Why attaining hybrid IT nirvana means a mix of digital growth and ‘digital trust’
In many organisations today, IT is more than a utility: it has become an essential platform for their ongoing business development. Therefore, they crave a superior IT experience for their employees and other key stakeholders. For most, cloud computing is a fundamental ingredient of the digital transformation agenda.
The common commercial use cases for public cloud services have already been exploited by many organisations. Front-office applications, such as customer relationship management, online commerce, and numerous consumer-facing apps, constitute the bulk of the workloads that reside on cloud service provider shared infrastructure.
These initial use cases have validated the proven benefits of cloud computing architectures that are appealing to software developers – including speed of deployment, dynamic resource acquisition, application elasticity, and service reuse across workloads.
Leveraging the inherent benefits of cloud service offerings, organisations are now focused on the potential of utilising IT infrastructure for innovation, process improvement, streamlined operations, entering new markets, and the creation of a preemptive response to potential disruption by new tech startups.
According to the latest worldwide market study by the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV), organisations report success with public cloud initiatives, especially those forward-looking business transformation projects related to digital growth.
Meanwhile, mission-critical, security-dependent applications — such as customer databases, transaction processing, finance and accounting, supply chain, and manufacturing — are somewhat less likely to reside on a public cloud service provider’s platform.
This is particularly true for highly regulated industries, such as financial services and healthcare, where the greatest proportion of their online business processes have yet to move to a cloud service delivery model.
In many cases, these computing and storage workloads are better suited to the private cloud — or a mixture of public, private, and non-cloud traditional IT infrastructure.
In order for the next phase of cloud computing benefits to be realised, an open and adaptable approach to IT infrastructure architecture is required to address the multitude of use cases.
The evolution of cloud services adoption
The hybrid IT model permits public clouds, private clouds, and on-premises non-cloud IT infrastructure to connect across all three standardised technology interfaces: Linux OS, Open Container Initiative, and Kubernetes. These technologies enable developers to innovate with scale and agility, improving responsiveness and constraining cost, despite growing complexity.
Hybrid IT enables workloads to be deployed on the optimal compute and storage environment.
Public clouds are well suited for many front-office workloads.
Private clouds are well suited for many of the mission-critical workloads where the benefits of cloud are desirable — but the security and assurance of a private environment are preferred.
And traditional IT environments are suited for workloads that don’t inherently take advantage of cloud benefits — and demand the dedication of computing resources.
According to the IBM IBV assessment, as hybrid cloud solutions become widespread, there will be more variations of cloud service adoption across all industries. However, in the more regulated industries, the cloud service mix will tilt toward private cloud adoption, rather than public cloud. In the less regulated industries, the cloud service mix will likely tilt the other way.
In all cases, there’s a universal need to interoperate between public, private and traditional IT.
Hybrid cloud’s intrinsic interoperability and portability can mean that organisations are less likely to become locked in to a proprietary environment or to one particular public cloud service provider. Savvy CIOs and CTOs will choose to place their workloads on the best-fit platform and maintain interoperability between IT environments and between different public cloud service providers.
Why freedom to choose matters
Hybrid cloud can also help to address security concerns and other potential barriers to an otherwise successful cloud service deployment. The IBM IBV research study findings indicate that IT security and governance are the two top reasons cited as justification to keep enterprise workloads on-premises.
Armed with hybrid cloud solutions, organisations can run applications and store data in the specific IT environments best aligned with security, regulatory, and governance requirements.
Hybrid cloud also allows enterprises to manage their cloud transition dynamically, selecting acceptable levels of downtime and overcoming the possibility of operational constraints.
The next chapter in the evolving cloud computing story is about gaining access to enhanced capabilities – in particular, the cloud-enablement of complex mission-critical software apps.
The IBM IBV outlined key steps toward the hybrid cloud model:
Architect the destination: Think open, multi-cloud, hybrid cloud. Your organisation will live with the decisions you make today for years. Think through which of your workloads fit best in the public cloud, private cloud, and traditional IT environments. Avoid both environment lock-in (to only one of the three) and vendor lock-in, and reassess approaches that might not survive as standards and technologies evolve.
Sequence the journey: Avoid “ready, fire, aim” approaches. Layout a careful, clear roadmap of what you want to do and in what order. You may experience pressure to skip ahead without building a solid, open foundation. Resist it.
Mobilise the right skills and assets: Draw upon talent within and outside your enterprise. It’s important to develop and maintain in-house skills, but working with trusted third-party services providers, enabled by greater interoperability, can help bridge short-term gaps while reducing fixed costs.
Manage to create clear outcomes: Establish meaningful qualitative and quantitative measurements and be tenacious in holding to them. Remain flexible and incorporate new technologies as they emerge. Always stay true to your business, architectural, and technical principles.
The hybrid IT strategy questions to ask include:
To what extent do your people understand the implications and opportunities of next-generation cloud on your business and your competitive environment?
How is your organisation, and your competition, taking advantage of hybrid cloud, particularly data and processes that, until recently, have been difficult to move?
What adjustments have you made in hiring and training to have the right people at the right time working on the right things in dynamic ecosystems powered by hybrid cloud?
The quest for hybrid IT nirvana
In summary, organisations will continue to seek the essential benefits of a hybrid model because it offers them the freedom of choice that forward-thinking CIOs and CTOs require. Put simply, they’ll need the flexibility and agility of a Hybrid IT environment to achieve their bold goals for digital transformation.
From the C-suite perspective, this quest isn’t about technology. Rather, it’s about applied IT enabling strategic business outcomes. The goal: deliver a unified experience across platforms that abstracts the underlying IT infrastructure. The ‘everything-as-a-service’ platform accelerates the achievement of commercial objectives. It also reduces the risk of cyber threats by assuring digital trust.