What’s the long-term outlook for enterprise infrastructure in a hybrid IT world?
Use Hybrid IT as a lever for enterprise infrastructure transformation
With so much discussion about the merits of hybrid IT, it’s easy to think of it as an optional strategy for creating a better computing environment. The truth, however, is much different: not only is hybrid IT not optional, but you’re already using it – and it’s changing long-held ideas about the way we build and manage enterprise infrastructure.
The hybrid IT value proposition stems from the fact that it allows enterprises to straddle the boundaries between on-premises infrastructure and off-premises cloud-based infrastructure.
This is a powerful link, because rapid adoption of cloud-based services has effectively created a separate computing environment that houses a growing proportion of the average enterprise’s applications and data. A recent survey by LogicMonitor, for example, found that users believe 83 percent of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud by 2020.
Those cloud-based platforms will support business applications and data with a range of benefits – including better scalability, API-based integration with complementary services, rapid development and delivery cycles, and easier access to business-continuity services, among other things.
Yet just because the cloud offers these characteristics, doesn’t mean that enterprise workloads automatically become obsolete. There are some very good reasons for keeping applications on-premises – performance, security, visibility, and manageability among them – and the use of private-cloud platforms allow enterprises to get many of the same benefits of cloud platforms.
Building bridges between old and new infrastructure
Given that on-premises solutions can be engineered with many of the same architectural advantages as off-premises cloud services, it’s important to think about hybrid IT as more than just a bridge between old and new infrastructure.
Indeed, given the continuous enterprise infrastructure upgrade cycle – which is regularly improving core infrastructure and has driven a shift to scalable, commoditised virtual servers – it is more appropriate to think of hybrid IT as a three-way bridge between the old, the new, and the new.
Some legacy infrastructure has, of course, been running smoothly and delivering business value for decades. It is difficult to change, cannot be easily moved into a private or public cloud, and will only be abandoned if its underlying technology becomes unsupportable or broken. This is the old.
Other legacy infrastructure has been successfully migrated onto virtual platforms, affording it a new degree of portability, manageability and scalability even if it runs exactly the same as before. This is the new.
The new, on the other hand, doesn’t just encompass cloud platforms, applications, and services. It refers to a completely new way of running business applications or processes – and its delivery on premises or off premises is irrelevant to the hybrid-IT proposition.
That proposition, after all, is predicated on simplification, orchestration, and automation across multiple environments.
The differences between those environments depend not on where they are hosted, but how they are architected. And, in the long term, it is the closer orchestration and integration between those environments that will help enterprises realise the full benefits of hybrid IT – by adopting technologies such as software-defined networking (SDN) and software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) to build private enterprise infrastructure with the flexibility of the public cloud.
Enterprise architecture in a transformation age
In a full hybrid-IT environment, the seamless integration of different operating modes comes from the application of top-down visibility and management capabilities. The thing preventing certain applications from participating is not whether their enterprise infrastructure is old or new – but whether it has been architected with an eye to the future.
That forward vision is a direct result of the digital-transformation (DX) efforts that many companies have been undertaking for several years now.
DX means different things to different companies, but at the very least it involves a comprehensive revisit to a company’s core processes and systems.
If systems aren’t supporting current and planned processes, they are no longer relevant to the company’s vision – and should be excised from the scope of the hybrid IT migration.
Yet many companies are failing to recognise this, and encounter problems with transformation because they believe it is simply a way of doing business the same way, with a different enterprise architecture.
They have, in effect, confused an architecture upgrade with a business upgrade – and their architecture transformation suffers in the process.
By the end of 2019, IDC has cautioned, mismatched expectations and strategies will see fully half of Asia-Pacific organisations struggling to translate their DX business needs into effective IT investments.
A recent McKinsey & Company analysis warned of the dangers of believing that simply moving IT systems into the cloud, constitutes digital transformation. That approach is purely a technological one, and it wrongly considers hybrid IT as a way of preserving the status quo, rather than being an enabler of business change and IT modernisation.
For an organisation to truly benefit from hybrid IT, change must be firmly on the menu on both sides of the enterprise boundary – and the long-term strategy for the enterprise architecture needs to reflect this. Hybrid IT may give you visibility into the enterprise cloud of tomorrow, but it will also provide an aspirational goal for transforming the enterprise architecture of today.