3 Technical Best Practices for Operating an Effective Hybrid IT Environment

Authored by: Andrew Seow, Regional GM for Southeast Asia and Greater China, Rimini Street, Inc.

Hybrid IT environments have become the norm today as CIOs make strategic investments that move many applications, infrastructure, and systems to the cloud while retaining others on-premise. IDC predicted that over 90 per cent of Asia Pacific enterprises will have a hybrid IT infrastructure by 2021. This environment can provide a strong foundation for driving desirable business outcomes by enabling companies to extract more value from existing assets.

As enterprises adopt new technologies from multiple vendors, the IT architecture can become more complicated and vulnerable to security issues despite being designed for interoperability. Each additional IT vendor complicates that environment further and increases the potential for conflict from variations in testing tools, for example. Operating and maintaining a hybrid IT environment successfully can be impacted by how well IT departments manage the adoption of new vendors.

CIOs must adapt IT management strategies to their environment by standardising tools and protocols for handling duplicate capabilities and developing a roadmap to success. These best practices for managing the technical environment will help ensure that the hybrid infrastructure enables the enterprise to transition to the cloud and achieve business goals.

Control architectural complexity to get the most value from hybrid IT's agility and flexibility
Architectural complexity, co-location of servers and an interacting mix of cloud and non-cloud solutions, can all contribute to reduced flexibility and agility if they are not managed from the beginning. With most cloud components still maturing, change occurs more frequently in hybrid IT environments. Confirm that the IT architecture is flexible enough to deploy and decommission solutions rapidly and monitor for bottlenecks that can result from a diversity of vendors and friction between cloud and non-cloud solutions. Product version control is a critical way to ensure that the environment can withstand change.

To determine how adaptable the hybrid environment is, assess the level of interoperability or the amount of effort needed to integrate across disparate vendors and products. Move capabilities to the cloud that don’t require tight integration and will often change as better solutions become available to help keep the company competitive. Retain solutions that are internally-deployed and can serve as a foundation for deploying cloud solutions. ERP solutions where tight integration is necessary, customisations have resolved unique requirements, or no SaaS solution can provide functional parity are a common example.
 
Create a seamless solution through integration governance, processes and tools
New service-oriented architectures, cloud services architectures, and integration frameworks easily enable hybrid IT. However, when processes are split across products, there is usually no assurance that a process is conducted fully or correctly across the products. Additionally, existing standards for integration tools can become inadequate as the portfolio expands to a multi-cloud model. As a result, process integration must be developed as a discipline within IT departments. An integration centre of excellence (COE) may also be needed to help bridge the language barriers between vendors and build common processes when needed. As the application portfolio grows more diversified and distributed, take advantage of robust capabilities in new tools to help deliver seamless integration. Modern integration platform as a service (iPaaS) tools may need to be added to address these requirements. Governance will also need to expand to answer questions about which integration mechanism to use, data and process ownership, and integration integrity.

Adopt processes and controls to help keep the IT environment safe
Application and infrastructure security are two key areas that IT departments need to manage carefully. Research by Cowen indicates that senior IT professionals see security, particularly cloud security, as a top priority as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mixing cloud and internally-deployed environments increase the number and types of control points involved. Some variations of security processes and protocols may not be compatible, and solid security in one component can be offset by porous security in another. Additionally, unifying technology such as single sign-on can simplify access to applications but may not eliminate conflicts in individual security designs.

Strong security processes and cross-vendor controls to reduce exposure at each vendor touchpoint are necessary at a master level to keep a hybrid portfolio secure. However, validating the effectiveness of security controls across the portfolio can be difficult as most cloud vendors are not amenable to customers testing the security of their products or overall security in their environments. Some policy and legal controls can also limit what can be tested in the vendor’s environment.

The benefits of hybrid IT environments far outweigh the challenges brought by complexity. It is critical to proactively address the factors that directly impact the effectiveness of hybrid IT to help remove challenges when moving to the cloud.

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