IT infrastructures are evolving from traditional on-premises-only to a hybrid strategy that links internal and external IT services driven by the existence of the cloud. To shed more light on the new concerns and pressures created by this evolution, SolarWinds recently released the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2016: The Hybrid IT Evolution, our annual study consisting of survey-based research that explores significant trends, developments and movements related to and directly affecting IT and IT professionals.
The findings of this year's report — which are based on a survey fielded in December 2015, which yielded responses from 257 IT practitioners, managers and directors in the U.S. and Canada from public and private sector small, mid-size and enterprise companies — paint a clear picture: cloud adoption is nearly universal, but it's not and will likely not ever be suitable for all workloads. The result — one set of on-premises services connected with another set of services in the cloud — is called hybrid IT. At the center of this evolution is the IT professional.
With that foundation, here's an overview of the report's key findings:
IT infrastructures have evolved from traditional on-premises-only to a hybrid strategy that links internal and external IT services driven by the existence of the cloud.
■ Nearly all (92 percent) of the IT professionals surveyed say adopting cloud technologies is important to their organizations' long-term business success; more than a quarter (27 percent) say it is extremely important.
■ Only 43 percent estimate that half or more of their organizations' total IT infrastructure will be in the cloud within the next 3-5 years.
■ 60 percent say it is unlikely that all of their organizations' infrastructure will ever be migrated to the cloud.
■ Overall, only 9 percent say their organizations have not migrated any infrastructure to the cloud.
■ The number of small businesses that have not migrated anything to the cloud went from 18 percent in 2015 to just 6 percent in 2016.
IT professionals are faced with a dual mandate: increase efficiency through cloud services while also ensuring critical systems, databases and applications are secure.
■ The top three hybrid IT benefits by weighted rank are infrastructure cost-reduction, increased infrastructure flexibility/agility and relieving internal IT personnel of day-to-day management of some infrastructure, respectively.
■ 62 percent say that security is the biggest challenge associated with managing current hybrid IT environments.
■ The top three barriers to greater cloud adoption by weighted rank are security/compliance concerns, the need to support legacy systems and budget limitations, respectively.
■ 69 percent say they have already migrated applications to the cloud, followed by storage (49 percent) and databases (33 percent).
■ The top three areas of infrastructure with the highest priority for continued or future migration by weighted rank are applications, databases and storage, respectively.
IT professionals require new skills, tools and resources to successfully drive the hybrid IT migration forward and enable their organizations to better meet business objectives.
■ Only 27 percent are certain their IT organizations currently have adequate resources to manage a hybrid IT environment.
■ The top five skills needed to better manage hybrid IT environments are hybrid IT monitoring/management tools and metrics (48 percent), application migration (41 percent), distributed architectures (32 percent), service-oriented architectures (31 percent) and automation/vendor management (tied at 30 percent).
■ 56 percent indicated they have the level of support needed from leadership and the organization as a whole to develop/improve the skills they feel they need in order to better manage hybrid IT environments.
So, what precisely are IT professionals to do? In conclusion, consider the following recommendations:
Establish an End-user Focus and Service Orientation
The ultimate goal of modern IT is to deliver greater Quality-of-Service (QoS) for end-users to ensure business productivity. To that end, minimizing friction across departmental silos will speed updates, changes, deployments and time-to-resolution for problems, all of which deliver a better end-user experience. IT professionals operating in hybrid IT environments should consider leveraging the principles of a DevOps approach to achieve faster and more provisioning choices, greater agility and organizational efficiency. Doing so will enable them to quickly make updates and changes to infrastructure, which makes IT services, whether on-premises or in the cloud, more agile, lean and scalable.
With both on-premises and cloud resources to manage in a hybrid IT environment, a management and monitoring toolset that surfaces a single point of truth across those platforms is essential. The normalization of metrics, alerts and other collected data from applications and workloads, regardless of their location, will enable a more efficient approach to remediation, troubleshooting and optimization.
Apply Monitoring as a Discipline
In a hybrid IT world rife with new complexities, monitoring can no longer be an afterthought. By establishing monitoring as a core IT responsibility (a.k.a. monitoring as a discipline), organizations can benefit from a much more proactive IT management strategy, while also optimizing infrastructure performance, cost and security protocol.
Improve Business Savvy
As more IT services are delivered by cloud service providers, IT professionals must improve upon the following trifecta: business savvy for vendor management, technical expertise to understand and use the available cloud services and project management. These will all require the ability to effectively manage project budgets, workflows and deadlines; dissect terms and conditions; and understand service-level agreements and how they relate to the overall QoS that needs to be delivered.
Focus on Developing or Improving Key Technical Skills and Knowledge
Today's IT professionals need to extend across traditional generalist or specialist roles and become polymaths in order to be successful in the hybrid IT world as they pivot across multiple technology domains. The most important skills and knowledge IT professionals need to develop or improve to successfully manage hybrid IT environments are service-oriented architectures, automation, vendor management, application migration, distributed architectures, API and hybrid IT monitoring and management tools and metrics.
Kong Yang is a Head Geek at SolarWinds.
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