The hybrid cloud management challenges IT departments must overcome

Dell recently updated its hybrid cloud management system, adding support for more private and public cloud interoperability. The company announced v11 of Dell Cloud Manager, which now supports Windows Azure Pack in addition to offering enhanced support for Microsoft Azure.

The cloud management software space is becoming increasingly important to companies as they explore the potential of hybrid cloud environments.

In its 2014 Global Forum Survey, EMC quizzed 10,450 IT managers worldwide on their attitudes toward hybrid cloud. It found that 27% of respondents had adopted a hybrid cloud solution, representing a 9% increase from the prior year. 64% of respondents believed that hybrid cloud offered more agility and security.

There are lots of challenges when it comes to managing a hybrid cloud environment, though, and they start early on, when IT departments are designing the hybrid infrastructure.

For example, a company may find it useful to restructure monolithic applications for use in a distributed environment, which could mean transferring a large part of its data structure to non-relational databases that can be more easily spread between different providers for resilience.

IT departments heading down the hybrid path will also have to decide where to put different aspects of their workflow, based on issues such as latency requirements, the sensitivity of the data, and even what stage the application is at in its lifecycle.

Then, there are issues such as network agility to consider. Software-defined networking, in which network services are abstracted from firmware into a separate control layer, is a way to make the network more flexible, creating better support for agile environments.

Some of the challenges are operational, because once the hybrid environment is up and running, it must be managed. Service levels must be maintained across all of the different service providers that a company uses, and applications scattered around a distributed environment must be made to work together seamlessly, failing over when necessary.

Cloud management software is a necessary component of a hybrid cloud solution, because it ties together operations data from various service providers to create a unified view of the system. That’s an important function in an infrastructure where companies might otherwise find themselves struggling to hold one service provider accountable for performance or availability problems. It is all too easy for cloud service providers to point the finger at each other.

Software solutions for use by customers are one approach here. Another is to hand the management of a hybrid cloud infrastructure off to another service company entirely, and let them deal with the complexity. Several cloud management services exist that can cut through the whole tangled mess for CIOs, leaving them to focus on strategy.

There are still some applications that companies are wary of putting into hybrid cloud environments, though. The EMC survey highlighted financial planning, human capital management and ERP as applications that gave IT managers pause for thought.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Danny Bradbury
Danny Bradbury
Danny Bradbury is a technology journalist with over 20 years' experience writing about security, software development, and networking.

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