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How to architect and manage hybrid multiclouds: New tools required

Jaikumar Vijayan Freelance writer

Enterprise IT organizations that want to adopt consumption-based, on-demand services such as those public cloud providers offer may find integrating and orchestrating resources across multi-cloud, hybrid environments to be a huge challenge.

Existing IT service management tools (ITSM), cloud administrative consoles, and management platforms have been useful to a certain extent—for example, in helping organizations expose some IT resources via service catalogs.  

But to do this on a larger scale across constantly evolving on-premises and cloud environments, organizations will require far more robust capabilities, finds a new report from 451 Research.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report.

The need for unified infrastructure management

The new 451 Research report finds that increasingly there is a need for a unified infrastructure management (UIM) platform that can intelligently integrate, manage, and expose IT services at scale, on demand, and in hybrid, multi-vendor cloud settings.

Such a platform would embody many of the features found in current ITSM and cloud management platforms in addition to having more advanced analytics and automated operations management capabilities.

"A lot of CIOs want their IT organizations to deliver service on demand, just like major cloud service providers offer."
Carl Lehmann, 451 Research analyst

The goal is to provide capabilities allowing users and business units to spin up an entire computing environment in a matter of minutes, and link to various in-house and third-party services as needed via an IT services catalog. Users and businesses have gotten used to the idea of applications delivered to them as a service and now expect the IT organization to offer the same easy access and configurability, Lehmann said.

Maintaining hybrid IT in a multi-cloud world

The challenge lies in providing such a capability in a hybrid, and increasingly multi-cloud, environment. Businesses that have invested heavily over the years in building an on-premises IT capability are unlikely to walk away from that investment. They want to maintain a hybrid model where they can tap cloud benefits while leveraging the existing IT environment.

Concerns over data sovereignty, privacy, and intellectual property are other factors that prompt businesses to continue using a hybrid model, Lehmann said.

In the 451 Research report, some 62% of the 916 IT professionals surveyed said their organizations already have a hybrid environment, with integrated on-premises systems and off-premises cloud-hosted systems. And 39% of respondents in a previous 451 report ("Voice of the Enterprise: Digital Pulse, Vendor Evaluations 2018"; subscription required) said they expect to have workloads running across a combination of on-premises systems and hosted and private clouds by 2020.

For these organizations, the key to providing IT as a service (ITaaS) is having a good understanding of their infrastructure across the entire hybrid environment. They need to know all of the assets available to them on-premises and through third-party cloud service providers, and they must be able to organize those assets so services can be dynamically assembled as required, Lehmann said.

Requirements for IT as a service

Requirements for ITaaS include being able to analyze workloads and figuring out the most cost-effective places for running them. Another key is being able to automatically provision the required compute, storage, network, security, and other resources for executing that workload.

Delivering ITaaS means offering cloud services subscription and services management and providing financial metering, reporting, and chargeback capabilities, according to the report. An ITaaS environment will also support policies for bursting, high availability, disaster recovery, and automatically scaling infrastructure.

"The ITSM environment, the cloud admin consoles, and the cloud management platforms that manage different parts of the infrastructure need to come together in a common framework of federated systems."
—Carl Lehmann

Many of the applications and services that organizations use on-premises and in the cloud are ready to be tied into a UIM-like framework. Nearly all IT vendors have exposed their services via an API, or a series of APIs. So, architecturally, a UIM platform could use those APIs as part of the integration layer that links to various parts of an ITSM platform, or a configuration management database, or the admin console of a cloud service, Lehmann said.

"UIM platforms will work by reaching into and using APIs published by the various vendors of on-premises infrastructure and cloud services, to get the info they need," to provision services optimally," Lehman said. They are different from ITSM and cloud management technology because of their broader reach and greater management and analytics capabilities for assembling, reusing, and exposing IT as a service.

Several vendors have already begun offering UIM tools, including CA, Flexera, and Micro Focus. Multiple global systems integrators—such as Accenture, Cognizant, Wipro, Infosys, and HCL—have some form of UIM capability as well, Lehmann said.

Know what you have, and where it is

So what's a good place for organizations to start to providing a more full-fledged ITaaS capability?

Most enterprises and IT organizations manage IT infrastructure and resources as a set of assets, using either an asset management platform or another technology such as an ITSM platform, a configuration management database, or an enterprise architecture management tool, Lehmann said. So they already have a tool or platform where they can go to get an understanding of the infrastructure they have in place and the services to which they subscribe.

It is from there "you can get a feel for all the stuff you have and all the stuff that is available to you via third-party providers," he said. Taking stock of what you have is a big part of getting started on furnishing an ITaaS capability.

Equally important is an understanding of the core processes that you use to run your business and your IT operations. Each of these processes usually runs in and across various applications, and those applications run across various infrastructures, Lehmann said.

Once you have a firm understanding of the assets you have on hand, and of your core business and IT processes, it's time to identify the services that your enterprise users request most often. Understanding how frequently you are being asked to do certain things is a good way to figure out what to automate next. 

The big reach

Companies that have currently implemented ITaaS tend to fall on opposite ends of the spectrum. On one end are companies that have implemented a relatively basic self-service catalog that's limited to things such as employee onboarding and provisioning access to Word or Excel.

On the other end are more sophisticated IT organizations with next-generation, cloud-native development architectures that can spin clusters, containers, and VMs on demand. Those two extremes need "to come together and meet in the middle," Lehmann said.

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