One of the hottest buzz-phrases in today’s modern workspace is “hybrid IT.” As customers gradually move workloads to the cloud as well as maintain workloads on premises, these environments that co-exist with a foot in each world have come to be known as hybrid IT.
To fully understand hybrid IT and what it can really do for an organization, you must go beyond the surface level technology functions and delve deeper into the evolving business landscape that propagated this transformation. If you’ve read my earlier blogs, you’re already aware of my most deeply held belief – any organization’s IT issues are not addressed by technology, but rather technology is an enabler to a desired business outcome.
In this case, hybrid IT was not the product of advancements in technology. It was the end result of a larger transformation in the business community.
The first steps in the journey – business transformation
The very first ripple in this tidal wave of change came around 15 to 20 years ago when the internet took root in business operations. It didn’t take long before it fundamentally changed the way businesses operated. Of course, not everyone had the foresight to embrace this change equally. There was the tiny DVD-video-rentals-through-the-mail company who thought it might better to transform the entire business into an online content streaming service. As it turned out, leaning into this business transformation worked out okay for Netflix.
At the other end of the spectrum is the one-time category killer Toys R Us. As an indicator of just how dominant they once were in the toy market, consider this – the toy market in 1986 and 1987 grew only 2%. During those two years, however, Toys R Us saw a market growth of 27%. By 1988, there were more than 300 Toys R Us bricks & mortar locations in the United States alone. Last year, the company announced they were going out of business. Why? Right around this time of business transformation, Toys R Us entered a deal with Amazon to have them act as their exclusive online seller of toy and baby products. Amazon learned the toy business inside out, established their own footprint and market, and then ended the Toys R Us relationship to compete against Toys R Us directly.
It didn’t take long for business to grasp that in order to compete in this new age, they would need to step up their digital game. As the internet brought speed and convenience to everyday activities – online shopping, online banking, etc. – customers expected similar conveniences from their business as well.
Regardless of the industry, every business under the sun was looking for ways to use new technology to offer new and better customer experience.
Good examples of what digital transformation can enable are everywhere. Online grocery shopping, or drug stores that provide the option to renew your prescriptions over the phone, on your computer, or through an app.
Datacentre transformation & hybrid IT
At this point in the evolutionary process, businesses were saying to themselves, “I don’t have five or ten years to rebuild my business, I have 12 months.” It was clear that with such a short timeline, they didn’t have the time to go out and build a new datacentre. Instead, they would need to develop a system that could handle the incremental data and storage requirements that did not involve building brick and mortar server units.
Enter hybrid IT.
The defining characteristics of hybrid IT are twofold. First is the time required to go-to-market – a make-or-break factor for any business today. By accessing readily available cloud-based services rather than building net new hard servers, you can reach potential customers faster.
The second defining characteristic of hybrid IT is the enablement of data mining. We are all reaching out to customers and prospects regularly for information and insight. But how are you capturing that data – if at all? Information is collected over the phone, at the counter, via an app or through a website. To accumulate, analyze and then glean insights, complex data analytics are essential and that means new applications require intense compute power. Many of these applications were created in the digital age and are tailor made for use in the cloud. Not only can you scale up and scale down to accommodate the complexity, you can also trigger targeted campaigns that will scale up very rapidly and then wind them down once the campaign is complete without having to support the physical infrastructure.
A hybrid model is only as good as your ability to manage it easily and with agility.
The technology vendors saw this trend coming and have been working to stay ahead in a world that sees storage doubling every two years. A great example of this is the acquisition of VMware and EMC by Dell. Dell EMC had the foresight to bring servers, storage, networking, and virtualization together under one software layer; thus, allowing organizations to manage both cloud and on-premise storage with a single pane of glass.
The bottom line is this – if you’re talking to a client about the importance of hybrid IT, don’t talk about technology. It didn’t start from technology, the journey started with simple business needs. Hybrid IT started because businesses that don’t transform often find themselves no longer in business.