Regaining control of your hybrid cloud

Regaining control of your hybrid cloud

Regaining control of your hybrid cloud

Interview with Drew Firment. Drew has been working in IT Operations for over 30 years. As director of cloud engineering at Capital One, he patented a technique for measuring cloud maturity and delivered the foundational operational solutions that enabled the bank to migrate to Amazon Web Services. In his current role as chief cloud strategist at Pluralsight, Drew helps organizations transform into a cloud-first culture.

When IT leaders start to move assets to the cloud, they often realise that some of their applications and data structures are best kept on premises.

The compromises associated with lift and shift may not be worth the move to the cloud, or they may want tighter control over certain data. One way or another, many CIOs wind up with a hybrid cloud, where an on-prem data center is maintained along with one or more cloud environments. The mixed arrangement brings on a new set of issues that many IT leaders struggle with every day.

The first challenge is that it’s much more difficult to achieve operational excellence when two or more data centers are involved. Some tools work well in one context, but not in others. The same holds true for skilled staff: some are good in one environment, but not in any of the others. Moreover, teams working in different environments rarely get together to come up with common solutions.

Another challenge is security. For example, threats you know how to address on-prem probably require different approaches in the cloud. Basic functions like identify and access management have different implementations from one environment to another—and very few tools for user provisioning, encryption, or key management work the same on the cloud as they do on-prem, or from one cloud provider to another.

For companies in industries like financial services, where compliance is important, a third challenge with a hybrid cloud environment is that it’s more difficult to show you have followed all the rules. You may be compliant, but when your records are dispersed and unconnected, it becomes very difficult to show an audit trail.

Cost optimisation is also difficult in a hybrid cloud. You can be very good at optimising on-prem, or in a particular cloud. But then how do you do load balancing across different environments? How do you manage your service level agreements, not only to the outside world, but also between your environments?

Another set of challenges in a hybrid environment is around orchestrating data pipelines and workloads. “The operational complexity around collecting data from different environments, reliably and in a time manner, generally results in much higher cost,” says Drew Firment, chief cloud strategist at Pluralsite. “The last thing you want when you’re trying to orchestrate a data pipeline is data sprawl. You need to know where your data is, and you need central control. The same is true when you try to orchestrate workloads. Without the tools that work across the different environments, it becomes difficult and costly.”

Using enterprise automation tools

The combination of on-prem and public cloud presents a lot of complexity for CIOs—both in terms of day-to-day operations and in terms of high-value services that give an organisation a competitive advantage. While many cloud providers provide tools that work within a given service structure, IT leaders need something that works across different environments.

“You need tools that are consistent for you developers and engineering staff, regardless of who your cloud provider happens to be—or whether some of your assets are on-prem,” says Firment. “This is especially true when teams are siloed across the different clouds or the different workloads. They don’t master the same set of tools. What you need to bring back control are tools that work everywhere.”

These tools, often called enterprise automation tools, can be used across different data centers and can work with or replace their cloud native counterparts. By offering central control, enterprise automation tools allow administrators to orchestrate data pipelines and workloads across environments, starting with simple scheduling services and moving up to more advanced features, such as setting up workflows to dynamically adjust to planned maintenance in one or more data center.

“When CIOs start using enterprise automation tools, they quickly find out that they can monitor and control all their workloads from a single place,” says Roger Tunnard, CEO of Ignite Technology. “They get secure, role-based access to all management functions—including those associated with compliance, such as audit and reporting. On top of that, they can set up predictive analytics on all their workloads, across all environments, and intelligent alerts to make sure they deliver on their service level agreements.”

Taking back control of IT

During the last year, many IT leaders were surprised by some of their cloud costs and are looking for ways of getting back into the driver’s seat. For CIOs who want to regain control in 2024, Firment says the most important thing is to be purposeful. “Have a plan,” he says. “Your organisation, your departments, and your engineers will really appreciate a clear plan. Don’t be afraid to be prescriptive. There are a lot of best practices out there from organisations that have already had hybrid clouds that you can learn from. Rather than reinvent the wheel, take a page from the playbooks of organisations who have already succeeded with hybrid environments.”

Another piece of advice Firment gives IT leaders is to “be very thoughtful about how you transition from the smartest department in the organisation to the dumbest. You want to set up a center of excellent in the beginning but then you need to build expertise all around the organisation. At the end of the day, you have to empower your people with the skills to do the work. That’s a very tall order when you have a hybrid cloud.”

And the final piece of advice Firment has for CIOs is to drive automation. “Automate as much as you can,” he says. “You really don’t want folks around there click-hopping their way around the different environments. Look for tools that allow you to raise the level of abstraction above a specific environment to give you central control.”

This interview forms part of Ignite Insights Series. Our second event “Managing Hybrid Cloud Costs: The Automation Advantage” is now ready to watch on-demand.