Hybrid multicloud: A mouthful, but the right approach

From time to time, we invite industry thought leaders to share their opinions and insights on current technology trends to the IBM Systems IT Infrastructure blog. The opinions in these posts are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of IBM.

New technologies breed new buzzwords and terminology, and sometimes it can be difficult to keep up with what it all means. For example, I’m sure you’ve heard the term “hybrid multicloud,” but have you ever really stopped to think about what it means and what it implies for IT in your organizations?

What does it mean?

First let’s take a moment to break down the term hybrid multicloud.

Hybrid implies something heterogeneous in origin or composition. In other words, it is something that is composed of multiple other things. Multicloud is pretty simple, and refers to using more than one cloud computing service.

So, when you use the term “hybrid” in conjunction with “multicloud,” it implies an IT infrastructure that uses a mix of on premises and/or private / public cloud from multiple providers.

This is a sensible approach for many organizations because it enables you to maintain and benefit from the systems and data that you have built over time. And, to couple it with current best practices for reducing cost and scaling with cloud services where and when it makes sense.

No one single system or technology is the right solution for every project. No matter what the prognosticators are saying, we will not be moving everything to the cloud and abandoning every enterprise computing system we ever built in the past. But the cloud offers economies of scale and flexibility that make it a great addition to the overall IT infrastructure for companies of all sizes.

With a hybrid multicloud approach, you can choose what makes sense for each component, task, and project that you tackle. Maintain existing platforms to benefit from their rich heritage and integrate them with new capabilities and techniques when appropriate.

Another way of saying this is that you utilize the appropriate platform and technology for the task at hand.

The mainframe is a vital component

For large enterprises, the mainframe has been a vital cog in their IT infrastructure for more than 50 years. Mainframes continue to drive a significant portion of mission critical workload for big business.

Mainframes house more of the world’s structured enterprise data than any other platform. A large percentage of all enterprise transactions run on or interact with the mainframe to conduct business. The mainframe is used by 44 out of the top 50 worldwide banks, 10 out of the top 10 insurers and 18 out of the top 25 retailers.[1]

Clearly the mainframe continues to be an important platform for hosting and developing critical business applications. As such, it is a critical component that should be considered for enterprise hybrid multicloud implementations.

Challenges of system change

As we embark on our hybrid multicloud journey, we must embrace the challenges that are involved in integrating, managing, and utilizing a complex heterogeneous system of different platforms and technologies.

The goal is to bring order, control and insight to disparate environments. This means building resiliency and business continuity into the applications and systems. An outage anywhere in the hybrid multicloud should not cause transactions and business to cease operating.

Furthermore, security and data protection must be part of your strategy. Your customers do not care about the technology you use–they expect to be able to access your systems easily and for their data to be protected. Furthermore, with regulations like HIPAA, PCI-DSS, GDPR and more, your hybrid multicloud must be secure.

It is also challenging to manage systems that rely on multiple cloud service providers, Each provider will have different configuration and security requirements, along with separate development and deployment techniques and requirements.

And let’s not forget that we are integrating many disparate components in a hybrid multicloud infrastructure, not just cloud providers. These are typically implemented, managed, and monitored in different ways, using different technologies. It is imperative that you build and acquire management solutions that can be used to manage and orchestrate the activities and projects across your environment with minimal disruption.

A rigorous plan for choosing multicloud management solutions that understand the cloud providers and on-premises technology that you use can be the difference between success and failure. Plan wisely!

The bottom line

Tackling modern technology is not as simple as “throw out the old and bring in the new.” You have to integrate the old and the new in order to continue to build business value. That means adopting a hybrid multicloud approach. This can deliver the most value to your organization, but it also requires being cognizant of the challenges and making plans to overcome them for your business.

To learn more about IT infrastructure for your hybrid multicloud environment, read this Forrester paper, Assess The Pain-Gain Tradeoff of Multicloud Strategies.

[1] https://www.ibm.com/it-infrastructure/z/education/what-is-a-mainframe