Step into the cloud: The need for a hybrid approach

There are a number of different opinions when it comes to hybrid cloud. Some think hybrid is merely a step in the journey on the way to adopting wholesale public cloud.

Indeed, Amazon’s vice president and chief technology officer, Werner Vogels, recently declared that hybrid cloud is merely ‘the path to full cloud’. Others think that hybrid is the eventual solution to the cloud conundrum that many organisations face.

Debate will continue, but when all is said and done, does the answer to the question on the future of cloud, hybrid or otherwise, really matter?

The real and pertinent questions on cloud, for any IT department, centre on what the benefits are and whether it will make the business more agile, productive and cost efficient. Predicting the answers to these questions in an ever-changing environment is no mean feat, which means that planning for future IT infrastructure becomes a real challenge.

Many CIOs find themselves grappling with 10 year IT roadmaps and, as a result, are missing out on the potential ‘quick wins’ a hybrid approach could deliver. By taking a tactical, incremental approach, small shifts to cloud can be taken that will deliver immediate benefits and a much more manageable roadmap.

Cloud is outsourced IT

When it comes to cloud, many organisations have really only dipped a toe in the water, and misconceptions still abound. It is not always cheaper to go the cloud route, for example, and public cloud services are far more secure than we are often led to believe.

In addition, while cloud is often lauded for its ability to simplify IT structures, it can bring integration challenges that lead to more complex architectures. At a time when enterprise IT environments are already becoming more difficult to manage, cloud has the potential to add to the burden.

The best way to avoid a cloud project becoming a costly mistake is to approach cloud with the knowledge that ultimately, it is just another outsourced IT service. Therefore, it needs to be assessed, benchmarked and implemented with the same level of detail. As with any other form of outsourcing, any business that can’t manage a service effectively in-house will not solve its problems by simply placing it in the hands of an external supplier.

The IT department needs to take a close look at exactly how well it is controlling its own IT resources and services before it decides what to place in the cloud.

Look before you leap

Deciding which selected workloads will be moved to the cloud can only be done by benchmarking an organisation’s existing IT services. Similarly, IT departments need to know that functions such as IT service management and capacity planning are fully under control before any migration begins.

For example, if a business does not need the benefit of elasticity for a static, predictable workload, then in the long run cloud could work out more expensive. If, however, the business does need elasticity for a fluctuating workload, then cloud may indeed be the most cost-effective option.

This approach will help businesses then identify where small cloud steps can be introduced for quick wins. Typically, businesses are facing a challenge because on-premise solutions are not flexible enough and are not meeting the expectations of the business and its customers. As a result, the conversation that the CIO and IT department is having with the rest of the business is about risk and cost, instead of the positive, enabling benefits of cloud. A step-by-step hybrid cloud infrastructure can change this dynamic, helping businesses transform their IT environment with the best possible chance of successful results.

Small shifts, big gains

For IT departments and CIOs with this renewed focus on enablement and simplification, adopting cloud in incremental stages helps businesses move away from the challenges of traditional infrastructure and deliver agile, cost effective services.

It likewise ensures that the right cloud is used for the right workload, giving businesses the benefits of cloud with a transfer of risk. When a business begins to see material benefits from the cloud, delivered quickly, it also means that cloud is justified as a viable option for future IT projects.

Through this staggered approach, many businesses can realise big benefits from taking a hybrid cloud pathway in as little as 12-18 months – rather than predicting gains that will be realised 5-10 years in the future. Ultimately, the business might decide that in 10 years’ time it will have fully adopted public cloud and on-premise services will be a thing of its past. But in the meantime, there’s little point worrying about the long-term headache of managing infrastructure when businesses can start enjoying the benefits of cloud now.

Fulfilling IT’s role as an enabler

The role of the CIO and the IT department has changed from that of a builder of systems to a broker of services. Their focus now must be on simplifying the challenges that users face, and letting users consume services in a low-risk way that enables them to be productive – in an ecosystem that is ever-increasing in complexity.

Taking an incremental approach to hybrid cloud gives CIOs a platform to lead real business change from the centre, and avoid being bypassed or replaced.

By driving the strategy and promoting the positive benefits of cloud, CIOs will reduce risks and maximise investments; rather than simply ignoring cloud and falling behind.

James Butler, CTO, Trustmarque.

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