Hybrid IT Automation: The First Step For Cloud Expansion

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Hybrid IT automation enables IT teams integrate, manage and orchestrate processes across cloud-based and on-premises systems

Most large enterprises are taking a multi-cloud approach, running workloads in both public and private clouds. Yet while workloads continue to move closer to the end-user, sensitive data is remaining on-premises. The challenge is in tying together workloads across these ecosystems, managing complex infrastructure requirements and gaining deeper visibility.

But most organizations are not large enterprises, and even leaders in cloud deployments had to begin somewhere. In most cases, the cloud journey begins with a familiar setup — a hybrid IT shop.

Hybrid IT is defined by the use of on-premises resources supplemented by cloud-based services. It’s the logical first step before expanding into multi-cloud, or using a hybrid-cloud mix of both public and private cloud.

Moving from hybrid IT to a multi-cloud approach creates new complexities for IT. Integrating disparate cloud services can be challenging, often requiring custom scripting to support in-house legacy solutions. Meanwhile, day-to-day management of cloud environments is too time-consuming for resource-strapped IT teams. In a survey by Dynatrace, 74% of CIOs reported that cloud complexity was leading to more time spent keeping the lights on.

Successful cloud management requires the orchestration of workloads and resources, regardless of the underlying technology (public cloud, private cloud or on-prem).  

Whether orchestrating disparate workloads or eliminating manual tasks to meet business requirements in real-time, IT automation platforms provide foundational capabilities for large cloud environments.

“There is rapid expansion in the use of public cloud resources, edge deployment targets, Internet of Things (IoT) and hybrid topologies; using all of these will drive consumption of automation platforms, because they will be unable to scale without them.”

— Gartner, “Market Guide For Service Orchestration And Automation Platforms”

When To Implement Hybrid IT Automation

Organizations are continuing to shift workloads to the cloud in order to meet growing demand for digital services. This trend (digital transformation) has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Gartner analysts expect that 40% of all enterprise workloads will be deployed to IaaS and PaaS platforms by 2023, up from 20% in 2020.

IT teams should not wait for cloud demand to grow before deploying an automation and orchestration solution. An extensible IT automation platform should be implemented while the organization’s cloud footprint is still small, ideally while IT is still hybrid IT. 

By implementing orchestration after an expansion in cloud usage, IT teams risk:

  • Slow downs in service as IT personnel manually respond to changes in business demand
  • A lack of flexibility in responding to new challenges and emergencies
  • A delay in cloud ROI as resource constraints make it difficult to realize the full potential of cloud services

Deploying an orchestration solution earlier in your cloud journey gives operators and developers more time to establish best practices and gain a deeper understanding of the automation and orchestration software being used.

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What Hybrid IT Automation Looks Like

There are a few types of software that can be used to manage both workloads and resources across hybrid IT systems. This includes workload automation and orchestration platforms, among others. Regardless of how a tool is positioned, a hybrid IT automation solution will provide key capabilities for integrating, managing and monitoring systems in disparate environments. These capabilities include:

  • API adapters that make it easy to connect to any endpoint, providing extensibility as your organization’s digital toolbox expands
  • Low-code, drag-and-drop workflow designers to accelerate end-to-end IT process automation
  • Intelligent resource allocation to optimize workloads and manage execution servers across systems
  • Centralized monitoring and reporting to prevent future issues and to quickly respond when issues do occur 
  • Out-of-the-box features such as change management, simulation testing, check-in check-out and revision histories to streamline the DevOps lifecycle

A hybrid IT automation solution is going to provide a centralized control panel for workloads, services and resources across IT. Having a single source of control will provide certainty and reliability, enabling developers to build cross-platform processes while eliminating manual processes from the operations side. These capabilities are essential to expanding the organization’s use of SaaS, PaaS and IaaS.

How To Leverage Hybrid IT Automation Features And Capabilities

Hybrid IT is the early stage of IT’s cloud journey. Moving into a multi-cloud setup is almost inevitable as organizations seek to avoid vendor lock-in and leverage best-in-class solutions. However, multi-cloud approaches are frequently hampered by complexity, running-up costs and slowing down digital agendas.

