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Significant trends, developments, and movements related to and directly affecting IT and IT professionals

To more closely examine the variety of ways in which IT departments around the world are integrating cloud services, and the effect hybrid IT has had on their organizations and IT job roles, SolarWinds recently released the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2017: Portrait of a Hybrid Organization. This annual study consists of survey-based research that explores significant trends, developments, and movements related to and directly affecting IT and IT professionals.

The findings are based on a survey fielded in December 2016 that yielded responses from 205 IT practitioners, managers, and directors in the U.S. and Canada, from public and private sector small, mid-size, and enterprise companies whose organizations are leveraging cloud-based services for at least some IT infrastructure. The results help illustrate what a modern hybrid IT organization looks like - notably, they are realizing the cost benefits of the cloud, but continue to struggle with shifting job and skill dynamics.

Overall, the 2017 key findings show that today's hybrid IT organizations are:

1. Moving applications, storage, and databases further into the cloud.

  • In the past 12 months, IT professionals have migrated applications (74 percent), storage (50 percent), and databases (35 percent) to the cloud more than any other areas of IT
  • By weighted rank, the top three reasons for prioritizing these areas of their IT environments for migration were greatest potential for ROI/cost efficiency, availability, and elastic scalability, respectively
  • More than half (56 percent) said cost efficiency is one of their top three reasons for selecting the particular areas they have migrated to the cloud

2. Experiencing the cost efficiencies of the cloud.

  • Nearly all (95 percent) organizations have migrated critical applications and IT infrastructure to the cloud over the past year, yet over two-thirds (69 percent) spend less than 40 percent of their annual IT budgets on cloud technology
  • Nearly half (45 percent) of organizations spend 70 percent or more of their annual IT budgets on on-premises (traditional) applications and infrastructure
  • Nearly three in five (59 percent) organizations have received either most or all expected cloud benefits (i.e., cost efficiency, availability, and scalability)
  • Cost efficiency is at times not enough to justify migration to the cloud: 35 percent migrated areas to the cloud that were ultimately brought back on-premises due mostly to security/compliance issues and poor performance

3. Building and expanding cloud roles and skillsets for IT professionals.

  • Over three-fifths (62 percent) of IT professionals indicated that hybrid IT has required them to acquire new skills, while 11 percent said it has altered their career path
  • Nearly three-fifths (57 percent) of organizations have already hired/reassigned IT personnel, or plan to do so, for the specific purpose of managing cloud technologies
  • The top cloud-related skill IT professionals improved over the past 12 months was monitoring/management tools and metrics (38 percent)
  • Sixty-three percent said an IT staff skills gap was one of the five biggest hybrid IT challenges, while 46 percent said increased workload/responsibilities
  • Nearly half (46 percent) do not believe that IT professionals entering the workforce now possess the skills necessary to manage hybrid IT environments

4. Increasing in complexity and lacking visibility across the entire hybrid IT infrastructure.

  • Seven out of ten (69 percent) said their organizations currently use up to three cloud provider environments, with the largest percentage using two to three; however, one out of every 10 (9 percent) uses 10 or more
  • By weighted rank, the number one challenge created by hybrid IT is increased infrastructure complexity, followed by lack of control/visibility into the performance of cloud-based applications and infrastructure

With these findings in mind, it is vital that IT professionals continue to learn new skills and adapt to the ever-changing hybrid IT environment. To help IT professionals arm themselves with a new set of skills, products, and resources to succeed as the hybrid IT era continues to evolve, consider the following recommendations:

Ensure central visibility across on-premises and cloud environments.
In the face of enterprise technology's exponential rate of change, a management and monitoring toolset that surfaces a single point of truth across those platforms is essential. The ability to consolidate and correlate data to deliver more breadth, depth, and visibility across the data center will allow IT professionals to proactively identify and remediate problem areas and reduce the mean time-to-resolution.

Consider more than just cost efficiency.
The findings of this year's report indicate that cloud's ability to increase ROI is less important to today's IT professionals with security, compliance, and performance now top of mind. With end-user expectations for availability, durability, and an acceptable response time no matter where an application is hosted or from where it's delivered, IT professionals need to factor in the security and performance requirements of each application prior to migration to cloud services to ensure that Quality of Service is still met throughout the distributed stack.

Cloud-proof your job.
Over the past 12 months, IT professionals ranked hybrid monitoring/management tools and metrics, application migration, automation, and data analytics as the most important skills and knowledge needed to successfully manage hybrid IT environments. In addition to leveraging their peer communities to better understand technology adaptations and abstractions, IT professionals need to establish monitoring as a foundational IT skill, also known as monitoring as a discipline, to drive a more proactive, efficient, and effective IT management strategy.

Forecast future migration, but remain flexible.
As illustrated by this year's report findings, every organization's hybrid IT environment is unique and the velocity, variety, and volume of new technology services are giving ample opportunity to realize innovation. To that end, IT professionals must be open to and agile in adopting the best-of-breed elements of cloud computing and hybrid IT. The best thing for any IT department to do in the year ahead is to build a roadmap for future integration and delivery that will help illustrate ROI and business advantages, or the lack thereof, for business management.

Build trust with cloud service providers through IT competency.
"Trust but verify" should be the IT professional's mantra in the year ahead, as organizations work to identify how best to maintain an element of control and visibility into workloads and applications that are hosted in the cloud. It will be critical to leverage comprehensive hybrid IT monitoring, beyond what is typically offered by cloud service providers, to ensure they have enough data and visibility to truly understand how workloads are performing in the cloud and the reasons for that performance. Similar to traditional on-premises strategies, application availability and durability are key trust tenets in hybrid IT.

The cloud and hybrid IT are a reality for the majority of organizations today and have created a new era of work - one that is more global, interconnected, and flexible than ever. At the same time, the benefits of hybrid IT introduce greater complexity and technology abstraction. This means the IT professionals who are tasked with devising new and creative methods to monitor and manage this infrastructure not only need to put the right solutions in place to do so, but also need to prepare organizations - and themselves - for continued technology advancements, even as we move forward.

About Kong Yang
Kong Yang is a Head Geek at SolarWinds with over 20 years of IT experience specializing in virtualization and cloud management. He is a VMware vExpert™, Cisco® Champion, and active contributing thought leader within the virtualization community.

Yang’s industry expertise includes performance tuning and troubleshooting enterprise stacks, virtualization sizing and capacity planning best practices, community engagement, and technology evangelism. He is passionate about understanding the behavior of the entire application ecosystem — the analytics of the interdependencies as well as qualifying and quantifying the results to support the organization’s bottom line.

He focuses on virtualization and cloud technologies; application performance; hybrid cloud best practices; vehicles for IT application stacks such as containers, hypervisors, and cloud native best practices; DevOps conversations; converged infrastructure technologies; and data analytics. Yang is a past influencer at Spiceworks SpiceWorld and VMworld events.

He is also the owner of United States Patent 8,176,497 for an intelligent method to auto-scale VMs to fulfill peak database workloads. Yang’s past roles include a Cloud Practice Leader at Gravitant, a hybrid cloud software startup, and 13 years in various roles at Dell.

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