After years of shifting applications to the public cloud, enterprises realise it’s not the right fit for every app and are pulling some back to private clouds, forcing them to adopt a hybrid strategy.
But it’s not an easy process and one that may require formal training and certifications for the IT pros tasked with this important transition.
“A huge desire to move to the cloud, and pressure from lines of business to move to the cloud, have created an experience gap that has led to serious missteps and forced IT teams to repatriate workloads they had put in the cloud back into the data centre,” says Scott Sinclair, senior analyst at IT research firm ESG. “IT’s level of competence, experience, and education in how to integrate with the cloud is woefully inadequate.”
An ESG study from 2018 found that 41 per cent of organisations have pulled back at least one infrastructure-as-a-service workload due to satisfaction issues.
In a subsequent study, ESG discovered among respondents who had moved a workload out of the cloud back to on-premises, 92 per cent had made no modifications or only minor modifications to the applications before moving them to the cloud.
The applications they brought back on-premises ran the gamut, including ERP, database, file and print, and email. A majority (83 per cent) called at least one of the applications they repatriated on-premises “mission-critical” to the organisation.
Had IT teams learned the requirements of the hybrid cloud, the best way to manage them, and best practices for data security, they would have fared far better, according to Sinclair. “I’m a big believer that cloud adoption should not be taken lightly, and that people should be trained as much as humanly possible in hybrid cloud environments,” he says.
With certifications available from vendors like Microsoft, NetApp, and Red Hat, as well as third parties such as the Cloud Certificate Council and Global Knowledge, IT pros have plenty of opportunities to pursue targeted training in the hybrid cloud.
Where to go for hybrid cloud certifications
Lynne Williams, professor at the School of Business and Information Technology at Purdue University Global, which includes instruction on hybrid cloud in its cyber security and IT master's degree programs, says training and certification are essential for larger organisations and those that fall under regulatory oversight.
“IT pros working for a smaller organization or an organisation that doesn’t have to comply with governmental regulations may be able to provide reasonable hybrid cloud solutions to the organisation with just their personal expertise and some research into what best suits the business focus," Williams says.
"However, larger, enterprise-sized organisations may benefit from IT pros having certifications that target their particular needs."
For instance, if an organization has roles such as database managers, developers, information security managers, and network architects, then it is a prime candidate for training and certification.
“If the enterprise is large enough to require this type of specialised role from its IT support people, it may be useful or even required that personnel in these roles are certified in hybrid cloud environments,” she says.
While Williams considers real world learning useful to teach IT pros how to perform various tasks, certifications cover big-picture concepts that may not be obvious in hands-on learning.
“Rather than saying real-world learning is better than certification or vice versa, it’s more useful to consider a blend of the two for the most effective learning experience,” she says, emphasising that real-world learning teaches how to do something, and certification will teach them why they’re doing it.
Real-world learning, especially peer-to-peer learning, has its place, but it’s not always an efficient path, says Randy Russell, director of certification at Red Hat.
“There is a lot of hope and optimism around moving things to the cloud that gets followed by a cold drizzle of reality,” Russell says. Some of this “drizzle” can be attributed to organisations using trial-and-error. “Training can accelerate and condense the time it takes to learn a technology.”
Red Hat targets its hybrid cloud training to its own offerings, teaching how to containerise applications in a Red Hat environment, for example, and how to implement OpenStack and enable applications in the private cloud to burst to the public cloud.
Students can do classroom or self-paced learning to become a Red Hat Certified Specialist in Hybrid Cloud Management.
“We’ve also recently updated the Red Hat Certified Engineer curriculum to include Ansible since automation is such an important part of the cloud in general and hybrid cloud more specifically,” Russell says.
Like Sinclair, Russell has seen organisations go very wrong in their cloud deployments and require a regroup such as “discovering that low cost per instance in the cloud adds up when those instances are running 24x7, 365 days a year and there are a lot of them,” he says.
In fact, while most certifications tend to focus more on technical aspects, Russell says the nuances of the hybrid cloud are bringing more attention to a greater need for management best practices, including how to conduct cost analyses.
Cost, ESG found in its IT spending survey, was second only to data security in reasons that workloads were pulled from cloud infrastructure services. “Understanding how cost translates to an application’s performance is essential. These used to be capital expenditure costs, and now each workload has its own charge, including egress fees. That’s a paradigm shift for IT,” Sinclair says.
Another vendor with its own hybrid cloud certification tract is NetApp, which created the NetApp Certified Hybrid Cloud Architect and NetApp Certified Hybrid Cloud Administrator certifications to help customers extract more value out of their cloud investments, according to Ingo Fuchs, chief technologist for cloud and DevOps at NetApp.
NetApp intentionally coupled its curriculum with training from Amazon AWS, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure.
“We plug right into [their] training so they can translate what it means for on-premises and a true hybrid cloud experience,” Fuchs says.
Before taking the NetApp Certified Hybrid Cloud Architect Certification exam, applicants must have obtained the Amazon Certified Solutions Architect -Associate, Google Professional Cloud Architect, or Microsoft Azure Architect Technologies/Azure Architect Design certifications.
The IT pros most likely to seek out NetApp’s certifications and training are cloud architects and storage administrators, a role Fuchs believes will emerge as strong decision-makers as the hybrid cloud matures. Similar to Red Hat, NetApp teaches course-takers about containerised environments along with best practices in data storage.
“Instead of starting with a cool widget and building a stack around that that doesn’t scale, we teach the key principles you need to consider in a hybrid cloud architecture,” he says. Data design is probably the hardest part, according to Fuchs.
ESG’s research supports that idea: 36 per cent of respondents said they will endeavour to better analyse the data sensitivity/regulatory requirements in the future prior to moving workloads to the cloud.
One of the biggest mistakes a company could make, in Russell’s opinion, is having only one hybrid cloud expert.
“You can have someone who acts as a catalyst – someone who is curious about the technology and gets you started. But the organization won’t survive well if only one person has the skill set. You need to have best practices for mindshare and knowledge transfer,” he says.
Fuchs feels similarly: “We want to encourage purposeful cloud adoption.”
NetApp holds workshops at customer sites to get stakeholders up to speed on the foundational aspects of hybrid cloud, as well as to provide specialised training for specific roles relative to the cloud such as how to best use analytics.
“These decisions are getting more sophisticated and more data-driven because the tools are getting stronger, the processes are getting stronger, and education is getting stronger. Organisations are able to review their bills and try to reduce costs. The more trained your team is, the likelier they are to make good decisions,” he says.
Williams recommends that anyone interested in gaining certification “should examine their own role in managing hybrid cloud operations and go after the certification that best supports the organisation’s needs as well as their own,” she advises.
For example, a database manager should consider certification in the foundations of big data in the hybrid cloud, and information security professionals should pursue security management in the hybrid cloud. Such certifications are available from the Cloud Credential Council, which offers a range of vendor-neutral IT certifications.
IT pros also can find a mix of courses at IT training company Global Knowledge, which has 19 courses targeted at hybrid cloud, including Delivering Hybrid IT with Cisco CloudCenter and CompTIA’s Cloud+ certification training.