Today, the focus for businesses is on digital transformation, or the idea of adopting digital technologies – especially the cloud – to achieve better IT speed, agility and profitability.
Those benefits support a number of common business drivers for digitalization, including the ability to create new products faster, achieve real-time visibility into customers or assets, improve workforce productivity, improve product quality, reduce IT downtime, and more.
Transforming from self-contained to fully cloud-based IT environments isn’t easy, or even necessarily appealing for some businesses. But as Cisco network consulting engineers Kevin Manweiler and Junnie Sadler explained in a recent interview, hybrid cloud could provide the right IT mix for most enterprises.
“Unlike in the ’60s, ’70s or ’80s, IT is no longer fully self-contained. Many apps and services are running on the public cloud, and not in a private data center,” Manweiler said. “As a result, the hybrid cloud is bound to play a very strategic role in digital transformation moving forward.”
Hybrid Cloud for Digital Transformation
With a private, mainframe-driven environment on one end of the spectrum, and a fully public cloud environment on the other, hybrid cloud sits in the middle. It’s a model that blends on-premises data centers with the public cloud to provide IT support for business applications and services.
It’s a sensible deployment model for digital transformation because it provides balance. Maintaining certain fixed workloads in a private cloud or data center gives businesses control, security and data sovereignty. Meanwhile, keeping elastic workloads in the cloud allows businesses to scale, move faster and achieve economic flexibility by outsourcing part of their IT operations and maintenance costs.
That mix is important for companies that want to achieve the benefits of digital transformation, but are worried about protecting private or sensitive information. Sadler says that businesses in financial services, government, manufacturing, and healthcare are good candidates for hybrid cloud, because they can be resistant to the idea of fully public cloud IT.
“It’s hard to envision a bank taking all of its end-user information and putting that into a public cloud,” said Sadler. “A lot of the workloads that drive their business will stay on the mainframe, and customer service apps can be deployed from the cloud.”
Vendors certainly see hybrid cloud as a viable model for digital transformation. In announcing its z13 mainframes, IBM specifically touted the system’s ability to support hybrid cloud deployments.
In the very near future, the hybrid cloud will support increasingly complex digital use cases. As Manweiler explained, the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) will push companies to establish computing and processing capabilities closer to end-users and their connected devices. As a result, a hybrid cloud strategy could involve the strategic deployment of public data centers in key geographical areas to serve those endpoints, connected back to a centralized private data center on-premises.
In the short-term, enterprises continue to make strides transforming their IT to support business priorities around customer experience, processes, and workforce innovation. Panera Bread, for example, has been able to shorten in-store lines and increase store sales through a new end-to-end purchase experience that incorporates mobile payments, self-service kiosks, and rapid order pickup.
Elsewhere, the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police is relying on video and mobile devices to facilitate face-to-face, real-time communications in its workforce for better safety, training, and emergency response times. Both examples speak to the business issues driving IT transformation.
“You can’t just jump into it, you need to have a business justification,” Manweiler recommended. “From there, you can assess your core IT capabilities and discover how you need to transform.”