In the age of rapid digital transformation, innovation begins with empowering your developers with the best tools.

That isn’t always easy.

“The most important thing to recognize is, this is a journey,” says JJ Asghar, a developer advocate for IBM Cloud. “This is hard stuff, but if you take the first step, you will be successful. Your business will win.”

The journey Asghar is referring to is an enterprise-level migration to hybrid cloud. In recent years, the trifecta of adaptability, scalability and cost-effectiveness has driven wider cloud adoption. From access to machine learning tools to cybersecurity solutions to more intelligent operational dashboards, the promise of a hybrid cloud strategy is a sophisticated portfolio of innovative applications, products and services that delight customers. More specifically, a hybrid cloud creates “unprecedented velocity for developers to do their jobs without worrying about the constraints of different clouds out there,” Asghar says. McKinsey estimates (link resides outside of ibm.com) that cloud adoption can unlock over USD 1 trillion in business value by helping companies improve speed, scale and productivity. For businesses that have yet to begin their modernization journeys, Asghar’s message is blunt: “You are going to lose if you are always reacting to competition. It’s like playing chess: If you are not controlling the board, you’re losing.”

Don’t be surprised by Asghar’s penchant for analogies. A self-described “personable nerd,” the developer advocate uses them often as he helps CIOs and CTOs navigate their modernization journeys. He also says developing software is similar to putting together a massive puzzle, or an ecosystem of tools and solutions. Ultimately, his goal is to help technology leaders (and their developers) innovate faster — without burning out.

Some leaders can be too aggressive in their modernization ambitions by pursuing whatever hybrid cloud benefit seems to be the most “cool, new and shiny,” Asghar says. Instead, they need to consider how a hybrid cloud strategy can support their future pipelines, and not just today’s most profitable lines of business. “You’d be amazed how much time and effort it takes to migrate something that’s already successful to the hybrid cloud model,” he says. “This is about being ahead of the curve and planning your next step…and the one after that.”

So how do you take that first step, and what are some common trip-ups? Here’s some “Asgharian” advice to guide your journey to becoming cloud-native.

Diversify your landscape

Modernization doesn’t mean “ripping and replacing” or swapping technology like on-site data centers for cloud computing. As Asghar recommends, in most cases “financial information should still be stored in your data center, and you should still use a mainframe.” The actual goal is optimizing assets, infrastructure and systems with a diverse set of best-of-breed solutions. “You’ll need to be willing to make small, iterative changes to gain velocity and efficiency,” he says. This means a hybrid cloud strategy can encapsulate on-site data centers, edge computing, a public cloud and open source software, working to compound the benefits of each. Think of it as technological diversity.

Unify your world

A hybrid cloud can enable velocity in many ways, but it starts with having a unified platform that will support whatever kind of cloud computing makes sense for your organization. “Simply put, this is about avoiding vendor lock-in,” Asghar says. “There are multiple major players in the cloud space. A unified platform ensures downstream developers don’t have to worry about what’s required to run their code.”

Red Hat OpenShift, which IBM acquired in 2019, has helped developers navigate the mixed computing, storage and services of a hybrid environment. For example, its flexibility was a benefit for Coca-Cola European Partners, or CCEP, which is working with IBM to accelerate its transformation to an open hybrid cloud environment, including SAP workloads. CCEP wants a platform that will unite legacy systems with new technologies, such as AI and the Internet of Things, to create a consolidated view — and a single point of control — over its entire IT infrastructure.

 

Waterfalls flowing down a mountain

Grow your ecosystem

Every company is an ecosystem; leaders need to understand how a hybrid cloud can build and evolve that ecosystem. For specific industries, a hybrid cloud strategy has become crucial for applications that contain sensitive data not suited for the public cloud, particularly medical and financial information. Banking leaders, for example, rely on cloud computing to deliver scalable and innovative products and services that satisfy fast-evolving consumer and market demands. But this also comes with security concerns: Organizations must maintain strict regulatory and compliance obligations across borders.

Like other heavily regulated industries, such as healthcare and government services, financial services has a deep investment in legacy technologies, as Asghar notes. The solution is to evolve over time. Incorporate what an organization already has with a clear understanding of where it needs to go.

By adopting an open hybrid cloud approach, pragmatic banking leaders can modernize on-site legacy applications by connecting them to powerful open cloud technologies, all while improving cybersecurity. One of the largest banks in Europe, CaixaBank, says its recent collaboration with IBM has helped combine its current infrastructure with an updated environment that’s boosted by artificial intelligence. “You’re leveraging the best technology for both systems,” Asghar says.

Asghar offers three pieces of advice for leaders navigating their hybrid cloud journey. The first is simple: “Start now,” Asghar says. Secondly, do your homework. Asghar says many leaders aren’t sure of what they want to migrate to a hybrid cloud — only that they want to do it. His advice is to experiment with migrating a technology or service farther down your pipeline.

Then, be ready to learn from your mistakes. “This is not a sprint. It’s a journey,” Asghar says. “You’re not going to be cloud-native all of a sudden. It doesn’t happen that way. You’re going to have to stumble and fall. You’re going to have to climb that mountain. But the beauty of it is you will get the velocity you need. So long as you do your homework and invest at the right time in the right place, you will leapfrog your competition.”

Next steps

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