Just last year, a large majority (94%) of Australian IT professionals surveyed in the 2018 SolarWinds IT Trends report indicated that cloud is the most important component in their organisation’s technology strategy. However, no matter what promises marketers make, cloud services are neither completely invincible nor are they one-size-fits-all solutions. The transition from on-premises to the world of cloud-native and hybrid IT installations is inevitable, and though there are increasing demands from customer expectations for cloud-enabled experiences, you don’t need to worry. Hybrid cloud strategies can be implemented to help meet these demands. If your company is still unsure about cloud or doesn’t have the flexibility to migrate to a 100% cloud-based environment, then hybrid cloud may be the best solution for you. In a way, hybrid cloud is the best of both worlds for such companies as it combines the peace of mind of on-premises with the agility, scalability, and flexibility of cloud.
Learn How to Make Cloud Work for Your Organisation
As with any IT project, the first step is to understand goals and set expectations accordingly. In the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2019: Skills for Tech Pros of Tomorrow, 67% of respondents indicated that cloud/hybrid IT is the most important technology for their career development, which will help achieve higher goals like innovation, so cloud isn’t going away any time soon. Although most installations will be multi-cloud, remember that each organisation requires their own strategy and you must be prepared to deliver it.
If it hasn’t happened to you already, you’ll probably be approached and asked to do something that you simply don’t know how to do. Maybe you’ve never written a single line of code and only know one definition of the word “chef”—the one that is decidedly non-technical—but now the DevOps team has asked you to take over the entire set of Jenkins, Kubernetes, Chef, and Puppet-based provisioning tools. You’re the tech pro, and that title clearly spans every piece and aspect of technology, right? If that’s already happened to you, how do you adapt? If not, how can you prepare for the inevitable?
Getting Ready to Introduce Cloud
To illustrate the first step in this process, let me start with an old joke. A truth-seeker goes up a mountain to meet a wise guru and asks him the secret to happiness. The guru replies, “good judgment.” When the truth-seeker asks the guru how to cultivate good judgment, the guru responds, “experience.” For his final question, the truth-seeker asks how to gain said experience, to which the wise guru responds, “bad judgment.” What can you learn from this story? There is no greater teacher than experience.
Here’s the good news for IT: there are plenty of opportunities to gain experience to help avoid unintentionally using bad judgement. Remember all those cloud services you were worried about? Start experimenting with them now. Every cloud platform has a free tier. Every cloud environment has both vendor-employed advocates and external voices of experience that nail down several “gotchas” quickly, simply, and clearly. While these are not step-by-step instructions or the keys to success on a single brass ring, if you’re dedicated to exploring all things cloud, these resources will help guide you.
Strategy for Success
Just like cloud is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, there isn’t one single best practice for building and implementing hybrid cloud solutions. It’s contingent upon your organisation’s journey to the cloud, your IT team’s specific skill levels, your business’ intentions/planned use of cloud solutions, and, as mentioned above, your customers’ needs. If moving something directly to cloud seems overwhelming, it’s possible that a “private cloud” migration may be a better first step. Look at migration to an internal VMware vRO/vRA system, see how it performs, and make the necessary adjustments, at which point the move to pure cloud may make more sense.
One universally relevant best practice is—say it with me—monitoring. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: monitor. How can IT work to best align workloads and applications to specific needs? Well, you can’t know “best” or even “normal” if you don’t have a baseline. Monitor workloads to get a baseline and go from there. In cloud, monitor for the bottom of the graph as well as the top; in this case, make sure you do not have systems that are running but not used. Incorporate monitoring into your solution from the get-go to ensure it’s not pushed to the back burner and never implemented.
Practice Makes Perfect: Preparing to Use Cloud
There are plenty of ways to set yourself and your department up for success. One more trick to get your “head out of the sand” about cloud is to work on a small project that matters to you, something that brings you joy. Use something where you’re already familiar with the complexities of the topic—try building a comp time tracking system for your team; or maybe a cloud-based fantasy football app; whatever you do, choose something you care about and know inside and out, and bring it to the cloud.
Full disclosure: you most likely won’t achieve cloud nine at first, but we all know experience is the best way to learn. With plenty of ways to learn cloud in a safe place, you can experiment and bring the skills and knowledge you gain from your practice to your work.