The role of visibility and control in the hybrid cloud

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VisibilityI had an interesting discussion with the chief tech officer of a rather large insurance company the other day. His company is making huge progress in moving from a rigid IT environment to one that provides agility and flexibility for changing business situations.

The situation within his company reflects many of the key players in transitioning industries. Speed and agility are the most important issues for line-of-business leaders. Financial managers, on the other hand, want to make sure that whatever happens is executed in a way that fits with the company’s budget guidelines. The bottom line is that no executive wants to prevent business leaders from innovating. However, a consensus is emerging: there must be a balance between quickly innovating and controlling costs.

One thing the CTO said to me was, “I am tired of being Mr. No.” The CTO has a tough role to play. First, he wants to be seen by the business leaders as a partner who can help achieve ambitious goals. On the other hand, he must be able to address the concerns of the chief financial officer, who wants assurance that costs are predictable and in line with expectations.

At first glance, it might seem as though this is a simple problem to solve. The IT department must give the business the freedom to use the service that will enable the organization to move efficiently and effectively. But the world is not that simple.

There are myriad services and technologies that businesses need, including data centers, private clouds, public cloud platforms and managed services. The financial models for all of these deployment models are very different, and the choice in deployment model may be driven by technical reasons as well as financial decisions. For example, when a business unit wants to quickly build an application to test a new business model or a new offering, a public cloud may provide the most cost-effective approach. The economic model may begin to shift when a service is designed as a product and profit center. In this situation, the company may want greater control over the infrastructure to keep expenses predictable.

There are many factors that must be considered when selecting the right platform to deploy new services. An organization must take into account finances, governance, security, and regulatory considerations when selecting its deployment method. Yet most stakeholders in the business have a common goal: quickly create and deploy services that are simple to access and easy to consume so that these services provide immediate value to clients. To create their own services quickly and easily, stakeholders require reliability and availability. Achieving thins seamless environment requires that all the services behave as though they are unified. Unlike with traditional, rigid environments, stakeholders should be able to select the cloud service that best fits their requirements, regardless of provider. Stakeholders demand the best execution time and the best price to meet the business need.

Achieving these goals requires an infrastructure that allows users to know what services are available, how they operate and what they cost to operate. In addition, it is critical to understand the characteristics of the available services. Is the service available from a credible vendor? What level of security and governance is available from the service provider? How does that service provider charge for compute, storage, and networking? It is equally critical to understand how these services are going to work together to achieve efficiency, accessibility, speed and value. Choice and flexibility without security and integration leads to complexity and inefficiency, not speed and value.

IT specialists and businesses may not be aware that they are forbidden from using certain cloud services because of regulatory or data-sovereignty rules.  All stakeholders must have assurance that their preferred service providers are approved and that the deployment environment(s) comply with rules and regulations. To remain compliant, simplify work and avoid costly mistakes, many organizations are automating some of the choice with hybrid cloud management and cloud brokering services.

When organizations establish an effective hybrid cloud management environment, it changes the relationship between IT and the business, reducing the complexity and costs for IT and maximizing the self-service needs of the business. If the IT organization can present the business with approved (for instance, “in-policy”) services they need when they need them, IT becomes a partner with the business. The persona of “Mr. No CTO” becomes “Mr. or Ms. Cloud Service Broker for the Enterprise.”  This new cloud broker offers the following:

  • a variety of cloud services offered by multiple providers that are compliant with enterprise policies (such as cloud brokering) based on business needs
  • provides IT management with the necessary visibility, control, compliance
  • provides developers and operations professionals with the speed, choice and simplicity to create the right applications and deploy them on the most appropriate platform
  • provides the CFO with a way to manage costs and financial reporting

This type of environment, based on cloud brokering, is a pragmatic approach to leveraging a hybrid cloud for companies trying to compete in an increasingly uncertain world.

IBM is leveraging its acquisition of Gravitant to create a comprehensive brokerage solution featuring hybrid cloud management platform called IBM Cloud Brokerage along with brokerage services. This brokering capability enables customers to select the most appropriate public or private cloud service based on workloads. The IBM Cloud Brokerage dashboard offers customers the ability to have visibility into what services are running and establish business process rules to determine what service is used based on company requirements.

Click here to learn more about IBM Cloud Brokerage offerings.

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