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Monitoring Hybrid IT’s Vital Signs


When is the last time you went to the doctor to have a physical? If you can’t remember, it’s probably been too long – but it’s also understandable. No one really looks forward to having their blood drawn and fasting for 12 hours. Even though we all know that it’s ultimately good for us, the inconvenience and pain can be too great.

In a sense, the process that federal IT managers are going through to modernize their IT infrastructures is a lot like having that dreaded physical. They know that once they get through it and to the other side, they’ll be better off. But, wow, that process can be painful.

Part of that pain can be attributed to the fact that even though the U.S. has decreed a cloud-first approach, some workloads and applications are simply not suitable for the cloud. This is particularly true for government agencies, which have to be more cognizant than most about how they manage certain types of applications and data. Some are perfectly fine to outsource, while others must remain on-premises for the sake of security.

This is why many agencies have chosen a hybrid IT approach. In hybrid IT, some less sensitive applications are outsourced while other more proprietary and sensitive information continues to be managed in-house. It’s a way for agencies to enjoy the flexibility and agility of the cloud while maintaining a lock-down on security.

According to a recent report by my company, SolarWinds, a majority of IT professionals acknowledged an interest in continuing to migrate to a hybrid IT infrastructure. They specifically cited three benefits: infrastructure cost reduction, increased flexibility and agility, and at least some relief from day-to-day infrastructure management.

But while the interest is there, agency administrators still have a few concerns. In particular, many are struggling with ways to monitor and keep their infrastructures secure while continuing to move toward hybrid IT environments.

A shot in the arm to added complexity

It’s just what the doctor didn’t order, but hybrid IT inevitably brings even greater network management complexity.

It can be extremely challenging to manage one portion of IT in the cloud while another remains on-premises, so agency network administrators need in-depth and user-friendly monitoring systems in place to make their jobs easier. It’s the old “single pane of glass” argument, but with a new twist; administrators do not just need a clean UI that gives them insight into different systems, they need a single point of truth that provides a view into what’s going on with their disparate platforms. The visibility this monitoring system provides must include a collection of metrics, alerts, and data from all workloads and applications – both in-house and in the cloud.

All of this information must be presented in a way that’s understandable and actionable to allow for troubleshooting, remediation, and optimization. The monitoring solution has to greatly and effectively reduce the complexity of the situation and enhance network administrators’ ability to ascertain the information so they can quickly react if something is amiss.

Monitoring the network’s condition

This approach – monitoring as a discipline – is essential in a hybrid IT world. A hybrid IT infrastructure should be managed as a seamless whole even as applications run in separate locations. Applications depend on each other to work; if one fails, it could create a cascade effect that could impact the entire network. Without the proper monitoring tools, it is impossible for IT administrators to proactively monitor all of their cloud and in-house applications.

These solutions will become even more critical as agencies prepare to move more applications, databases, storage and other components to the cloud, Performance monitoring tools that allow them to view traffic, configuration information, and get a sense of overall performance of how their networks are operating in a hybrid environment will be absolutely essential to the security of the network.

To manage and maintain a successful hybrid IT approach, agencies must adopt monitoring solutions that will allow them to keep track of everything that’s going on, everywhere. These solutions must be baked into the agency’s DNA, and their adoption should not be put off – unlike that visit to the doctor.

Joe Kim is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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