Like that of vinyl records and printed books, the death of states’ data centers has been greatly exaggerated. Wasn’t the cloud supposed to have replaced the need for on-premises applications? If so, it hasn’t happened.
Instead, we’ve seen the rise of hybrid IT infrastructures, where some applications are maintained on-premises while others are deployed in the cloud. With this approach, state agencies are able to enjoy the cost efficiencies and flexibility of the cloud while maintaining control over their most sensitive data.
Still, many agencies are hesitant to even go that far. They’re not sure which applications should remain in-house and which can safely be moved to the cloud. Many are concerned about securing data across multiple environments or procuring the required budget for such an ambitious initiative.
These concerns aren’t unfounded, but they can be overcome. Read on for four steps you may want to consider as you make the move to hybrid IT.
1. Develop a Hybrid IT Strategy Around Specific Needs
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach here; everyone’s goals are unique, and your strategy might be different from one being implemented in a neighboring state. It’s important to be sure your hybrid IT plan maps directly to your agency’s specific objectives. The plan may include things like cost savings and increased efficiency, greater agility and flexibility, or all of the above.
Next, identify which workloads should stay in-house and which ones can be safely moved to the cloud.
Applications dealing with highly sensitive information are best kept on-premises, as are legacy applications, which may not be designed to work well in cloud environments. Meanwhile, applications with less sensitive data, or those that are newer or not necessarily mission-critical to your agency, are prime candidates for cloud migration.
2. Get Buy-In from Agency Leadership
You’ll need upper-level support to effectively put your plan into action. That makes getting buy-in from all levels of leadership at an early stage absolutely essential.
Reach out to your state’s technology leaders to help them understand the benefits (greater agility, speed of app deployment) and potential concerns (security, potential downtime) surrounding a hybrid IT approach, and how you intend to alleviate those concerns.
You’ll also need support from financial managers. We all know securing budget for any project can be a time-consuming experience, so you’ll want to come armed with facts that accentuate the long-term financial benefits of hybrid IT.
“Long-term” is important here, because the initial investment is likely to be fairly large — but there’s a good chance you’ll recoup those initial costs, and then some, over time. Gartner has a good overview of the ROI case for hybrid IT.
3. Implement Processes and Training for Managing Hybrid IT
OK, you’ve got your plan and budget, and you’re ready to roll — but is your team ready? Do your team members understand hybrid IT and know what to expect? Have they been properly trained and prepared for how to manage your new hybrid IT environment?
Before moving forward, identify where your skills shortages lie. Start by honestly assessing your team’s current skill sets to see if they match what you’re trying to achieve. Address any shortcomings through the hiring of new employees or outside consultants, or both.
It’s good to start small. Don’t lift and shift mission-critical applications to the cloud in a wholesale manner. Give your team a chance to get up to speed by starting with the low-hanging fruit — migrate noncritical applications first, see how it goes, and then, when the time is right, move additional applications as appropriate.
4. Regularly Test and Monitor Hybrid Cloud Components
Test those initial deployments to make sure everything’s working properly in its new cloud environment. Then, test them again for performance and security. Then, when you move more applications over, test them alongside the ones moved earlier. Keep testing to ensure everything continues to function properly.
Part of that testing should include monitoring all of your applications, including hosted applications. Not being able to visualize how applications are performing once they leave the on-premises environment is one of the biggest reasons agencies are hesitant to embrace a hybrid IT model.
Yet, if you can gain complete cloud visibility — to go along with the 24/7 on-premises monitoring you’re already doing — you’ll be able to visualize the health and security of your applications wherever they reside. This eliminates concerns over losing control of applications and provides you with a way to manage your entire infrastructure.
Making a move toward hybrid IT can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. With a bit of planning, training and testing, every state can keep its data centers in business while still taking advantage of the cloud.