Four best practice tips for creating an effective hybrid IT union

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It’s truly amazing that weddings actually work. The bride and groom bring together a vast collection of people and service providers for a celebration and expect it all to go to plan. It’s hard to imagine another scenario where all these personalities – your university mates, your buddies from work, the uncle you’ve not seen in years – would end up in the same room together, let alone in a conga line together.

The hybrid IT environment today isn’t dissimilar to a wedding. Companies combine independent application stacks, vendors, and facilities into one portfolio and hope it will work both as expected and effectively – the difference is that in IT, it has to work for an extended period of time, not just one special day.

Hybrid infrastructure is becoming the norm. Research from RightScale’s 2015 State of Cloud survey indicates that more than half (55%) of companies are planning for hybrid clouds and distributing their workloads across public and private clouds. We see customers begin their hybrid journey each day. Below are four ways you can set your business up for hybrid IT success.

Look for reasonable continuity

When planning a wedding, it’s handy if possible to find vendors that are familiar with each other and can easily collaborate on things like food and entertainment. Hybrid environments can benefit from the same thing, except it’s almost equally important to know where familiarity is not possible.

The chance that all your infrastructure providers will use the same hardware vendors is extremely slim, but that’s okay. If you’re deeply into virtualisation, then a common hypervisor is helpful. The application or workload is the main thing that matters, but having the common thread at the virtualisation layer can simplify the migration and ongoing management process. You also should be able to find common identity management protocols across your hybrid providers.

Networking can be particularly risky — never assume that all the vendors within your hybrid architecture can support the same network topology and appliances. One underrated area of continuity is managed services. Having a single provider for managed services across your hybrid infrastructure can go a long way to simplifying operational costs.

Group like-minded items together

One of the most fun – yet frustrating – parts of planning any wedding is the seating arrangements. Who can sit together? Who needs to stay far, far away from each other? Consider the same things when plotting out your application portfolio, especially when it comes to performance, and minimising latency.

Try not to overthink your migration. Instead of breaking them up into fragments, move entire systems as a single unit. Keep applications close to the data they use. You want to have the systems that require synchronous access to data to be physically co-located. For distributed systems, invest in your messaging backbone so that you can efficiently and reliably transfer data over a long distance when physical pairing is neither possible nor practical.

When you have shared resources, such as a data warehouse, there isn’t a single, ideal location to put it where each system can access it with low latency. Put those particular assets into the most logical place, then work out the paths that applications and users have to take to reach it.

In your hybrid environment, deploy applications and data together, and geographically near their user base. If that’s not possible, explore caching and replication options that provide those applications close access to data, even if it’s not the master copy.

Don’t put all your faith in a single broker

When it comes to hybrid infrastructure, I have some bad news for you. The ‘single pane of glass’ is a myth. While incredibly seductive, the notion that you can manage your distributed IT assets from a single tool is not a reflection of reality.

Of course, there are some fantastic multi-cloud tools in today’s market. VMware’s vRealize does an excellent job brokering communication across clouds and provides operators with a handy day-to-day interface for managing infrastructure. But it’s difficult, perhaps even impossible, to find one, single platform that entirely aggregates all the functionality of both cloud and on-premises environments. Those applications are useful for many routine activities, but you often have to go directly to the vendor yourself when you need something specific such as account management, billing, or unique platform features.

We wholly recommend partnering with vendors that can help you manage your distributed assets more easily, but be careful not to fall into the trap of believing that this is the only way that you can manage your infrastructure. In the majority of cases, a native interface gives the best experience for dealing with that provider’s environment.

Accept that things don’t always go to plan

Your wedding day is often the biggest event of your life. The bride may have planned every detail in her head since the age of eight, but then real life happens. You’re not actually going to get Bon Jovi to sing for you all, and you couldn’t have anticipated that the charming ring bearer would bring a pet bunny to the ceremony.

The IT transformation that comes alongside a hybrid strategy is both exciting and scary. While you may think that tons of upfront planning will mitigate your risk, bringing a stack of “requirements” to your vendors may leave you very disappointed with the complexity needed to support it. You should instead be prepared to challenge your own status quo, and stay open minded about the process and technology changes that may need to happen as things evolve. Keep the plan adaptable as you learn more. This will yield you far better results than fixed specifications that your partners will struggle to comply with.

21st century companies do best when they’re positioned for adaptability, rather than just efficiency. You can unleash your organisation’s creativity with hybrid infrastructure, but only if your approach is practical and you keep your expectations realistic.

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