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Alex Hilton

Hybrid IT: the new normal


Alex Hilton

CEO, Cloud Industry Forum

The Cloud industry has matured rapidly over the last few years, and Cloud has firmly established itself as a key component of the modern IT estate.

What’s increasingly apparent is that Cloud is but one part of an increasingly complex and diverse picture.

To put it in terms of Gartner’s Hype Cycle, the industry has passed the ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations’, sailing past the initial hype and buzz generated by marketing departments, and is currently sitting in the ‘Trough of Disillusionment’, as many businesses come to realise that not everything can, or indeed, should, be moved to the Cloud.

This by no means suggests that the interest in Cloud is abating; rather, it points to a shift in the discussion away from Cloud as an abstract term, to what role Cloud technology can play within the broader IT estate to support business objectives.

The future looks bright for Hybrid IT

All of the latest market indicators point to a future that is hybrid. Although more UK businesses than ever have taken to Cloud, with 78 per cent having adopted at least one Cloud service, our latest research indicates that the majority are a long way from migrating their entire IT estates. 46 per cent still consider their primary IT model to be on-premise, 44 per cent see it as hybrid, while just one in ten see it as a pure Cloud model.

This is backed up when looking at the current levels of Cloud penetration within organisations, where almost half of Cloud users still only use one Cloud service. Moreover, 55 per cent of our research base could not foresee a time when they would move all of their IT to the Cloud – instead, maintaining a blend of IT delivery models: Hybrid IT.

Hybrid IT is hardly a new phenomenon as it relates to the co-existence of multiple IT deployment models – which has been true for most businesses since the move away from mainframes in the 1980s. But most causes of a hybrid environment have historically been the product of a transition process rather than an explicit strategy. Arguably this is no longer the case, and on-premise will continue to co-exist alongside Cloud-based services for the foreseeable future.

A hybrid approach to business

From a business point of view, such an approach to IT is a useful one. Rather than charging full-throttle towards one type of infrastructure or another, businesses are now able to pick and choose the types of IT that they feel most comfortable with, and that are most appropriate for their individual applications.

Embracing a hybrid approach gives businesses the flexibility to construct an IT estate that will feed into the needs of the organisation, evolving as-and-when required. This bottom-up evolutionary approach removes many of the risks of grand all-encompassing IT projects, which tend to be expensive, difficult to coordinate and slow to react to changing business requirements.

The challenges

But it has also given rise to increased levels of complexity for IT departments. The combination of on-premise, hosted and Cloud services, along with the expansion of BYOD that the Cloud has facilitated, means that the future challenges for an executive managing IT delivery relate more to the distributed nature of IT platforms. As if this mixed environment is not challenging enough, the real focus for the CIO in the near future is ensuring good governance, increased agility and effective delivery across a range of in-house and outsourced services given that it is the new norm. In other words what will be keeping them awake at night will be how to effectively build, control and sustain an effective hybrid IT estate while meeting the business requirements of the organisation and the expectations from end users themselves.

Hybrid IT is a natural and unstoppable evolution in the IT landscape and will evolve and enhance business outcomes with the continued investment of time and innovation.

Over time we will see the complexities of monitoring and managing hybrid IT environments subside as interoperability improves, commercial policies and practices for data migration simplify and technical standards mature. But having an effective strategy in place to manage this evolution is vital – without which complexity and management issues will come to the fore and multiply.

The evolution of Hybrid

So is Cloud the nirvana of IT deployment models? Are we facing the terminal demise of on-premise IT? The short answer to these questions is clearly ‘no’. The slightly longer answer is you simply can’t lump together every IT need and every type of business, and map out a common IT deployment model for them all. It is neither practical, nor reasonable, nor is it necessary.

Cloud is a proven IT deployment model, but for most organisations it is one of many that will be used. The benefits of adopting Cloud alongside on-premise are proven, and monitoring and governance models are improving ahead of a common management platform. Hybrid IT is a natural and unstoppable evolution in the IT landscape and will evolve and enhance business outcomes with the continued investment of time and innovation.

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