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IT Goes Hybrid

Big Thinks Magazine April 2021 Rashmi Verma Hybrid IT

In this era of digital globalization, data sovereignty and privacy issues have become a constant challenge for companies that are running businesses locally or globally. Globalization demands for information flow across the borders. Cloud technology has removed the geographical barriers of data storage, providing companies the ability to store information anywhere globally.

Though technology has made cross-border data flow and broader participation possible, companies are dealing with consumer protection demands and are hamstrung by regulations. While data sovereignty laws enforce data to be stored within a country’s borders, regulations like GDPR protect citizens’ data privacy over the internet. Countries like China, Germany, and Russia require that their citizen’s data be stored on physical servers within their borders. Pressure is on IT Leaders to innovate, comply and perform.

Digital transformation is another herculean endeavor that companies are having to commit to in order to stay relevant. As a result, the adoption of a “Hybrid IT” model is on the rise. This IT model allows the distribution of data and workloads across on-premises, private cloud, public cloud, and the edge of the network, enabling firms to efficiently store and manage information in compliance with the necessary regulations.

Hybrid IT vs. Hybrid Cloud vs. Multi-cloud

While on-premises environments have their own deck of different combinations such as bare metal, dedicated or virtualized servers, cloud environments also have many combinations and variations. A hybrid cloud is a combination of a public cloud such as Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google GCP and private internal clouds to orchestrate a single IT solution across both. Multi-cloud includes more than one public cloud service combined with private cloud environments. Techrepublic describes multi-cloud as “a practice of using cloud services from multiple heterogeneous cloud services, as well as specialized platform-as-a-service (PaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), or software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers.” Office 365 is a good example of a Hybrid IT environment where the software services are provided via Microsoft cloud. The security layer is added via an on-premises active directory.

Why Hybrid IT?

To comply with security and privacy regulations, companies are having to store sensitive data on-prem or at local cloud sites, while for the other applications, they can leverage cloud computing. MicrosoftAWS, and Google have built cloud data centers in countries around the world to address the data sovereignty issues. Another factor that is promoting Hybrid IT deployments is its ability to quickly adopt the technologies that are best suited for their core business. For example, video streaming companies like Netflix or gaming service companies like Epics games are likely to combine cloud infrastructure solutions with on-premises edge computing for low latency and high-speed needs.

Automotive and appliance companies such as Tesla and Samsung build smart products. They are likely to combine IoT systems with their on-premises and cloud solutions. For many companies that are undergoing cloud transformation, the cost and complexity of the migration are the drivers of their workload distribution. In some cases, the need for speed and resilience requirements are driving workloads distribution across different geographic zones and data centers to protect companies against service interruptions and financial loss.

Benefits

The Hybrid model allows an organization to make the most of its investment in IT. A mix of online self-service (SaaS) solutions integrated with traditional in-house applications helps companies provide high-quality support to their customers. The pay-as-you-go subscription model helps companies optimize their IT cost by adding more predictability and flexibility to their IT spend. Scaling the infrastructure up or down based on the usage becomes a lot easier with this model. Hybrid IT enables faster and easier product builds speeding up the time to market. Copying application environments across on-prem and cloud or building a brand-new environment takes just minutes in this setup. Keeping up with the technology advancements traditionally has been a challenge for many firms. THE hybrid IT model allows faster and easier adoption of new technologies and integration with other B2B or B2C businesses opening new avenues for business expansion and revenue growth.

Challenges

The hybrid IT model requires IT staff to be able to support diverse environment configurations. While cloud support demands development and administration skills in various PaaS, SaaS, IaaS technologies, edge computing calls for deep networking skills. The pressure to learn new tools and the change in traditional ways of working can be unsettling and challenging for IT staff. Companies must train, upskill, and reskill their employees on newer technologies and cloud technologies.

Keeping up with the continual change in cloud provider services could become a constant challenge for organizations. Business continuity may require frequent testing to protect businesses against disasters. Distributed workloads across multi-cloud solutions increase security risks. Selecting service providers that support up-to-date security protocols and implementing Hybrid Security Solutions can help mitigate and limit the exposure.

The unpredictable maintenance and upgrade cycle of cloud services can introduce instability in innovative trial products in the IT systems. Cloud services generally have higher latency which may contribute to an unacceptable latency in performance of the overall systems. Hybrid IT Management solutions such as microfocus and cloudian can simplify the complexity of IT service delivery across multi-cloud and on-premises environments while operating those services effectively.

Best Practices

David Linthicum, chief cloud strategy officer at Deloitte Consulting, states that “The complexity of hybrid IT management will cause many enterprises to fundamentally rethink their approach to cloud computing.”

Hybrid IT, combined with the right management tools, could be the right deployment model for the organizations where businesses can leverage the best of all the worlds in terms of technology capabilities while having complete control and visibility over the information flow and storage. Picking the right combination of on-premises and cloud solutions is the key to successful Hybrid IT implementation. Leveraging Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions to streamline infrastructure tasks such as patching, backups, and operations can provide central visibility into the issues. Keeping a central inventory of all IT assets can help with the asset life cycle management for efficiency and prevent technical debt down the road.

Gartner predicts that “By 2021, over 75% of midsize and large organizations will have adopted a multi-cloud and/or hybrid IT strategy.” It is encouraging to see that more and more companies are adopting the Hybrid IT model, retaining their core legacy systems on-premises while following the “cloud first” strategy to deploy new customer-facing systems on a public cloud. Data sovereignty and GDPR concerns are being addressed by either keeping the core legacy systems under direct control or in the same jurisdiction as the organizations. Companies preparing for the new norm must understand the changing customer habits, consumer protection regulations, market opportunities, and how IT can create and deliver value.

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