Hybrid cloud attracts many different opinions. Some think it’s merely a step in the journey to adopting wholesale public cloud, others think it’s the eventual solution to the cloud conundrum. Debate will continue, but the real question on cloud centres on identifying the relevant business benefits that make businesses more agile, productive and cost efficient. Predicting the answers to these questions in an ever-changing environment is no mean feat, so planning for future IT infrastructure becomes a real challenge. CIOs find themselves grappling with 10-year roadmaps and, as a result, are missing out on the ‘quick wins’ a hybrid approach could deliver. Through an incremental approach, small shifts to cloud can be taken that will deliver immediate benefits and a much more manageable roadmap.
The future of how businesses operate will be immeasurably impacted by the introduction of software-as-a-service (SaaS), as it creates a long-tail of services that will realise the consumerisation of the enterprise. The biggest change will be in the IT department; its role will change from that of a builder of systems to a broker of services that empowers the rest of the business. This disruption will usher in a new model of IT, the full impact of which will be felt within the next five years. The only real certainty is the architecture of the future will look very different to how it appears today. In the meantime, the best and first step an organisation can take to prepare for this change is to begin the adoption of hybrid cloud that will help it optimise and cope with its legacy investments, whilst enabling agility for new digital projects – the much talked about ‘bi-modal IT’.
Cloud infrastructure is outsourced IT
When it comes to cloud, many organisations have only dipped a toe in the water and misconceptions still abound. It is not always cheaper to go the cloud route, for example, and public cloud services are far more secure than we are often led to believe. Further, while cloud is often lauded for its ability to simplify IT structures, it can bring integration challenges that lead to complex architectures. At a time when enterprise IT environments are already becoming more difficult to manage, cloud has the potential to add to the burden.
To avoid a cloud infrastructure project becoming a costly mistake, CIOs must approach it with the knowledge that ultimately, public or hosted cloud is just another outsourced IT service. It therefore needs to be assessed, benchmarked and implemented with the same level of detail. As with any form of outsourcing, any business that can’t manage a service effectively in-house, will not solve its problems by simply placing it in the hands of an external supplier. IT departments must look closely at exactly how well it is controlling its own IT resources, before it decides what to place in the cloud.
Look before you leap
Deciding which selected workloads will be moved to the cloud can only be done by benchmarking existing IT services. Similarly, IT departments need to know that functions such as IT service management and capacity planning are fully under control before any migration. For example, if a business does not need the benefit of elasticity for a static, predictable workload, then in the long run cloud could be more expensive. If, however, the business does need elasticity for a fluctuating workload, then cloud may be the most cost-effective option. This careful benchmarking will help identify where small cloud steps can be introduced for quick wins.
Typically, businesses face a challenge because on-premise solutions are not flexible and do not meet the expectations of the business. As a result, the conversation that the IT department is having with the rest of the business is about risk and cost, instead of the positive benefits of cloud. A step-by-step hybrid cloud infrastructure can change this dynamic, helping businesses transform their IT environment to enable and empower employees, with the best possible chance of success.
Small shifts, big gains
With this renewed focus on enablement and simplification, adopting cloud in incremental stages helps move from the challenges of traditional infrastructure and deliver agile, cost effective services. It likewise ensures the right cloud is used for the right workload, delivering the benefits of cloud with a transfer of risk. When a business begins to see material benefits from the cloud, delivered quickly, it also means cloud becomes a more viable option for future IT projects.
Through this staggered approach, businesses can realise big benefits from taking a hybrid cloud pathway in as little as 12-18 months – rather than predicting gains that will be realised 5-10 years in the future. Ultimately, the business might decide that in 10 years’ time it will have fully adopted public cloud and on-premise services will be a thing of its past. But in the meantime, there’s little point worrying about the long-term headache of managing infrastructure when businesses can start enjoying the benefits of cloud now.
Fulfilling IT’s role as an enabler
As the role of the CIO and the IT department continues to change, their focus now must be on simplifying the challenges that users face; letting users consume services in a low-risk way that enables them to be productive. Whilst refocusing, CIOs must at the same time manage the existing infrastructure and IT legacy that runs the business today, and re-shape it over time.
Taking an incremental approach to hybrid cloud gives CIOs a platform to lead real business change from the centre, and avoid being bypassed or replaced. By driving the strategy and promoting the positive benefits of cloud, CIOs will reduce risks and maximise investments; rather than simply ignoring cloud and falling behind.
About the author
James Butler is the Chief Technology Officer at end-to-end technology provider Trustmarque. Previously he was Cloud Services Director at Liberata and Head of Cloud Services Group at Trinity Expert Systems