Hybrid cloud automation solutions can provide the tools needed to simplify multi-cloud management by enabling IT to design environments that span across multiple cloud-based and on-premises solutions.

Connecting To Disparate Systems And Applications

Hybrid IT automation solutions can provide extensibility through a variety of methods. This includes prebuilt, programmatic integrations with major cloud vendors such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, Oracle and IBM. Universal connectors can also be included for commonly scripted tasks.

Additionally, hybrid IT automation solutions can enable users to build, execute and manage APIs (web services, REST APIs, .NET assemblies, stored procedures and command lines). This makes it possible for IT to connect any endpoint to its hybrid environment, preparing IT for future expansions.

IT automation solutions that connect to any endpoint can provide a host of features such as data warehousing, business process automation, it task automation and more, providing a virtually unlimited list of potential use cases as IT’s cloud requirements evolve.

Deploying Across Cloud Systems

Hybrid IT automation solutions, such as workload automation software or enterprise job schedulers, can enable IT teams to deploy schedulers and execution servers in the cloud, moving workloads closer to the end-user and providing flexibility as cloud demand expands.

Some vendors provide flexible licensing plans that make it easy to shift licensed execution servers into new environments, simplifying your expansion into the cloud. Look for extensible workload automation solutions in cloud marketplaces.

Ensuring Compliance

Extensible workload automation and orchestration tools can provide a variety of features and capabilities that enable users to standardize practices and meet compliance requirements across systems. For example:

  • Supporting directory services such as Active Directory to assign permissions based on existing accounts and groups
  • Maintaining complete audit trails for all actions, events and users within the environment
  • Requiring documentation and authorization for new automations or changes to automations
  • Integrations with privileged access management solutions to secure and manage user credentials and passwords
  • Support for secure file transfer protocols including SFTP, FTPS, web tunneling and TLS/SSL 

Leveraging Artificial Intelligence

Business demands can rapidly shift, especially demand for cloud-based resources. Manual provisioning is too slow to meet demand in real-time and can lead to unexpected cloud costs when servers are left to idle.

Workload automation and orchestration solutions can provide automated provisioning capabilities that analyze historical data to plan for future needs — while processing data in real-time to meet dynamic requirements, including unexpected cloud bursts.

Additionally, vendors are incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning to monitor automation environments. Centralized automation platforms are capable of handling performance data across the enterprise, enabling AI to detect future issues and offer IT teams new opportunities to optimize their automation environments, across cloud and on-prem.

Providing Self-Service

As cloud needs increase in the coming years, IT teams will need to provide process automation capabilities to both help desk and business users. Self-service automation, including web-based portals, enable non-IT users to execute and monitor processes that are critical to specific user roles. This reduces the tickets that IT services need to respond to while boosting SLAs as business users no longer have to wait for IT. 

Cloud Automation In Five Years

New vendors, new technologies and cloud-native services are providing organizations with new opportunities to create new business outcomes, value streams and services — both internally and externally. By 2025, 60% of IT leaders will drive business innovation using disruptive technologies, up from less than 5% in 2019, according to a Gartner report.

These technologies will either require or generate vast amounts of data requiring new cloud services for processing and delivering. New tools will have to be integrated across on-prem and cloud-based data centers — silos cannot be tolerated. Workloads will need to be tied to resources and data will need to move seamlessly between disparate applications. Cloud automation and orchestration will need to take the place of human intervention as cloud-computing expands.

IT will need to centralize control over multi-cloud and hybrid cloud systems, in order to automate and manage end-to-end processes that meet evolving business needs. Under these circumstances, a hybrid IT automation platform will be indispensable.

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Brian is a staff writer for the IT Automation Without Boundaries blog, where he covers IT news, events, and thought leadership. He has written for several publications around the New York City-metro area, both in print and online, and received his B.A. in journalism from Rowan University. When he’s not writing about IT orchestration and modernization, he’s nose-deep in a good book or building Lego spaceships with his kids.