The journey to a hybrid IT world
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The journey to a hybrid IT world

Clare Simmons — October 2014

Jay Kidd, CTO at data storage company NetApp, outlines how a blend of cloud and on-premise services is becoming the dominant model for IT.

Recent surveys of CIOs suggest that cloud experimentation and trials are turning into widespread adoption for core operational systems and applications. But the move to cloud is not inevitable for every aspect of businesses. The potential benefits of cloud — cost savings, scalability, server optimization — may be well recognized, but CIOs need to feel they can mix and match on- and off-premise services without exposing the enterprise to increased risk.

Jay Kidd, CTO at data storage and management company NetApp, who is a keynote speaker at Fujitsu Forum 2014 in Munich on November 19, evaluates the adoption models best suited to tackling the business challenges of different sectors.

I-CIO: Is the move to the cloud now inevitable for all businesses and what patterns are you seeing for adoption?

Jay Kidd (JK): Every enterprise either uses cloud computing today or will use it within the next few years. From the widespread use of Software as a Service (SaaS) applications as part of their online web presence to the rare examples of companies actively trying to source all IT services from the cloud, the question is not ‘if cloud,’ it is ‘how much cloud, and how many clouds?’

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CIOs are seeking to reduce the cost of delivering information services while increasing the impact to the business of those services. Where SaaS applications are mature, they are gaining widespread adoption. CIOs are also moving less business-critical applications to managed application service providers. Business units are experimenting with ‘hyperscalers’ such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon to innovate quickly and outside of the controls of IT.

The emerging pattern is leading CIOs to transform IT into a broker of services — whether cloud or on-premise services — and assure the correct balance of cost and speed efficiency with regulatory compliance and data governance. This will require a portfolio of cloud supplier relationships and a strong understanding of cloud service levels and CAPEX vs. OPEX tradeoffs. This ‘hybrid cloud’ is the future model of IT.

I-CIO: As CIOs across all industries evaluate cloud’s potential gains, which universal business challenges does it best answer?

JK: The range of cloud options available – SaaS, managed virtual machine (VM) hosting or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), hyperscaler clouds and on-premise private clouds — all offer different trade-offs. No single approach to cloud meets all of the ‘universal business challenges.’

SaaS is excellent, as long as no application customization is needed. IaaS suppliers deliver customized IT services at lower cost than on-premise for many companies. Microsoft Azure and Amazon offer transactional IT, where applications like test and development or predictably burst workloads can run on pay-as-you-go equipment at a far lower cost than owned equipment.

Private clouds are still well suited for critical workloads where absolute control of any operational scenario is required. All of these offer a new mix of cost and service level trade-offs to CIOs, helping them manage a hybrid cloud to deliver more impactful information services at lower cost to the business. Take the requirements of three different types of customer:

• Financial services firms need to maintain strict control of their data, wherever it resides. To implement a solid hybrid solution in the financial services world requires a way to safely extend the ‘digital walls’ because regulation stipulates that data cannot leave the premises of the firm. But what ‘premises’ means is something IT leaders are continuing to grasp. Financial services firms need unified data architectures to connect disparate environments and make all data available everywhere.

• Healthcare IT needs to approach its infrastructure design strategically; failing to do so may mean the difference between life and death. An ideal solution would allow data to be moved and managed seamlessly across multiple environments, improve responsiveness and access and meet critical service levels quickly, securely, and reliably. A hybrid cloud infrastructure can allow healthcare providers to manage data seamlessly across IT environments — from the doctor’s workstation to the data center to the cloud. It will also enable providers to better respond instantly without disruption to critical applications.

• Service providers are another group of customers that are using the cloud to propel their business needs in new ways. They need service-oriented infrastructure to provide agility in their business offerings to their customers. With the pace of business today and changing end-user demands, service providers need to continuously accelerate time to market with differentiated and profitable cloud-based services.

I-CIO: Which key benefits and challenges are CIOs encountering on the way to cloud optimization?

JK: The flexibility and economics of public cloud computing appeal to many organizations because public cloud computing allows them to become more nimble and responsive to a dynamic and growing business environment. At the same time, however, organizations need to feel confident that they can move to the public cloud without introducing new risk. Although cloud compute resources can be easily dialed up and down, data has ‘gravity,’ making it more challenging to provide the same level of flexibility in a cloud context. The distance between data and compute impacts performance, but moving data at a scale closer to compute or to other clouds can be time-consuming and inefficient. Solutions that simplify and accelerate the movement of data between clouds in an application-independent way will open up new levels of flexibility.

I-CIO: How should CIOs balance security concerns with leveraging the flexibility of cloud?

JK: As business needs continue to propel enterprises toward hybrid cloud, CIOs today should take a hard look at strategically collaborating with vendors and cloud providers that approach the cloud with enterprise credibility. Of course, data stewardship challenges across a cloud data fabric exceed what any one company can deliver alone. Therefore, CIOs should take great care in evaluating an ecosystem of cloud service provider partners.

Most cloud providers — because this is their business — have a very high level of operational security. In most cases, service providers do a better job of securing their data than enterprises. However, since they are consolidation points for data, they are also bigger targets than an individual enterprise. I believe CIOs will remain reluctant for some time to put certain datasets in the cloud where public disclosure or theft of the data would severely damage the company.

I-CIO: Legacy system integration can pose the biggest barrier to cloud for CIOs. At what point could cloud become the dominant model?

JK: Hybrid cloud is the option that offers many of the benefits of cloud but does not require moving all of an enterprise’s information to a cloud infrastructure. The hybrid cloud combines the availability, performance, agility and control of existing infrastructure with the highly reliable, scalable and low-cost infrastructure of the cloud. This model can even provide the best of both worlds for data governance — enterprises are able to compute in the cloud and store on the premises. Hybrid cloud operations are rapidly emerging as a discipline, building upon technologies such as data fabrics, automatic VM format conversions, cross-cloud internetworking and extreme automation solutions.

I-CIO: Let’s take a step back — what is happening with data today that is making data management in the cloud surprisingly challenging and complex?

JK: It is a matter of physics. Applications, in the form of VMs, are relatively small and can move across modern networks quickly. So movement of applications to the cloud is like moving from home to a hotel on a trip. The data created by applications can be very large and generally grows over time. It may take days to move hundreds of GBs of data across the fastest links. Instead of going to a hotel, this is like moving to an entirely new home. It is a much more complex event. Add to this that most applications consider how to create data but rarely how to protect it, archive it or even destroy it. These data management functions are not well integrated into Platform as a Service layers, which is why data fabrics that can manage data across clouds independently from the applications are critical to the success of the hybrid cloud model.

• Jay Kidd will be delivering a keynote on ‘The Role of Data Management in Innovation’ at Fujitsu Forum 2014 in Munich on November 19 & 20

First published October 2014
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