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Hybrid Cloud Enables Businesses to Scale and Grow

IBMers Terry Thomas and Anthony Marshall explain how multicloud environments are shaping business opportunities.

Yellow cloud illustration with blue and green rays

Image by Traci Daberko

As the CEO of a financial company, Meredith wants her business to serve new industries and provide better customer experiences. While the organization is using public cloud, private cloud and traditional IT environments, it's unable to share data and applications across those environments. Further, the company’s ability to scale and grow is being held back. What’s needed is a common architecture that smoothly lets applications and data move between all three environments. The answer is hybrid cloud.

Many organizations are facing the same scenario as Meredith. The business has a vision for growth but needs the right technology to make that vision a reality. 

A recent study by IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) found that only 20% of workloads have been placed in the public cloud; 80% of workloads, including mission-critical ones, remain on-premises in private clouds or traditional IT. In addition, enterprises have, on average, five cloud environments with different interfaces and management ( Hybrid cloud creates a single management path to handling the complexity of multiple clouds.

Multicloud environments are shaping business opportunities. The three top strategic reasons for adoption are expansion into new industries, improved customer experience and increased existing revenue, according to the study. “Executives have a vision that’s very innovative, dynamic and entrepreneurial, and hybrid cloud technology is supporting the vision,” says Anthony Marshall, senior research director, IBV.

Meeting Business Needs

Integrating all of these environments through a hybrid cloud provides the environment in which everything works together. When an organization has the fluidity that hybrid cloud provides, “business leaders can make strategic decisions without having to worry about being constrained by technology limitations,” notes Marshall.

Hybrid cloud also gives organizations freedom of vendor choice. With vendor lock-in, a business isn’t able to try new technologies unless the vendor offers them. But with hybrid cloud, an organization has complete flexibility to expand into new platforms to further its business strategy. It also provides them the ability to tailor solutions to suit the business. “You’re not going to be tied to a cookie-cutter solution or a cookie-cutter outcome,” Marshall notes.

Industry-Specific Infrastructure Choice

Innovation applies to any business, but infrastructure choices are driven by regulation. Industry regulation influences cloud adoption, the IBV study found. 

In the next five years, regulated industries like insurance, banking and healthcare expect 30% of their workloads to be on public cloud, 40% on private cloud and 30% on traditional IT environments. For unregulated industries like retail and consumer products, the numbers are expected to flip, with 40% of their workloads on public cloud, with 30% going on private cloud and 30% on traditional IT environments.

Managing these resources via hybrid cloud allows the organization to store data and run applications in the environments that are best suited for the tasks and that meet regulatory, security and governance requirements. 

Because hybrid cloud promotes interoperability, legacy systems used by regulated businesses gain flexibility. “A bank with legacy systems that date back 40 years can, in effect, have as much agility as a born-in-the-cloud competitor,” says Marshall. That’s important because consumers expect their bank, government department or insurance company to provide the same digital experience as a sophisticated retailer. “If you can provide that experience, it’s game changing,” he notes. 

Unlocking Benefits

A new chapter in the cloud story is unfolding. Chapter 1 of cloud encompassed the beginnings of cloud adoption by organizations. Chapter 2 is being written right now as organizations see how hybrid cloud’s technological freedom opens up new benefits for the business.

The IBV study lays out a four-step process to unlock the benefits of hybrid cloud. They are:

  1. Architect the destination. Organizations need to incorporate open and multicloud platforms, must avoid vendor lock-in and reassess proprietary systems.
  2. Sequence the journey by carefully drawing up a roadmap of what needs to be done. This step requires the business to create a solid, open foundation.
  3. Mobilize the right skills and assets. In-house skills need to be developed and maintained. Trusted third-party service providers can supply skills that bridge short-term gaps and lower costs. 
  4. Manage to clear outcomes. Setting qualitative and quantitative measurements of success will benefit the business. The plan must be flexible so that beneficial new technologies can be incorporated as necessary. 

Organizations will reap the rewards of a detailed future vision. Most businesses operate with a one- to two-year horizon instead of a 20-year horizon. “You need to organize in an agile way, move fast and execute well,” Marshall says. 

