won’t end up 100% in the cloud, many of their workloads can be moved elsewhere, but deciding which ones to move can make or break a cloud strategy.
But it’s not so cut and dry. I&O leaders are struggling to find which workloads are best suited for which location – whether its public cloud, hosting, colocation, SaaS, edge or even on-premises. These I&O leaders who have been successful have something in common. They share a strategy that is focused on business value, and not just cloud adoption. They realize that while “cloud first” may be the trend a more realistic model is “cloud first, but not always.”
Determining the right workloads to migrate, at the right time, for the reasons, to the right provider, will be the key to success. With that in mind, I&O leaders are beginning to build IT strategies that focus on their application portfolios, rather than on the physical infrastructure. They’re moving away from traditional IT-architecture-driven decisions toward a services-driven strategy.
I&O teams need to deliver applications more quickly than ever. Getting software products and services out the door faster can translate into increased market share down the road.
Using containers – one of today’s hottest trends – can help enterprises modernize legacy applications and create new cloud-native applications that are both scalable and agile. Container frameworks, such as Docker, provide a standardized way to package applications. Gartner predicts that by 2020, more than 50% of global organizations will be running containerized applications in production, up from less than 20% in 2017.
But what about container management? Containers present the potential for sprawl greater than many virtual machines caused. Currently, there are several container management software solutions on the market and, in many cases, these solutions are allowing enterprises to use containers as a replacement for application servers. Even though application developers are the primary adopters of container technology, container management software vendors are increasingly targeting I&O to develop enterprise wide opportunities.
Bottom line: when opting for a container management solution work with your application developer community early and often to ensure that both I&O and application development requirements are being met equally.
As multi-cloud infrastructures continue to grow, how can you make the model work for you? The biggest obstacle to multi-cloud adoption has been a shortage of reliable management tools, leaving I&O organizations to cobble together their own approaches.
Creating a coherent multi- cloud management strategy means dealing with both the proliferation of new environments and the evolving requirements of supporting new cloud-native services. Consider your organization’s unique requirements and different technologies across disparate cloud platforms. If you’re looking to select the one ideal broad cloud management tool, you may be disappointed. Successful cloud management deployment requires multiple, disparate tools and the skills to integrate them. You need an agreed-upon vision shared across the organization as to how cross-platform management will be delivered. The result: a well-defined, systematic approach to defining requirements that also ensures tools are matched to those requirements. The aim: minimize the number of tools needed.
Remember this: cloud management tooling is focused on solving different management challenges. Consequently, the breadth and depth of service offering will vary widely between solutions.
A: I would boil them down to these four: breaking vertical silos, skills development, IT brokerage and the need to embrace emerging roles.
Right now, the business appetite for rapid change and the complexity of infrastructures and technology solutions are at an all-time high, placing heightened demands on I&O leaders to develop staff skill sets. That pressure is intensified by budget realities, which for many restrict an increase in head count. And even those with additional budget have discovered that the market for highly skilled staff who truly understand hybrid infrastructure support is limited, and very expensive. However, much of I&O talent resides in silos of technology expertise. The question is, how can you break down these silos and develop the talent within to deliver hybrid infrastructure at the pace demanded by digital business? An essential step is developing your staff’s versatility. In essence, creating a new role: that of IT versatilist.
Developing staff versatility means complementing your team’s vertical expertise with additional capabilities, focused on business knowledge and provider knowledge. An IT versatilist can break through the narrow thinking of a single technology silo and offer broader thinking to make the business-provider relationship work – a relationship in today’s distributed digital infrastructure. It’s up to I&O leaders to identify and develop the individuals who demonstrate these key capabilities.
By 2021, 40% of IT staff will be versatilists, holding multiple roles, most of which will be business-related, rather than technology-related.
The bottom line: The versatilist role profile is replacing specialists and generalists, and is an I&O leadership imperative for success with new product-oriented I&O operating models (digital business, platforms, cloud, DevOps, etc.)
Talent and skills are the top internal constraints to digital business growth. As IT infrastructure evolves new roles are emerging. Chief among them is the IT cloud broker, responsible for the monitoring and management of multiple cloud service providers. Next is the IoT architect, tasked with understanding the potential impact of multiple IoT systems on infrastructures.
