Streamlining the Management of Hybrid Clouds with IT Operations Analytics

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Summary:

A hybrid cloud incorporates—not just bridges between—public and private clouds, enabling businesses and their IT organizations unprecedented flexibility. But a transition to a hybrid cloud brings its own set of challenges. Sasha Gilenson addresses some of these difficulties and offers some IT operations analytics solutions.

IT operations face stringent requirements from the business related to performance, delays, and service uptimes. Despite the significant interest of large enterprises to move their applications into the cloud, the issue raises major questions related to application performance in the cloud, response times, and data security.

To overcome these concerns, a hybrid cloud brings together the best of a public cloud provider (such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, or Microsoft Azure) with a private cloud platform, designed for use by a single organization. A hybrid cloud incorporates—not just bridges between—public and private clouds, enabling businesses and their IT organizations unprecedented flexibility. It incorporates public clouds for access to a wide array of applications and services, and private clouds for reliable performance and security for critical business applications. Hybrid clouds also increase business agility—the flexibility to use a variety of services, the scalability to keep pace with business volume, the efficiency to keep costs to a minimum, and, of course, the ability to protect data and other technology assets.

There is tremendous drive toward a hybrid cloud today. According to a 2013 special report by Gartner, hybrid cloud computing is at the same place today that private cloud was three years ago: Actual deployments are low, but aspirations are high. The technology research firm predicts that nearly half of large enterprises will likely have hybrid cloud deployments by the end of 2017.

Hybrid Cloud Challenges

The cloud promises security, control, predictability, and easy access to large data sets, and it is set to accelerate the speed of change. As Forrester’s James Staten wrote in a ZDNet article, “Cloud services and SaaS bring high degrees of automation, standardization, and autonomy that empower the business to work faster, more flexibly, and adopt new capabilities more readily. . . . And as clouds deliver a growth proliferation of services, components, and applications that accelerate new business service creation, their appeal will widen further.”

Although it’s reasonable to expect that in the cloud the percentage of faulty changes and time of change will decrease, in absolute numbers, however, the same number of issues remains. Furthermore, incident response becomes a great deal more complex, with lack of visibility into the cloud significantly altering the very fabric of incident response.

High Volumes of Changes

The cloud is characterized by an elevated degree of automation, driving high volumes of changes in applications and infrastructure—for example, automatically moving virtual machines to a new, physical server that supports more processors. Information about the changes is distributed between platform-specific tools (e.g. vCenter), deployment tools, and sometimes a configuration management database or content management system. Some information is simply not available, such as a change in the content of a virtual image. At the same time there is a tremendous amount of such information, making it impossible to validate, investigate, or audit it manually. As a result, information is not accessible or is ignored when environments are updated or when an issue occurs, leading to failed audits, undesired configuration drift, and increased administration costs.

Automation Hides Actual Changes

One key challenge facing IT in the evolving hybrid cloud arena is seeing what the heck is going on! Automation hides the actual changes within automation assets (scripts, images, packages, etc.), which leads to growing complexity for enterprise systems. At the same time the scale of a single change grows. For example, a mistake in a Puppet manifest could be replicated across the entire application estate if not discovered early. Without an automated way to validate deployment results by performing a physical configuration audit, IT organizations face a new level of management difficulty because they must enforce consistent security, ensure compliance with operational and industry regulations, and minimize administration costs across multiple environments.

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