Cloud Adoption Barriers

Cloud environments pose a variety of advantages, yet some organizations remain reluctant to put their core applications on the cloud. The IBV study found five main reasons that enterprises have to make the leap:

  • Worries about security and compliance
  • Concerns about governance and control
  • Issues with managing and optimizing cloud costs
  • Difficulties in redesigning and replacing inefficient legacy processes
  • Challenges in integrating existing core systems 

Today’s hybrid cloud addresses these concerns by providing a holistic environment rather than the fragmented cloud environment of the past. Governance, regulation and security can be aligned across the enterprise and beyond. “You can focus on one meta environment, which makes the task much simpler,” Marshall notes. 

Removing complications is crucial for IT and the business. IT success today is defined by how it helps the business meet and deliver its goals. “Key metrics are service-level agreements (SLAs), increasing utilization of systems and tools and creating best possible UX,” says Terry G. Thomas Jr., director, Cognitive Systems Enterprise Offering Management, IBM.

Legal approval

Organizations often have to overcome certain hurdles before seriously adopting cloud. The business needs to reach master service agreement and cloud service agreements with the cloud provider as well as a digital data privacy agreement. Legal must sign off on these agreements. 

“We run into situations where the organization’s IT teams are technically ready to start a cloud project, but they’re delayed due to legal requirements they must address first before getting started,” Thomas says. 

Compliance requirements 

Another key requirement is meeting compliance rules. As a cloud provider and advisor, IBM looks to understand client needs. Lack of certifications can be a sticking point. 

“We found it very valuable to keep an open and transparent dialog between the cloud service provider and their enterprise customers,” says Thomas. Third-party licenses also must be reviewed to determine if they can be applied to a cloud service. 

Address security concerns

Security discussions include data concerns, infrastructure management access, and data center and network security. IBM discusses those issues with the client’s security officers to address their questions and concerns. 

For clients considering a cloud project, IBM suggests conducting a dev/test proof of concept (PoC). “The client can leverage the PoC to fully evaluate the cloud service provider’s legal responsibilities, SLAs, compliances, and performance before committing to an elaborate cloud project,” Thomas says.

The fundamental guiding principle is that Power Systems on IBM Cloud is designed and implemented with the same Power architectures as clients run on-premises today.
Terry G. Thomas Jr., director, Cognitive Systems Enterprise Offering Management, IBM

Cloud Creation

IBM POWER9* and the IBM Power Systems* platform can assist clients with creating cloud architectures to attain their goals. IBM Power Systems on IBM Cloud* gives clients the ability to provision AIX* and IBM i instances in the public cloud. Hybrid cloud works with Power Systems to give users a scalable, robust cloud environment. “The fundamental guiding principle is that Power Systems on IBM Cloud is designed and implemented with the same Power* architectures as clients run on-premises today,” Thomas explains. 

Clients are looking for cloud solutions to gain faster time to deployment and ease of deployment, elastic IT capability to enable them to grow at their own pace and pay for what’s used, and more efficient OPEX. IBM Power Systems virtual servers can help clients meet these goals.

Clients use virtual servers to create dev/test environments, conduct dynamic resources and failover in the cloud and run production workloads beyond dev/test. “As you experience those three categories, you’re going to get all of the things that you expect from cloud, such as better financials, ease of use and faster deployment times, along with the performance, security, robustness and reliability advantages clients have gained for years on-premises,” Thomas says.

In addition, Enterprise Pools 2.0 gives clients with Power E980 servers the ability to aggregate all of their capacity and be flexible in using that capacity, just like a cloud. Enterprise Pools 2.0 lets clients purchase a core set of resources that goes across the organization’s systems. As long as clients stay within the aggregate count, they’re in the boundary of what they’ve purchased. If they exceed the aggregate, they’re only charged for the minutes used. 

The Evolving Need for Hybrid Cloud

As clients deploy hybrid multicloud strategies, IBM and Power Systems work to transform their IT in a number of ways. The Power Systems platform provides flexible and predictable OPEX, ensures that the hybrid multicloud experience has the same infrastructure capabilities and trust as on-premises offerings, and bolsters IT resources. “IBM will continue to work closely with clients throughout their journey of adopting Power Systems hybrid multicloud offerings. IBM wants to ensure the same advantages experienced on-premises are appreciated in Power Systems hybrid multicloud environments,” notes Thomas.  

Clients like Meredith can embark on a hybrid cloud journey knowing that their requirements and needs are understood. They can access IBM expertise no matter what stage they’re at with hybrid cloud, remaining competitive and growing as demand requires.

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