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Hybrid IT management: 5 big trends to watch

Jaikumar Vijayan Freelance writer

A hybrid IT approach enables organizations to take advantage of best-of-breed cloud services while maintaining legacy and sensitive workloads on premises—which is why it's being widely adopted.

In fact, a recent survey of organizations with hybrid IT by 451 Research found that more than six in 10 organizations (62%) already use or plan to use a combination of on-premises systems and cloud-hosted resources to run enterprise workloads.

But, the report cautions, organizations that are not prepared for the complexities of managing these infrastructures could soon be overwhelmed by them. One of the biggest challenges lies in finding a way to integrate and orchestrate IT assets spread across multiple on-premises and cloud environments. The goal is to allow on-demand, consumption-based IT service delivery.  

While current IT service management (ITSM) platforms and cloud administration consoles will continue to be vital, enterprises need other technologies and approaches that can tie them all together across diverse infrastructure.

Here are the biggest and most rapidly evolving trends around hybrid IT management.

Complexity threatens enterprise cloud migrations 

The complexity of hybrid IT management will cause many enterprises to fundamentally rethink their approach to cloud computing, said David Linthicum, chief cloud strategy officer at Deloitte Consulting.

"Over the short term, companies that are struggling to deal with hybrid infrastructure will either pivot to a single public cloud provider model or stop further cloud migration until they figure out a way to solve the hybrid IT management problem."
David Linthicum

Linthicum estimates that around 25% of organizations that are engaged in hybrid IT initiatives fall into this category. "In essence they are going to solve the complexity issue of hybrid IT by either mandating one public cloud, or they are going to stop where they are," Linthicum said.

Another 25% or so of organizations are having trouble with their hybrid IT strategy. These organizations aren't realizing the value they expected from their cloud investments and have started using the cloud for tactical projects and short sprints without any real overarching plans, Linthicum said.

"They are in trouble now and are looking for ways out of a very ugly problem."
—David Linthicum

The remaining 50% are "whistling past the graveyard," he said. Many of these organizations are likely seeing plenty of signs of trouble. They're not getting the value they were expecting from a hybrid approach, but are plowing ahead anyway.

Thought leadership is going to be critical for these companies, or they are going to eventually fail at moving into hybrid IT or even the cloud in general, Linthicum warned. "Probably next year we'll be into an inflection point where people realize this is a problem," he said.

Unified infrastructure management will become a key foundation for hybrid IT

The complexity of harnessing and managing IT resources scattered across on-premises and multi-cloud environments is giving rise to a new generation of unified infrastructure management (UIM) platforms, according to the 451 Research report.

UIMs combine advanced analytics and automated operations tools with many of the features found in current IT services and cloud management technologies, said 451 Research analyst Carl Lehmann.

These platforms' primary function is to bring together, into a common framework, the ITSM environment, cloud administration consoles, and cloud management platforms that organizations currently use to manage different parts of the infrastructure, Lehmann said.

Interest in these platforms is being driven by the need for IT teams to find a way to pool and organize IT assets across a hybrid environment in such a way that services can be dynamically assembled and provisioned on demand.

"Current ITSM and cloud management platforms do not have the reach and are not connected in an effective enough tool chain to enable hybrid infrastructure pooling."
Carl Lehmann

A UIM console is the technology that allows you to understand your infrastructure across the hybrid environment, and "understand all the execution venues that you can rely upon," he said. It helps you understand the services available to you on premises and from third-party cloud providers, and to organize them as assets, Lehmann said.

Several technology vendors and IT service providers already offer UIM platforms and services, including Micro Focus, Flexera, and systems integration companies such as Accenture, Infosys, and Wipro, he said.

Talent management will only get harder

Staff tasked with operating and managing hybrid IT infrastructure is under growing pressure. Many operations people are quitting because of how difficult managing the IT environment has become, Linthicum said.

They are charged with managing on-premises systems, cloud-based systems, and increasingly diverse and heterogeneous databases. Where IT operations teams used to manage three or four databases, they now have 20 or 30. Keeping up requires a constant re-skilling that a growing number of operations staffers are unwilling to do.

"They are getting fed up with failure."
—David Linthicum

IT staff have long been organized and managed by the vertical technology stack in which they are specialists. In a hybrid IT environment, these vertical teams will remain as crucial as ever. But they will need to learn how to collaborate horizontally with other technology teams, according to a Gartner report released earlier this year:

"Because getting people to think beyond their stack is a challenge when the traditional model paid them to be expert in it, IT leaders must hack their culture and get those people out of their bubble."

The success that organizations have with hybrid IT infrastructure will depend on the agility of IT teams to work across disparate technology stacks.

Data breaches will increase

The growing complexity of hybrid environments will give adversaries more openings to exploit and expose organizations to more security risks. Over the next few years many organizations will experience significant data breaches, not necessarily because of a lack of security but because of operational complexity, Linthicum said.

As infrastructure and operations get more complex, IT organizations won't be able to address all the vulnerabilities that might exist in the environment.

"[Adversaries are going to] exploit the situation. Operations teams will not be able to keep up."
—David Linthicum

Cloud vendors have little incentive to change

Vendors can make things easier for customers by making their cloud services more interoperable. But without pressure from enterprises, few are likely to do so. For the foreseeable future at least, the focus for major cloud vendors is to grow market share and retain customers by making it hard for them to move to other service providers.

This situation is not very different than what it was during the mainframe era and with every other major new technology that's come along since, Linthicum said. The reality is that, right now, the cloud suppliers don't have an incentive to change.

Until vendors see see an impact to their bottom line, they are unlikely to focus much on interoperability, Linthicum said

"The only way they will do that is if the users demand it and vote with their dollars."

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