You should also be prepared to expand I&O skill sets, practices and procedures to accommodate cloud-based operations, including the protection, backup and recovery of cloud-based data. Also, do not assume that cloud workloads will manage themselves. Those workloads that are migrated still need to be managed, and in most cases your customers won’t be calling the cloud provider with performance issues – they’ll be calling you.
A: To be successful in this new environment, IT ops leaders should focus on workload management, global infrastructure delivery and new approaches to asset discovery and management.
As hybrid IT infrastructure evolves a new design model is emerging: global infrastructure delivery. This model allows I&O leaders to choose the best combinations of attributes from internally and externally sourced services. Despite the increasing adoption of cloud services, a complete transition to the cloud may be unlikely for most enterprises. What’s more likely is that the infrastructure for the foreseeable future will be hybrid, and the use of colocation, edge and associated cloud resources will be critical to its success.
What does that mean for workload management? Your strategy should focus on the service being delivered to the business, not the physical infrastructure it is being delivered on. This change in viewpoint means that the resulting application or workload could reside in many different places or be supported by many different providers. Where should it be placed? Start by asking business-related questions for each application workload that IT supports or develops. As mentioned earlier, not all workloads are created equally. Assessing the answers for each of your workloads will help you define your infrastructure delivery model for the future.
In a distributed digital environment, with its hybrid mix of sourcing and architectures, the physical location of an asset won’t be as clearly defined, even though its attributes, performance, KPIs and cost still will have a significant impact on how I&O delivers services. Ultimately, I&O remains responsible for both the assets and the end-user experience. Global infrastructure management will need to provide the tools for I&O to monitor and manage any asset or process, anywhere, at any time.
Distributed digital infrastructures are creating a situation in which I&O needs infrastructure monitoring that goes beyond the on-premises domain of most data center infrastructure management (DCIM) tools. DCIM tools are expected to change significantly in coming years. In the short term, we’ll see an extension of the DCIM model so that its ability to identify the location of assets spreads beyond the data center. The model will become more inclusive and will evolve to incorporate predictive analytics so that eventually organizations can discover and manage a distributed infrastructure from a central location.
A: For I&O leaders, security and risk issues run the gamut from business continuity management to DevOps. But what I’d like to focus on are GDPR and general security issues surrounding hybrid IT infrastructure.
When the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect on May 25, 2018, it applied to all companies processing and holding the personal data of EU residents, regardless of the company’s location. What are the implications for I&O leaders? GDPR is a complex regulation with no specific guidance on public cloud computing. Nonetheless, it creates issues for organizations that process personal data in the public cloud, regarding the rights of data subjects, data residency and cross-border transfers of personal data. Unfortunately, many organizations simply don’t know the level of support their cloud providers can offer.
However, to ensure that your cloud infrastructure and cloud-based workloads are moving toward compliance you can initiate these three steps. One, perform a gap analysis between the current policies for data subjects, controllers and processers, as well as cross-border transfer and data residency, against the requirements specified in the GDPR. Two, identify the actions required for achieving GDPR compliance such as adapting workloads at different stages of the cloud journey and checking data residency requirements. And three, ask all public cloud service providers your working with to provide the required certification.
When it comes to enterprise blockchains, be aware that they may contain personal data subject to GDPR requirements. If that’s the case, be prepared to collaborate with key people within your organizations – application leaders, architects, data protection officers – to identify the impact GDPR requirements may have on your blockchain initiatives.
A: As more and more organizations move to hybrid cloud architectures, confusion around security increases. The challenge with hybrid IT infrastructure is that you need to develop security policies that work in a world of combined – both on- and off-premises – ownership models.
Even though you may manage your on-premises data center with a series of trusted policies and procedures, those policies and procedures may not be easily transferable to the cloud. For your hybrid infrastructure, your ultimate goal should be to configure and maintain security policy in a uniform way across the board. However, if you’re dealing with one or more cloud provider, then meeting that goal can be tricky. Since cloud platforms are not all the same, transferring security features can be onerous. If you’re dealing in a multi-cloud environment, the issues become more complex. That’s why many IT leaders are looking to a multi-cloud management platform to reduce the complexity of centralizing security policies.