Matt Gerber is CEO of Digital Fortress.
Love it or hate it, hybrid IT is here in force and it’s here to stay. The global market for hybrid cloud computing is estimated to grow from $25.28 billion in 2014 to $84.67 billion in 2019, according to a 2015 study published by Markets & Markets. Nearly half (48 percent) of enterprise respondents say they will adopt hybrid cloud systems and services in the near future.
Public cloud purists don’t like the idea of companies taking a steppingstone approach to cloud adoption; yet the reality is, many large companies are not ready to make a wholesale change. Compliance and regulatory requirements may stand in the way, or, they have invested too much money in on-premise systems that are still business-critical and don’t transition easily to the cloud. Hybrid cloud is, for many companies, a wonderful blend of the old and the new, offering a highly practical and manageable approach to innovation. You can maintain your highly customized, workhorse ERP system inside your own data center, while adding new agile customer-facing apps to the cloud.
Integrating networks and deploying new management systems which provide visibility into private and public infrastructure is a must, yet the technology platform for hybrid cloud is just one consideration. Static IT and organic IT worlds must come together. Developers, infrastructure managers and architects from across the IT organization must work together to ensure seamless operations. Hybrid IT is first a human problem requiring the resolution of conflict between internal teams, the division and sharing of responsibilities, and the creation of new roles.
Mixing old and new IT models is not for the weak at heart. Success depends upon a leader who can help these two worlds peacefully coexist. At the same time, CIOs should take the lead in moving staffers toward an agile, collaborative workflow which matches the requirements of deploying the modern IT stack encompassing cloud, mobile, Internet of Things and social media technology.
Start by Rethinking the IT Organization
How long have we been talking about getting rid of IT departmental silos? Too long. As companies adopt hybrid cloud infrastructure, IT teams will need to shift from silos working in isolation to cross-functional teams working on a specific project, such as a big data platform. This is the new reality of the DevOps world. That means combining developers, testers, integrators and infrastructure experts on project teams to execute toward a specific goal. New organizational models are imperative because of the interdependence of technology and the rapid pace of change and development in the public cloud reality. Silos don’t fit well in the world of software-defined everything and virtualization. There will be some individuals reticent if not resistant to change. Creating a “tiger team” of well-liked leaders to help lead the charge for that first hybrid project is an effective way to start getting everyone on the same page.
Adopt New IT Metrics for Success
In a converged world, departmental metrics such as uptime for infrastructure or lines of code written for developers are less relevant than broader based measures relating to how DevOps teams achieve and delivers business goals. Those may include at the highest level team’s time to market, time to resolution, and end-user department satisfaction. Look to business managers for help in designing new metrics. Cloud and Agile development also call for shared accountability. No longer is the CIO or CTO on the hook for every success or failure; the team members down to entry-level engineers and testers should all have a stake. Introduce specific project-based goals and individual incentives (preferably financial) for your teams if goals are met.
Divide and Conquer
A company that is blending on-premise systems with private cloud hosted and/or public cloud workloads has a lot to juggle. It makes sense to divert all of the day-to-day infrastructure management responsibilities which are not strategic to achieving the business objectives – no matter where it resides –to one group, while moving end-user application and business-aligned IT projects to another group. A company can set up these teams internally, if it has the right skills, or use a third-party outsourcer to help fill the gaps. In some cases, a third-party that can bridge the gap between the “old” and “new” worlds of IT may also be helpful in delivering strategic guidance, oversight and conflict resolution among the teams. A third party may also be useful for offloading tasks that are not strategic, such as monitoring and management of the old and new IT infrastructures.
Lead for Speed
Organic IT, characterized by cloud computing and DevOps, means that the computing environment is always in motion. Infrastructure resources may change by the hour in the cloud; requirements from users or business leads can change by the week. Senior IT leaders will need to get their hands dirty by inserting themselves into day-to-day operations. This may mean more status meetings, or simply and roaming the floor more to check in on teams and help with decisions. It also means empowering people to make changes independently when needed, while also deploying automated technologies to make the no-brainer changes to code or servers as conditions dictate.
As discussed earlier, hybrid IT requires the breaking down of silos and developing cross-functional DevOps teams. Individuals with narrow job roles will need to learn the basics about other functions, along with the higher level skill of working collaboratively. In companies with no plans to get rid of internal data centers nor large legacy applications in the near future, some individuals will be retained to focus on those “static” or traditional IT responsibilities. Not everyone will be happy about watching colleagues walked bravely into the future while they are forced to “keep the lights on” for the sake of business continuity.
Giving traditional IT staff ample opportunities to work in new areas, such as with the DevOps team, can boost morale while also developing skill sets needed for tomorrow. As well, DevOps and cloud-focused employees should occasionally rotate into projects on the internal IT team. Walking in the shoes of others helps all team members understand the bigger picture of hybrid IT, and how the pieces work together. This can lead to continual improvement, better integration and faster innovation, as well.
Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.