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Michael Cantor: Challenges of Supporting a Remote Workforce Adopting Hybrid Infrastructures

By Michael Cantor, CIO at Park Place Technologies

Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged IT operations in various ways, from limiting the availability of on-site staff to supporting an often sudden transition to a work-from-home model. As many organizations return to the office, they are adopting hybrid infrastructures that further challenge IT departments.

Gartner¹ states that this decade will see a mix of Cloud and on-premise application deployments becoming the established norm for large organizations. This will facilitate a move for less sensitive applications and systems to become hosted via private and public clouds. The report suggests that brand new initiatives that achieve digital empowerment for employees are the most likely candidates to move first, with Gartner surmising that by 2024, more than 45% of IT spending on system infrastructure, infrastructure software, application software and business processing will shift from traditional solutions to cloud.

This hybrid infrastructure approach is not without its own set of challenges with IT now having to manage a dual approach to delivery – that of on-premise data centers and server rooms plus private and/or public Clouds. Selecting what goes where depends largely on the needs of the organization, the tactical requirements, and assurances over issues like personal data protection and the physical location or country in which the data center is located. Internal business processes offered by SaaS apps (such as Microsoft Office applications) are obvious candidates with lower risk profiles and fast adoption timescales for infrastructure teams to embrace into Cloud delivery.

Asset discovery

The first stage of migrating to a hybrid infrastructure starts by acquiring an in-depth knowledge of assets already operating in the estate. A journey of asset discovery across locations and departments can be thankfully self-determining using a third party service such as ParkView Discovery™ (PVD) to automate and document IT inventory without manual overhead, in real time. This ongoing monitoring and discovery casts a spotlight on hardware and vulnerabilities within server rooms and allows IT to better match the appropriate housing of applications depending on needs and performance of the hardware powering it. Also, with remote working by employees set to continue, auto-discovery allows certain applications to be hosted safely on employees’ own personal devices.

Auto-discovery is bound to reveal legacy hardware that is working perfectly well but falling outside of vendor-dictated EoSL dates. Here companies face a choice: To leave the applications running without interruption or overhaul, but to seamlessly extend maintenance using a Third Party Maintenance (TPM) provider for complete surety, or to take the plunge and start the process of migration of onsite hosted apps into the cloud. To do this without invoking large monthly costs, IT departments will firstly have to work out individual responses to operational questions such as:

  • Can I manage the public and private cloud hosted applications centrally alongside my on-prem install?
  • Do the finances really add up? What will be the true TCO of moving data and applications to the cloud? For instance, are there storage limits to adhere to? How many read/writes to the cloud storage layer will actually be needed? Will I incur added latency when using cloud-based apps over the internet? The last thing you want to do is decrease service levels and increase bandwidth bottlenecks.
  • How fast will I need to access the data – in any eventuality?
  • Am I worried about governance? How safe will my personal data actually be, and can I be sure of its location and compliance to country legislation at all times? Regulatory and security challenges perceived with cloud infrastructure hosting remains a primary concern for IT managers in public bodies as they relinquish direct control of aspects of security and privacy to the cloud provider.

Management strategy key

There is no single, perfect solution for IT teams as they seek to balance a “new norm” of hybrid infrastructure in a post-lockdown workplace. Companies will need an integration and management strategy that seamlessly unites applications and systems deployed anywhere; on-premises, in private clouds, a hybrid cloud infrastructure, or in a public cloud.

Gartner¹: https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/cloud-shift-impacts-all-it-markets/)