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This article is part of our Essential Guide: VMworld 2018 conference coverage

Design a hybrid IT infrastructure with a strategic framework

Hybrid IT demands that IT managers and teams use frameworks, best practices and governance structures to ensure the success of on-premises and cloud deployments.

The complexity of hybrid IT infrastructure calls for IT managers to rethink the way they plan and implement cloud...

deployments.

Many IT departments are finding their presence in the cloud haphazard and their strategies lacking. Teams that continue to rely on a patchwork of good-enough services will soon find themselves outpaced by organizations with well-planned hybrid infrastructures. A properly designed hybrid IT infrastructure can offer significant cost savings, along with the ability to customize services for specific workloads.

"You're all operating in a hybrid environment," said Erik Vogel, global vice president of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Pointnext, in a session at VMworld 2018. "Everybody's hybrid whether you like it or not."

Many organizations' current hybrid IT infrastructures grew without forethought. IT managers found themselves caught between the hybrid cloud, most often driven by IT operations seeking stability, and the public cloud, most often driven by developers seeking agility.

The primary challenge of managing a hybrid environment rests on IT managers who must lobby their organizations to make investments and implement long-term strategies that are difficult to undo. To further complicate things, IT often splinters into silos with different demands, and funding has shifted to teams that support rapid development projects.

Hybrid IT infrastructure design requires strategy

A failure to design and commit to a long-term plan is the biggest reason hybrid IT infrastructures fail, Vogel said. Errors in business alignment, such as a lack of consideration for cost and investment, also contribute to this issue. Other causes include a skill gap in hybrid project management, sub-par choices for third-party technologies, and poor security and governance models.

A framework of four components can guide the design of a hybrid IT infrastructure: business and IT alignment, a sourcing policy, a supply chain of IT products and hybrid service management.

Alignment with business strategy requires IT to translate business goals into services, use cases and experiences. If the business is trying to compete using low costs, for instance, then IT needs to figure out how to be more efficient. In this case, a product with fuller features might not be worth the investment.

A sourcing policy consists of security concerns, organizational culture and governance. Hybrid IT must account for policies that exist outside of the IT department.

The supply chain of available IT products includes off-premises technology, such as SaaS, platform as a service and public cloud, and on-premises technology, such as private clouds and infrastructures. Picking the correct offering at the right time is essential.

Hybrid IT operations tie these components together into an organized workflow. Hybrid IT extends across a complex web of on-premises technology and third-party services, so troubleshooting the origin of any problem requires a thorough understanding of how the functions come together.

Head off problems before they begin

If IT teams plan around each component of the framework, they can unite IT silos and avoid most major problems.

"With large IT [departments], you're dealing with segmented pockets that know what their job is -- like networking, security, compliance," said Marloun Bayari, senior advisor of IT systems development at Dell. "They have their challenges, but they don't necessarily know the challenges of the others."

One organization, for example, didn't account for a sourcing policy, so its strict data privacy rules forced the cancellation of a public cloud deployment that was already underway, Vogel said. Other companies have slipped into cloud sprawl because they didn't have governance structures and lifecycle management ready for hybrid IT demands.

The consequences of a poorly designed infrastructure extend far beyond the IT team. Every decision must align with business goals and every staff member must have a place in that strategy.

"If you don't know who's going to operate and maintain it, how are you going to design it to be operated and maintained by someone?" Bayari said.

This was last published in September 2018

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