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Modernize ops practices to manage hybrid IT infrastructure

Hybrid IT management requires ops teams to rethink everything from networking to the way they oversee system configurations. Third-party tools, including those for IaC, can help.

Hybrid IT infrastructure enables organizations to mix on-premises and cloud-based resources to best meet business and customer needs. To properly manage these hybrid setups, IT teams need to update certain tool sets and processes.

Networks, configuration management and emerging IT ops practices like infrastructure as code (IaC) and configuration as code (CaC) can all play a role, as teams look to modernize their management strategies for hybrid IT environments.

Prepare the network

The best way to prepare an enterprise network for hybrid infrastructure that spans on premises and the cloud is to ensure it's adaptable to change. Base a private network on open source or cloud networking standards, and maintain documentation -- including diagrams and runbooks -- to capture network architecture, configurations and operation. This will help support migration between platforms.

A software-defined network (SDN) based on open source technologies is one method to future-proof a network for hybrid IT infrastructure. SDNs simplify data center and network management. For example, an administrator can use a centralized controller to distribute policies to separate network devices, such as switches, rather than configure those devices individually.

For those who don't plan for hybrid IT upfront, it might be necessary to manually rebuild a network.

Increasingly, SDN vendors base their controller technologies on open source standards, which gives IT teams some flexibility to duplicate their private networks on a cloud platform. However, SDN is sometimes out of reach for the average enterprise because of the specific skill sets and upfront investments the technology demands.

For those who don't plan for hybrid IT upfront, it might be necessary to manually rebuild a network. This is true whether extending networks from on premises to the cloud or between cloud providers. For example, if migrating from AWS to a smaller regional cloud provider, the smaller provider might not offer networking features that are as mature or extensive as those from AWS. Consequently, IT teams will have to do some upfront work to map features between providers and identify possible tradeoffs.

Use multi-cloud management tools

If multi-cloud is part of your current or future plans, a third-party cloud management platform (CMP) is a necessity, as the cloud-native management tools from the major cloud providers force admins to hopscotch between management dashboards, which hurts productivity and alerting. Choose a CMP that provides a single view and interface across multiple cloud platforms. Administrators should be able to monitor resources and receive reports in a centralized location.

Beyond the CMDB

Hybrid IT infrastructure requires ops teams to transcend the traditional configuration management database (CMDB). The nature of hybrid IT environments requires an active and passive management system that inventories at all endpoints, not just from a central location.

Even if an organization has shied away from formal IT service management, there remains the question of asset management, configuration management and service management. Hybrid IT can complicate these practices, so it's crucial to implement management tools that provide an inventory of resources across cloud platforms. ServiceNow and Cherwell Software offer options here, while CMPs such as CloudBolt Software and CloudTamer are good choices for enterprises embracing multi-cloud that don't already have mature service management practices.

Implement infrastructure as code

Another option to manage hybrid IT infrastructure is to adopt IaC, a model in which enterprises manage infrastructure provisioning and configuration the same way they do application code. IT teams store provisioning and source control logic in a centralized repository and use CI/CD pipelines, so the logic is visible across the organization. With IaC, IT teams can define an application stack via a configuration file or script and then automatically run that stack in a range of environments -- a capability that's especially beneficial in hybrid IT setups.

Red Hat Ansible and HashiCorp Terraform are two IaC tools that target hybrid IT infrastructure. The major cloud service providers, including Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft, also support IaC on their platforms. All three providers integrate with Terraform, so users can manage cloud resources via the tool.

Like SDNs, IaC can also pose an adoption challenge for IT departments, as it's still an emerging practice and skills gaps exist.

Consider configuration as code

A forward-looking option for hybrid IT management is configuration as code (CaC) -- a concept similar to, but different from, IaC. On a basic level, IaC uses actual code to build and configure infrastructure, whereas CaC is best to manage software. With CaC, every detail about how a piece of software is written, provisioned and managed is all part of its source code, which is stored in a centralized repository. CaC enables admins to build and manage software across an enterprise via automation, and hybrid IT management tools that are already in place audit those builds.

Jenkins and CloudBees Rollout are two examples of CaC tools.

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