Within enterprise, cloud computing has quickly reached a level of maturity and acceptance that few could have predicted a couple of years ago. Most CIOs have now considered investing in some form of cloud service, with the primary drivers being the flexibility, potential cost savings and efficiency improvements that the cloud offers. The discussion of how to best deliver a cloud strategy now sits at board-level.
Boards rightly demand cost savings, innovation and efficiency, but for a large enterprise-scale organisation this is easier said than done; legacy infrastructure, skills and data governance all require meticulous planning, which makes implementation complex and risky for the business and CIO alike.
Hybrid IT involves using a combination of in-house and cloud-based IT resources, and there is a compelling case for it. Hybrid IT is not just a stop-gap on the journey to cloud, but the best solution for the majority of businesses today.
The most important question to ask is which workloads should move to the cloud. Many organisations will start out with a “cloud first” strategy, but are surprised to find that the effort of migrating applications or systems – that work perfectly well in their current location – can drastically outweigh the benefits.
Migration to the cloud can be very complex and requires specialist skills, knowledge and planning. Often companies will need help to rebuild confidence in the cloud following failed cloud migration projects.
In business, where the goal should always be to deliver business value, a managed hybrid IT approach offers efficiencies and agility that outweigh both an “all-in” cloud approach or staying on legacy infrastructure.
Operational efficienciesThe hybrid approach is primarily about allowing businesses to focus on what they do best: creating value and driving revenue. Most businesses do not want to spend time, money and effort on owning and managing infrastructure.
For large enterprises, there is a distinct advantage in avoiding the steep financial and labour costs associated with any significant cloud migration, not to mention the risk associated with moving.
Hybrid IT allows companies to continue maximising the return on their investment in functional legacy systems, while simultaneously migrating functions better optimised for the cloud. Mission critical systems warrant special consideration, and here hybrid IT enables organisations to assign business critical systems to infrastructure that’s tailor-made for resilience.
There’s no single recipe for operational efficiency, but taking a step back from technology to analyse the true cost and value of an application migration will help companies find the right mix of hybrid infrastructure.
Done well, it’s an environment that stitches together disparate systems and offers the optimal balance of predictable performance and reduced cost with clearly understood and managed risk.
Monitoring in a hybrid environment Control is one of the more challenging aspects of making the best use of cloud services. Transferring elements of infrastructure and applications to the cloud should not mean offloading responsibility and control of service delivery and business data, intentionally or otherwise.
Companies routinely monitor their owned environments for availability and screen for suspicious activity. To do so they maintain detailed event logs as standard practice – and that’s exactly the sort of monitoring and control that should be extended to their public cloud environments.
Most cloud platforms provide a cloud management console that simplifies the monitoring process, but given the varied nature of hybrid IT infrastructure it is important to check that these tools encompass the entire infrastructure effectively – a so-called single pane of glass.
It’s important to keep track of data in a hybrid environment. Black holes can easily creep into data management and it can be challenging to understand where data is held, especially if duplicated across systems.
There needs to be a clear policy for storing confidential or personal data in the cloud, therefore translating and extending company practice across all infrastructure is an essential prerequisite for any hybrid IT deployment.
Securing hybrid IT
One of the most common questions we are asked is how an existing security practice can be transferred to a hybrid environment. Most enterprises will have employed information security and compliance teams to build a security framework around IT operations, and these teams need reassurance that the hosted policies they have spent a considerable period of time defining will remain in place within hybrid IT deployments.
Where possible, businesses should look to ensure that existing policies can be retained while understanding what is different in the new environment. This means that new tools and processes can be put in place to comply with and extend current policies. By working from a common set of security services across legacy and cloud systems, processes such as identity management, security monitoring and public key infrastructure management can be delivered consistently across a hybrid environment.
With proper planning and the appropriate measures in place, hybrid IT should be as secure, if not more secure, than a traditional legacy approach. The additional transparency and scrutiny that comes with hybrid IT means that any security issues can be quickly and efficiently resolved. Hybrid IT is a best of breed approach, and that encompasses security too. By Paul Morris
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