Hybrid

Is force of habit defining your hybrid cloud destiny?

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wpid-thumbnail-3e542cb71d3bf88d2ccc756fe4362789-333x500I’ve recently been playing a fun game that might be called “guess your job.” It’s simple to play. All you need to do is ask someone who works in IT, “What is a hybrid cloud?” and then based upon their answer, make your guess. I’ve been playing this for a while and am now pretty good at being able to predict someone’s job role based on their viewpoint or vice versa.

And the point of all this? The game demonstrates that people’s viewpoints are constrained by their experiences. Because of what keeps them busy day-to-day, they often miss an opportunity to do something different. If you are a mobile app developer, then hybrid cloud is all about consuming services from different clouds to create something new. For those working in a traditional IT department and keeping systems up and running, hybrid cloud is all about integrating an existing onsite system with an offsite cloud. This is a nice, easy concept to grasp, but it is somewhat more difficult to put into practice.

Do you think hybrid cloud is too difficult to implement?

Most people in IT understand the idea of connecting an onsite system of record to a cloud-based system of engagement—and pulling data from both to generate new insights. That said, the number of organizations making production use of such arrangements is still small.

For example, hybrid cloud could involve combining historical customer transaction information with real-time geospatial, social, and mobile data and then applying analytics to generate insights which uncover new sales potential.

For many organizations, though, the challenge of granting access to the existing enterprise systems is simply too great. Security concerns, the inability to keep up with the speed of change, and the challenge of extracting the right data in a form that is immediately usable by the analytical tools may be hurdles that are simply too high. Indeed, many clients I’ve worked with have stated that they’re just not going to do this. They understand the benefits, but the pain they imagine having to go through to get there makes it unattractive to pursue.

If this story aligns with your view of hybrid cloud and you’ve already put it in the “too hard” box, then what is your way forward?

Three common principles of hybrid cloud scenarios

For most organizations, no single cloud provider is going to offer all the services they might want to consume. If they need to bring data from these disparate cloud services together, then that is a hybrid cloud use case: linking cloud to cloud. Even in the onsite to offsite hybrid cloud case, there can be real differences in implementation when the relationship is static versus dynamic.

Many organizations are looking to cloud as a more effective and agile platform for backup and archiving or for disaster recovery. All these are hybrid cloud use cases too, but if you’ve already written off hybrid, then you’re likely missing very real opportunities to do what is right for the business.

Regardless of your hybrid cloud scenario, you need to keep in mind three key principles that apply to every hybrid cloud:

  1. Portability: Portability means the ability to run and consume services and data from wherever it is most appropriate to do so, be that cloud or non-cloud, on site or off site.
  2. Security, visibility, and control: These characteristics assure that end-to-end, regardless of where the “end” is, you are running services in such a way that they are appropriately secure, well managed and well understood.
  3. Developer productivity: Developers should focus on solving business problems and shouldn’t be constrained by worries about how or when supporting infrastructure platforms are deployed. They should be able to consume and integrate services from many different sources to solve problems rather than having to create everything they need from scratch.

Let future opportunities guide your technology choices

If you come from that traditional IT department background, you’ll be familiar with the processes that are in place to ensure that systems are well managed, change is controlled, and service levels are maintained. These processes may not be compatible with the new opportunities opened by cloud computing. Companies therefore need to look at creating a “two-speed” IT organization to provide the rigor where needed for the systems of record while enabling rapid change and delivery in the systems of engagement space.

Cloud generates innovation and hence, diversity. Economics, regulation, and open communities drive standardization, and it is this, and in particular open standards, that facilitates integration in all these hybrid cloud cases.

So, ask yourself. With more than 65 percent of enterprise IT organizations making commitments on hybrid cloud technologies before 2016, are you ensuring that your definitions—and hence your technology choices—reflect future opportunities rather than past prejudices?

John Easton is an IBM Cloud Advisor and Distinguished Engineer.

Distinguished Engineer, IBM Watson and Cloud Platform

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