Putting Hybrid IT Blind Spots in the Rearview Mirror

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Connecting state and local government leaders

There might be potholes along the way but state and local agencies have the ability to steer clear of them.

State and local agencies are hard at work migrating their IT infrastructures to the cloud, but that road is fraught with blind spots, particularly for those taking a hybrid approach. A hybrid IT infrastructure features some applications on-premises while others are hosted off-site, causing a networking disconnect that can be tricky to navigate. In general, managers are only able to monitor internally or externally, not both. As a result, they’re not able to get a clear picture of the path that exists between hosted and in-house applications.

That’s a problem for those in the midst of cloud migrations. North Carolina, for example, is undergoing an initiative to move 70,000 state employees to Microsoft Office 365. Kentucky is interested in cloud-based storage and other types of “as-a-service” projects. They’re reflective of what’s happening in cities and states all over the country.

That doesn’t mean that areas like these will move everything to the cloud. In fact, in a recent IT trends report by my company, SolarWinds, we asked public sector IT professionals about their plans for cloud migration. Although 42 percent of our respondents recognized the importance of cloud adoption, 62 percent felt it unlikely that their agencies’ infrastructures would ever be completely migrated to the cloud.

For them, the hybrid model is best, but what of those pesky blind spots? After all, if a North Carolina employee has trouble accessing their email, they’re not going to contact Microsoft; they’re going to call their IT department. Therefore, it’s up to IT to quickly identify the root of the problem. To do that, they’ll need to eliminate their blind spots—while illuminating their intelligence around both on-premises and hosted applications.

Hopping Through the Dark

The solution is to map their hybrid IT paths from source to destination, which are characterized by hops. When data passes through a gateway, that’s a hop. Blind spots can have multiple hops that are difficult to monitor without the right tools.

However, state and local network administrators can map their network paths from end-to-end, from on-premises to their cloud providers. They can deploy solutions that effectively “spoof” application traffic back to the cloud service provider and, in the process, map everything that takes place in between. This provides a detailed picture of the performance and health of both on-site and hosted applications and how they’re interacting. It also allows administrators to identify and address potential issues, such as network slowdowns, faulty applications, and potential security risks.

Security is, of course, of paramount importance, and indeed is one of the areas where our report respondents expressed the most concern (75 percent cited security and compliance as a potential hybrid IT barrier). It’s no wonder; when an agency adopts a hybrid IT scenario, data is passed between unfamiliar data centers and the agency itself, and there’s a chance that a bad actor may be able to access the information while it’s in-flight. That’s why complete visibility across the entire pathway is so important.

Administrators will want to employ solutions that provide them with that visibility in conjunction with other tools they may be using. For instance, log and event management and user device detection software can help them identify and track who’s accessing their data, whether it’s in the cloud, on-site, or somewhere in between.

Identifying the Right Skills

It’s not just technology that makes a successful hybrid IT environment. Specialized skills are also an important component.

There are three that stand out. First, IT personnel must become highly familiar with Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers and the solutions they offer, gaining a good understanding of the benefits and features that are at their disposal so they can make the right decisions for their agencies. They’ll also want to brush up on bleeding-edge technologies such as Linux containers and microservices, which can make it easier to migrate or rewrite existing workloads to the cloud. And, according to our report respondents, it will be increasingly important for network administrators to become adept at managing hybrid monitoring tools and assessing metrics, managing the cloud vendors they use, and handling distributed architectures, among other tasks.

Turning the Mirrors in the Right Direction

Hybrid IT offers a lot of potential for state and local agencies. They can gain greater agility and overall efficiencies, and the cost savings of hosting at least some applications in the cloud can certainly be significant as OPEX replaces CAPEX.

But there might be potholes along the way. State and local agencies can steer clear of them by simply turning their network monitoring mirrors to give them a clear view of the entire road.

Joe Kim is the Senior Vice President and Global Chief Technology Officer at SolarWinds, providing the overall technology strategy, product architecture and platform advancements for the Austin, Texas-based company’s 30-plus IT management products.

NEXT STORY: Can A Clever Video Make People Care About a Stalled Infrastructure Project?

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