If hybrid is the Holy Grail of IT, we must look beyond the clouds

By Paul Cragg, CTO, Easynet

Golf clubs, cars and IT rarely get talked about in the same sentence outside a board meeting, but surprisingly they have one thing in common: they all come in hybrid form. All combine different features to create a single, better product with improved performance. And all are created from designs based on technology innovation.

For the sake of argument, I’m going to leave golf clubs and cars well alone so we can focus here on hybrid IT, which several surveys confirm to be ‘the new normal’. Hybrid IT, though, means different things to different organisations.

Generally it refers to IT which integrates different clouds from different providers. It could be a private/public cloud combination of a local server and a cloud service, which bring the benefits of private cloud without the prohibitive costs.  Global analysts Gartner talk about it being ‘a new mission and operational model for IT in a dynamically multi-sourced, heterogeneous world’.

Businesses have been using hybrid IT in its different guises for years, integrating different providers, solutions and in-house teams in to mesh together a foundation for their business, but it hasn’t always worked, being complex, costly and difficult to manage.  And organisations are still struggling to combine legacy IT with technology which supports increasing business and consumer demands and new ways of working.  Reducing complexity and increasing business agility top many a CIO’s wish-list, and this is where hybrid IT comes into its own.

Now, hybrid IT goes beyond the cloud. It’s about creating the ultimate combination of networks, applications and cloud solutions to meet the existing and future needs of the business, whilst keeping costs down.

Pressures on the Wide Area Network (WAN) are driving change, and businesses are looking to the Internet to share the burden and reduce the pressure. For our customers, hybrid IT is made up of more than just cloud. It’s a secure WAN, likely to be an MPLS VPN;  a local Internet path for public cloud and Internet access; private and public cloud solutions sitting outside the infrastructure; and often smart application management, to prioritise applications and guarantee their performance. This way, the MPLS VPN is freed from non-critical traffic, and costs are reduced with the use of a large Internet connection which is treated as a WAN. 

There are some significant benefits to this approach:

  • A better fit for your business: different elements are integrated to create holistic IT tailored to the requirements of your organisation; a symbiotic approach as the elements work together

  • Adaptable as your business evolves:  you might not be considering the effect of the Internet of Things on your business right now, but you might have to before long as consumers drive enterprise change. A hybrid approach takes into account future interoperability

  • Reduced costs: MPLS plus a large Internet connection provides vast bandwidth at a lower cost

  • Reduced complexity - hybrid IT removes the need to manage multiple services from multiple vendors. It brings together different products and integrates them

  • Less pressure on the WAN:  Cloud, mobility and bandwidth-hungry applications are putting pressure on the WAN but with hybrid IT, non-business critical traffic travels across the Internet path, freeing up the MPLS network and ultimately improving the user experience

  • An improved Unified Communications experience: largely thanks to the less congested WAN, users experience a significant improvement in the quality of voice and video

  • Maintained control: the CIO still maintains full control over certain resources and has access to network analytics, helping to achieve consistently high performance levels

  • Improved security – clearly businesses need to treat different sets of data and applications differently depending on their sensitivity:  a business might select an Internet connection to Salesforce, and an MPLS connection to private cloud housed in a data centre. On-premise firewalls and cloud security products are perfect for retaining security with decentralised Internet access

  • Fast access to disaster recovery: DR based in a private cloud and accessible via either path provides peace of mind

Certainly, this approach challenges fans of ‘traditional’ IT and takes them outside their comfort zone.  “Mastery over hybrid IT eludes all but a few enterprises” says Gartner analyst David W. Cearley.  In today’s IT-driven organisation there’s nowhere to hide if the approach is unsuccessful: IT is now visible and accountable for business performance. The head of IT no longer wears the ironic metaphorical badge of ‘head of switching things off and on again’, but has a place at the top table, and plays a critical part in driving business transformation.  

The key to successful hybrid IT, says Spencer Green – chair and founder of GDS International – is to get the vendor relationship right from the word go. “If an IT team is to manage a process it doesn’t wholly own, it must have a relationship with a supplier/partner that is based on trust and collaboration” he says.  

I couldn’t agree more.  Building on strong customer relationships, Easynet has successfully implemented hybrid networks for many global organizations, such as Ambassador Theatre Group, Campofrio Food Group and Sibelco, providing them with secure, steadfast, managed platforms with flexibility for growth. Wrapped with Smart Application Assurance these organisations benefit from intelligent issue identification, assured application roll-out and dynamic application/service control – all wrapped with continuous consultancy and a 1-hour Smart Response.

Successfully-managed hybrid IT takes the best combination of services and creates a single, holistic, high-performance IT function which adds value to an organisation.  It’s the Holy Grail of IT. And who needs hybrid golf clubs when you’ve got that?

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