The benefits that hybrid cloud can bring to businesses are not in doubt. What is less clear, is just how much is too much. Since every organisation’s needs and responsibilities are unique, there is no easy, one-size-fits-all answer. Business criticality, the level of control required and cost, among others, all play a part in the decision. Below are five tips to help ensure your hybrid IT is, in the words of Goldilocks, just right.
One: Map out the territory
As with any IT project, an organisation adopting hybrid cloud should first know precisely what its present position is. The IT department first must map its current IT services, followed by the IT environment it currently uses to provide them.
With this map, the department should be able to answer precisely what IT infrastructure provides what services to what part of the business; as well as the skills and other resources that support those services, and the value that they provide to the business. Once it understands the status quo, the department can then start to look to the future.
Two: Chart the goal
This once again involves mapping, this time based on the future services the business will need. If the IT department knows the business’s strategy for the next 3, 5 or more years, it should know what services will be crucial in supporting that strategy and meeting the relevant milestones.
These services should then be aligned to the infrastructure, applications, skills and other resources that they will need to run. Armed with this roadmap, IT will see at a glance precisely how its current capabilities match up with those the business will demand; and where the hybrid cloud might begin helping.
Three: Dig deep
For most organisations, the solution won’t be as simple as just using the hybrid cloud to expand beyond current capacity and meet service demands. For instance, for some services it may be more cost-effective to expand on an in-house application or infrastructure, or to re-train skilled personnel, than to adopt a public cloud service; while for others the exact opposite will be true.
To gain this level of understanding, the IT department needs to investigate each service it provides in detail. It should be able to tell the precise value that service brings to the business and exactly what it costs to provide; as well as how those costs will change as the business evolves.
These costs need to include software licensing, infrastructure, skilled resources and all other factors involved; as well as taking into account that many of these factors will benefit multiple services. With this knowledge, IT departments can then accurately compare costs between in-house and public cloud services, to know exactly where each service is best served and where the tipping point lies.
Four: Know your crown jewels
Naturally, there are applications that should never be placed in the public cloud. Departments must know the crown jewels of the organisation; those business-critical applications where failure or losing control of data would have catastrophic consequences.
For instance, take an airline’s reservation system. If this fails, it would cause significant damage to both revenue and reputation. At the same time, the system will contain extremely sensitive personal and financial data on passengers; which present a major risk to the business and its customers if lost (and a security risk if they can be edited).
Outsourcing such an application would put the airline at the mercy of its service providers’ practices, rather than having complete control itself. Quite simply, if the loss of an application means the loss of the business, it should be kept safely in-house.
Five: Avoid IT for IT’s sake
On the other end of the scale, IT should be wary of excessive caution; keeping applications in-house when it no longer benefits the business to do so. While losing control of an application, putting the organisation at risk or failing compliance, is an understandable worry, too often it can lead to IT becoming a function for its own sake instead of an important arm of the business’s overall strategy.
For example, a solicitors’ firm should be focused on providing legal services to its clients and building its business. For every application that is kept in-house, IT will spend more time on troubleshooting and firefighting, rather than supporting those core goals. While the firm’s crown jewels, such as case and document management, will remain firmly in-house, other lower-risk and lower-value applications should be placed on the public cloud; freeing up IT department resources to focus on critical applications or new projects.
The golden rule: Knowledge is power
If I were to sum up these tips in three words, I’d say: knowledge is power. The IT department that knows the services it has, the services it needs, and what those services actually consist of, will be able to identify its perfect cloud sweet spot; where the crown jewels are kept in the business, but the IT department’s energy is not spent performing housekeeping for low-risk, low-value applications. This will be where IT services are providing the maximum value to the business, regardless of where they actually reside.
About the author
Andy Soanes, CTO at Bell Integration an IT services and consulting company. Andy joined in April 2014, and has been responsible for driving the strategic direction of Bell's services portfolio and IP. Previously he held senior roles at GlassHouse technologies and Systems Group Integration