Hybrid cloud environments have become the norm among most businesses. In our latest Voice of the Enterprise: Digital Pulse, Budgets and Outlook 2019 survey, we asked 916 IT professionals to describe their overall IT approach and strategy. Among the respondents, we found that

  • 62 percent said they now use a hybrid IT environment with integrated on-premises systems and off-premises cloud/hosted resources
  • 17percent said their IT environment is completely off-premises, distributed across various SaaS, IaaS and PaaS clouds
  • Nine percent are using a hybrid cloud with limited or no interoperability between the on-premises and off-premises environments
  • Four percent are building an on-premises environment only
  • Just eight percent claimed clouds are not an important part of their IT strategy.

It’s now safe to say that interoperable on-premises infrastructure and hybrid multiclouds are common enterprise IT architectures, and they are likely to remain so for several years to come. However, getting these distributed environments to operate efficiently and effectively to better serve the business needs of enterprises is another matter.

Navigating hybrid multicloud management

There is no industry standard for hybrid multicloud architecture or management. Workload placement across multiple distributed execution venues is highly subjective to each enterprise and depends on a range of factors including the value to risk ratio tied to workloads, lifecycle stages, usage patterns, application behavior characteristics, data criticality, data sovereignty, the price, performance and risk characteristics of various execution venues, and so on. So too, the hybrid offerings from cloud service providers vary. Each has well-designed and comprehensive hybrid cloud architectures, but they differ in their design, deployment and management models.

As workloads, data and processes shift across diverse and disparate execution venues (e.g., on-premises infrastructure, managed services, clouds), there will be a need for a new approach to hybrid multicloud management – one that requires a uniform means for provisioning, access control, capacity management, performance analysis, billing and cost control, among others. Enterprises will demand that IT vendors craft a holistic platform to allocate workloads strategically to the best execution venue, and do so while managing business continuity across hybrid IT architecture. This will drive the development of a new generation of cloud management technology we refer to as unified infrastructure management (UIM) platforms.

Tackling next-generation challenges with unified infrastructure management

To tackle the challenges of hybrid IT management, a unified infrastructure management platform needs to be able to answer two fundamental questions and execute upon the findings. The first: “Under what conditions do I put what workloads on what execution venues?” This requires an understanding of workload characteristics and the capabilities of execution venues (beyond cost) to intelligently map workloads to their best execution venues and to migrate, monitor and manage workloads across execution venues.

To manage data and logic placement across distributed architecture, the UIM must also be able to answer and execute upon the second question: “Do I move the logic to the data or the data to the logic?” For example, in the case of core/fog/edge IoT architecture, the issue is how to intelligently and dynamically choose and shift where logic is computed – i.e., in the core (cloud), in the fog (nodes), on the edge (devices) – and how to minimize data in motion.

Such decisions require detailed analysis of many complex variables beyond cost. We believe that next-generation unified infrastructure management platforms will gradually be equipped with various open source technologies to answer such questions and provide a means to execute the following capabilities:

  • Analyze and compare the economics (price and performance characteristics) of various execution venues.
  • Analyze workloads to determine their performance characteristics and operational requirements.
  • Automate the provisioning of compute, storage, network, security, application stacks and data.
  • Intelligently deploy workloads and services determined by economic analysis as well as any compliance policies required of on-premises infrastructure, managed services, and private and public clouds.
  • Intelligently redeploy workloads to other execution venues when venue or workload characteristics change.
  • Interoperate with, build and deploy container and microservices coding platforms to coordinate cloud services for automated iterations of application and workload deployments.
  • Manage security, identity authentication and access control for administrators, tenants and user accounts.
  • Provide financial metering, reporting and chargeback/viewback by cloud, tenant, user, application, compute and other consumption-based services.
  • Orchestrate events and manage runtime execution and performance of all venues, and enact policies to automate scaling, bursting, high availability and disaster recovery.
  • Maintain a service library that includes operating system images, databases, middleware, message busses, load balancers and servers.
  • Control and dynamically allocate network resources in response to the transmission, latency and security requirements of specific data and workloads.

Trusted IT and cloud-enabling technology vendors are now crafting such unified infrastructure management platforms. Going forward, unified infrastructure management platforms may also include and/or integrate with orchestration tools to execute and synchronize business processes that span execution venues, analytics that pave the way for predictive and prescriptive deterministic reasoning, and even autonomic self-healing capabilities empowered by machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies that can also expose insights for continuous improvement. Highly valued vendors will be those that embrace this opportunity and can ensure that the advantages and business agility promised of hybrid multicloud IT architecture indeed become reality. Additional insights and improved strategies are required to reap the full range of benefits of a true hybrid IT environment.

Learn more about hybrid and multicloud strategy for the enterprise.

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