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Opinion

Lending a hand to manage hybrid cloud environments

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to hybrid cloud and channel partners should be ready to step in when needed

An image of a blue cloud made up of jigsaw parts to illustrate hybrid cloud

It's no surprise that investment in cloud technologies has increased this year, with the move to remote working leading many businesses to choose to deploy services in the cloud. Many organisations had previously taken a strategic and lengthy approach to digital transformation to ensure the right working environment for their needs, but 2020 and a global pandemic changed everything. Channel partners are key to helping customers maintain their hybrid cloud environments, helping businesses manage the complexity that can come from multiple cloud environments. 

Your customers may first ask whether they should pursue a hybrid or multi-cloud approach at a time they feel other areas take priority for investment. The truth, however, is that operating a dynamic hybrid cloud approach is central to cultivating an overall environment tailored to deliver real-time agility and optimising costs across various platforms in the long-term. By its nature, hybrid cloud represents the best of both worlds, and requires enterprises to invest in both private and public clouds. This configuration will ultimately become integrated with common management and security policies and allow for application portability between the environments. 

Understanding hybrid complexity

Deploying hybrid cloud infrastructure isn’t as simplistic as “buy and use,” in that it isn’t infrastructure that’s for sale, rather it’s a model that evolves. The challenge is managing the complexity of the environment and being able to deploy and connect applications seamlessly. Yes, businesses can work directly with public clouds, but in hybrid cloud, there’s a huge opportunity for the channel. IT teams are short on in-house skills that bridge on-premise and public cloud technology, and a handful of businesses certainly lack the skills to manage hybrid cloud infrastructure, in part because different cloud technologies work differently. 

In addition, not all apps benefit from being deployed on a public cloud infrastructure. There can also be unexpected costs for businesses, while some organisations have deployed public clouds only to find it isn’t the right fit for their specific workloads. Moving them back into a private cloud can be complex and costly, although, once again, the channel can advise on this process in line with the workload requirements and overall operational goals.

Matching apps with environments

The ‘best’ location for an application could be dynamically determined by cost, compliance requirements, time-to-market pressures, predictability of computing activity that require on-demand capacity, and other business or technology variables. Partners should have extensive knowledge of the individual enterprise, along with experience from the industry. This will allow them to help customers effectively navigate the technology and operational challenges that come when bringing together disparate environments. 

The ability to move applications between clouds, meanwhile, is key to maintaining optimum performance. The transition should be seamless. And when utilising the same underlying platform for both public and private clouds, moving applications between the two is much simpler. It makes the borders between cloud environments all but invisible to users and IT alike. 

The channel can also compare the cost of running an application in the public and private cloud to ensure the best cost optimisation for each application. This may change over time as the lifecycle of the application evolves so the partner can continue to evaluate the effectiveness of the environment and manage any changes needed. 

Managing multi-cloud sprawl

Costs, resources, and license considerations can often lead to multi-cloud sprawl when organisations end up running and managing workloads and applications across more than one cloud provider. A unified cloud plane is recommended for deploying and managing workloads seamlessly across multiple cloud infrastructure providers. A trusted channel partner is key to negotiating resource optimisation and cloud strategy across multiple hyperscalers on an on-going basis.

Cataloguing tools are also essential for any business with a hybrid cloud environment. When testing or developing in the public cloud, it’s all too easy for a business to open a new instance and then forget about it once the application is moved into production. If these aren’t closed down there can be a nasty surprise when the invoice is received. An effective catalogue allows organisations to see what they have open and close anything that isn’t being used.

Implementing safeguards

Partners can help ensure that as they move to a hybrid cloud model, their customers’ security models are consistently applied across both on-premise and on cloud infrastructure. There’s a perception of loss of security control when moving data and applications to hyperscale cloud infrastructure. Organisations can mitigate security risks by maintaining full security control and keeping a consistent security plane across the on-premise and cloud worlds. Customers benefit from the consistent application of policy across multiple locations, in addition to the ability to audit, report, and remediate any inconsistencies.

By being able to use the same underlying software-driven infrastructure platform in private and public clouds, you mitigate the risk of blind spots. A unified management plane also helps to ensure your customer’s security policies can be set from one plane for both on-premise and public cloud infrastructure, which is more efficient and therefore more secure than having to manage two different environments.

Relying on a partner’s knowledge is crucial to not only identify the right hybrid environment for the business, but also to deploy the best management tools. Significant progress has been made over the past year when it comes to digital transformation. But now isn’t the time to slow down - enterprises should continue investing in technology to innovate and enable workforces to be more effective. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the cloud, which is why engaging with a trusted partner and deploying the right tools to manage the infrastructure is paramount.

Christian Alvarez is senior vice president of worldwide channels with Nutanix 

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