How DevOps Can Improve Hybrid IT Management
September 16, 2016

Kong Yang
SolarWinds

Hybrid IT – an environment made up of on-premises and cloud services – is the new normal for most IT organizations. In fact, according to a recent SolarWinds survey of IT professionals, 87 percent of organizations have migrated at least some of their infrastructure to the cloud. For organizations with cost and security considerations, which is most, hybrid IT strategies will continue into the foreseeable future.

Despite this industry-wide shift, companies of all sizes still struggle with the challenges of successfully implementing and sustaining an effective hybrid IT ecosystem. However, incorporating the core principles of a DevOps culture into nearly any environment can allow organizations to better and more fully realize the agility and efficiency of cloud-first organizations. It is especially helpful to have DevOps principles ingrained into company culture in the age of hybrid IT, since change management and rapid pivoting are becoming more common.

To start, it's important to distinguish between DevOps and hybrid IT. DevOps is a process and culture associated with cloud-native organizations, especially those in the business of developing software applications. DevOps allows organizations to experience benefits like higher quality software, better performance, agility, responsiveness and scalability. Hybrid IT is simply another method of delivering IT services to end users. However, it aligns perfectly with DevOps' core tenets of increased collaboration, continuous integration and delivery of services – all with a greater focus on end user quality.

One of the biggest benefits a DevOps approach offers organizations is tied to hybrid IT's inherently flexible nature. Providing the choice between leveraging on-premises or cloud services affords IT professionals the ability to consider each workload resource, security and performance needs, among other things, before deciding where it should live. This freedom also allows organizations to deploy and provision infrastructure quickly, which is a prerequisite of some of the main benefits of cloud: agility and scalability.

However, the biggest hurdle in hybrid IT management is that the introduction of cloud services also creates a more complicated change management scenario, as cloud services like SaaS applications can change in the blink of an eye. IT organizations are also faced with the challenge of managing the integration of cloud services delivered via a cloud service provider, and ensuring acceptable quality of service (QoS) to meet the business performance needs of any given service.

By applying a DevOps culture, such as continuous monitoring, performance orientation and collaboration, IT professionals can mitigate the risk associated with the high frequency of change. Ultimately, the biggest benefit of applying a DevOps mentality to a hybrid IT environment is allowing the IT team to more quickly deliver, provision and manage what the business needs and with better quality assurance for the end user.

To successfully leverage the core principles of a DevOps mentality and approach within a hybrid IT environment, IT professionals should consider the following best practices:

1. End User Focus and Service Orientation

In a DevOps environment, the ultimate goal is to deliver greater QoS for end users. To that end, minimizing friction across departmental silos is designed to speed up updates, changes, deployments and time-to-resolution for problems, all of which deliver a better end user experience. Hybrid IT professionals should leverage the benefits of a hybrid approach – faster and more provisioning choices, greater agility and organizational efficiency – to more quickly make updates and changes to the infrastructure, which makes the application more agile, lean and scalable.

2. Optimize Visibility

For hybrid IT environments, a complete view of the on-premises data center and the cloud is critical. With both on-premises and cloud resources to manage in a hybrid IT environment, a management toolset and dashboard that surfaces the single point of truth across those platforms is essential. IT professionals can build a tool, or leverage an end to end solution, to aggregate, consolidate and visualize key performance and events metrics, and glean the key points from the data. The normalization of metrics, alerts and other collected data from applications and workloads, regardless of their location, will enable a more efficient approach to remediation, troubleshooting and optimization – enabling the delivery a quality end-user experience.

3. Collaboration is Key

Whether an application is on-premises or in the cloud, the ultimate objective is to provide the end-user with the most optimal application experience. Everyone is accountable for QoS, which includes application performance. This approach requires transparency, visibility, a consistent set of monitoring tools and teamwork.

4. Monitoring as a Discipline

Investing in a comprehensive approach to monitoring is central for any DevOps/hybrid IT initiative. This type of monitoring tool will allow IT to make informed decisions, and compare performance between on premise and cloud infrastructure. A system that offers actionable insight, such as details on utilization, saturation and errors, is critical for speed, collaboration and QoS.

The DevOps movement has brought us new practices, tools and processes that deliver benefits to IT operations in general. At the same time, hybrid IT offers the flexibility, choice, and scalability of cloud services, along with security and cost savings to business operations. To ensure organizations are able to fully realize the success of a hybrid IT approach, IT professionals can look to adopt and integrate the core principles and best practices of DevOps, including an end-user, service and performance orientation; end-to-end visibility and monitoring with discipline, and collaboration to achieve a more agile, available, scalable and efficient data center.

Kong Yang is a Head Geek at SolarWinds.

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