Demystifying The Cloudy World Of Hybrid IT

Hybrid IT? Sounds complicated. Actually, it’s pretty simple—and much more familiar than you might think. Most of us don’t exclusively store our personal “stuff”—documents, videos, pictures and music—on our PC, tablet or phone: We also use a range of different services and applications to publish and access our files—Dropbox, Facebook, Google+, iCloud, etc. “Hybrid IT” describes the same basic idea, but on a much larger scale. At the enterprise level, hybrid IT combines traditional in-house data centres with public “cloud” software and data services. But why not just stick with your traditional data centres?


Think Of It Like A Car
Maybe electric cars are the future? Pure, electric-only cars are efficient and inexpensive to recharge. Mile-for-mile, they cause less pollution. But with limited battery storage and immature charging-station networks, you’re sacrificing convenience, control and dependability. If it runs out of juice, it’s the AAA tow truck for you. On the other hand, gasoline engines are dirtier, inefficient, and expensive to run. But at least you’re less likely to run out of fuel before you reach your destination. Moreover, if the needle gets too low, you can quickly fill up just around the next corner. But a hybrid car combines the two—electric motor and internal combustion engine—for the best of both worlds: You have unbeatable miles per gallon and 500 miles of range, with refuelling options available at any local gas station. In terms of cost-effectiveness and control, a hybrid car is the ultimate in automotive flexibility. Toyota’s Prius proved Hybrid worked, and now with Tesla, BMW, GM, Ferrari and others, you might even want to own one!


It’s The Same With Hybrid IT
By provisioning outside software or data services in a public cloud, you can rapidly grow or adapt your IT architecture without large capital costs. That’s a huge plus for budget-minded executives, especially those concentrating on building value through innovation. In addition, sharing public cloud data centre with other tenants offers economies of scale and greater global reach. But, much as with an electric-only car, you can lose control and dependability. Public cloud service providers can’t always meet security requirements, integrate with existing systems, or guarantee the availability of critical applications. So, as with a traditional car engine, there are tangible benefits to the traditional data centre. In-house IT services are already matched to core business requirements and are more capable of mitigating data governance and compliance risks. By combining both approaches, you gain IT flexibility and agility, while maintaining data control. If done correctly, hybrid IT can offer the best of both worlds.


How Do You Determine The Right Mix Of Internal And External Services?
Every industry is different. But in my experience, these are the three key factors directly affecting hybrid IT adoption:

1. Workflow Dynamics And Business Growth. Does your business have peak periods of IT activity? Is it experiencing fast growth? Some organizations—particularly those based on innovative products or services—experience spikes during a complex design phase or right before a new product launch. In these cases, an outside service provider offers the flexibility to accommodate surges in workflow or scale quickly during rapid growth.

2. Business Differentiation vs. Business Support. At its simplest, this means owning the services and data most critical to your business while using outside vendors for support services—such as email. What differentiates your business, brand or product? In contrast, what aspects are more commoditized? You may want to keep control of your data, or other proprietary IT functions, while outsourcing basic operational applications.

But before you rush out to a third-party service, don’t forget to consider the third factor…

3. Legal And Regulatory Concerns
Your hybrid IT options may be limited if you operate within a heavily regulated industry. For an individual, this may not be that important. But for an organization, there’s significantly more risk, including legal ramifications for high-level executives.

These types of limitations also extend to specific divisions within a company. For example, externally-hosted email may work well for most of an enterprise, but departments such as Legal or Finance may decide to keep their email stores in-house, given the balance of risk.


The Bottom Line
In today’s rapidly-evolving environment, hybrid IT offers enhanced capacity, faster scalability, and increased agility. That’s not to say the traditional on-premises data centre is obsolete. Rather, it means IT departments must begin to carefully and purposefully incorporate hybrid cloud into their business models.


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