By Todd Whaley, director of consultancy service at Pulsant
Hybrid IT is one of the key trends that is re-shaping the technology landscape, and can provide benefits like improved agility, increased flexibility and reduced costs. Hybrid IT joins two worlds together, the old traditional systems and cloud services, linking the old and the new. While many organisations are already operating in a hybrid IT configuration in some form, just as many organisations are at a loss of how to start; or have implemented systems that take them into a hybrid IT state and are unaware of the impacts.
One of the main reasons is that there are so many definitions of hybrid IT, especially seeing as many companies use this term interchangeably with hybrid cloud. In a nutshell, hybrid IT can best be defined as the result of combining internal and external services and resources, usually from a combination of internal, private and public clouds in support of a business outcome.
Apart from defining what hybrid IT means for your organisation; how do you ensure you’re reaping all the benefits and working towards a successful migration and implementing the right management controls? Working with the right provider to define, architect and implement your strategy to support the new technology solutions and services, such as private and public cloud offerings, is a good start, especially those that offer more than just cloud hosting. While these vendors can advise on the right cloud or mix of cloud solutions to suit your business requirements, they don’t necessarily look at the bigger picture — issues like your long-term strategy, management of the new solutions, security, how it impacts your business and IT processes, the changing role of enterprise IT, the impact of change in your business and IT economics. Cloud providers that also offer consultancy services or managed services can be particularly beneficial to your organisation as they typically look at five main areas that are necessary in helping you implement, manage and continually improve your hybrid IT environment.
Many organisations dive into cloud, adopting a cloud-first approach without fully considering the organisation as a whole. Most companies are consuming multiple cloud services — and have been for quite some time, simply adding them as they’ve been needed. But often these services are disparate in terms of the ways they’re managed and implemented, and they haven’t been considered in the context of a wider cloud strategy.
While the expectation is that all organisations will adopt a cloud solution at some point due to cost, efficiency, security, data recovery or agility, different consumption models have different implications. So what needs to be done?
Organisations can use the consultancy advice and guidance from cloud providers in developing a cloud strategy that takes the entire environment into account — how they’re going to manage it, what changes are required and where systems, data and applications will be migrated to. This is particularly important in terms of legislative requirements, such as the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) that will apply in the UK from 25 May 2018. Cloud strategy must include security and legal framework considerations around where the data actually is, which is your obligation to ensure is correct
Understanding new technology
Hybrid IT relies on new technologies to connect the old and new, and even new and new, like multiple cloud connections, sophisticated data classification and identity, and service-orientated architecture — all of which involves significant change for IT and management teams. These new technologies are complex and are evolving all the time. The result is that in-house IT departments don’t necessarily have the time or the skills to come to grips with these changes and what needs to be implemented with the cloud. It is here that consultancy services play an important role — from developing the new hybrid architecture and teaching IT teams how to transform, to showing them how to manage the new environment once it’s implemented. Cloud providers that offer this level of consultancy have the needed skills and resources to help organisations understand the changing technology landscape and the implications for not only the IT staff but also the business.
By its very definition, a hybrid IT model requires internal and external IT professionals to support the business capabilities and the new IT environment. As a result, the traditional role of the enterprise IT professional is changing and becoming multi-faceted. No longer is the IT department responsible for managing in-house resources that they have physical access to, but they are also responsible for the services provided to them by third parties. This move to hybrid changes the model of asset management and operational capabilities, the IT service management activities and SLA mappings across the IT organisation need to be realigned, which means a deeper understanding of these new services is needed.
The change in the IT economics of cloud means that the way IT was previously budgeted for and forecasted has changed significantly. The CxO is now pressuring IT organizations to lower the overhead by offloading services to cloud providers, changing unreliable, spiking and significant capital expenditure into stable and sensible OPEX expenditure consumption model.
Traditionally organisations would refresh their hardware every three to five years, which is a huge capital expense. Not only that, these refreshes were unpredictable because they had different hardware bought and implemented at different times. With new IT consumption models, everything-as-a-service, there is a better level of predictability because they are essentially using a pay-as-you-go model.
Look at licensing, as an example; Office 365 is bought on a per-user basis, with no CAPEX, no depreciation. With a user-based model, budgeting around the cost of an employee is more predictable with more control. Organisations can rely on service providers for consultancy around managing those licences and determining a TCO per employee in order to further streamline budgeting and cost management.
Impact of transformation
When it comes to transforming to a cloud environment, the model of service delivery tests both the long-standing practices of IT organisations and the business models of traditional IT vendors. Transformation essentially means moving from legacy infrastructure or service to a newer one, and the main challenge here is that organisations don’t necessarily know what they have in their existing environments, let alone how to effect this migration.
This is where providers of consultancy services come in — they assess the organisation from a business and IT view, discover and analyse the legacy infrastructure they actually have, assess what actually has to move, what the transformation strategy will look like taking into consideration the impact of this shift, and then assist in the move itself. They de-risk this critical transformation from ‘as is’ to the ‘to be’, with a clear and precise roadmap and transition state that ensures the business is not impacted.
Consultancy services have a leading role to play in today’s hybrid cloud landscape. From guiding a business through developing a cloud strategy, to ensuring all impacts of transformation are understood and covered, these specialised consultancy services bring great value to organisations that want to or have to operate a hybrid IT environment.