It seems the federal IT world has gone hybrid, keeping some applications on-premise and migrating others to the cloud. Some are now taking advantage of the economy of scale that the cloud provides while maintaining in-house control of other mission-critical applications.
Keeping one foot in the cloud and one in the agency can present organizational challenges, particularly in regard to IT skillsets and network management. A majority of the people we surveyed for our 2018 SolarWinds IT Trends Report—63%—said an IT skills gap is one of the biggest challenges posed by cloud and hybrid IT. According to respondents, there simply are not enough people well-versed in such diverse skill sets.
Hybrid IT can compound an already formidable network management challenge facing federal administrators. First, keeping an eye on both on-premise and off-premise systems and applications can be a tall order for even the most seasoned IT professional. Adding to the complexity is the fact that some engineers and administrators are now required to manage their agency’s relationship with external cloud service providers, while also maintaining acceptable levels of service quality, and not compromising security.
How can IT professionals successfully adapt to this strange new world? How can agencies help their staff along the path toward success? Here are two valuable strategies that can help answer these questions.
Evolve existing skills, and acquire new ones
Typically, IT professionals love learning about new technologies and seeing how they can apply them to help their organizations, or solve complex problems. That hunger can serve them well in a hybrid IT environment.
Those tasked with managing hybrid IT systems should consider investing in learning about new solutions to help them manage these environments. They can familiarize themselves with the terminology and the concepts, and then move into gaining a greater understanding of areas like software-defined constructs, containers, microservices, and other rapidly advancing technologies.
Also, it couldn’t hurt to sharpen their management skills. IT is no longer just about managing the network; it’s also about managing business relationships. IT professionals may serve as the foundational cornerstones being developed between their agencies and cloud providers. We can be viewed as the trusted partner, the expert, or many other terms demonstrative of the criticality in our roles.
Find a single point of truth
Possessing the best skillsets may not overcome one of the great challenges that administrators managing a hybrid IT environment face: lack of visibility. When an application breaks or slows in a hybrid environment, it can be difficult to track down the root of the problem. Is the issue in-house, or is it at the host location? If it’s the latter, who’s responsible for troubleshooting: the IT manager, or the cloud provider? This can create confusion and distrust amongst the provider and the agency team.
Thus, it’s important to adopt a management and monitoring mindset that provides visibility across the entire IT landscape. A “single point of truth” can help show where the fault lies, so it can be quickly addressed. From this single point of truth, staff can monitor their application’s behavior, which can yield important information that can be used to optimize that application’s performance.
This single point of truth is a powerful friend. It helps bring clarity, transparency, and total visibility to an enormously complex IT infrastructure. In doing so, it may make them far easier to manage. Another potential benefit is strengthening the relationship between the agency and its cloud partners, because everyone can get on the same page.
Adopting a hybrid IT architecture can be extraordinarily beneficial. Hybrid IT may enable agencies to scale IT resources up or down with ease, achieve greater agility and cost efficiencies, and choose from best-in-class cloud service providers to satisfy their unique needs.
Still, we cannot discount these added complexities and challenges that hybrid IT may bring. Ask the question, “Are my skills and knowledge up to par when it comes to visibility and understanding of hybrid IT networks?” As the technology evolves, there will most likely be additional hurdles that must be overcome. After all, that’s usually what happens anytime IT professionals venture into a strange new world. Make sure you’re properly equipped to address these challenges.
By Paul Parker, Chief Technologist, Federal and National Governments, SolarWinds