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Evolving to Hybrid Cloud for a Digital-First Business

As organisations move toward digital-first business, many are looking to a hybrid cloud model for the innovation, agility and scale it offers to accommodate their complex and varying workloads.

Legacy infrastructure that ran within a firewall and served brick-and-mortar businesses did not have to contend with a new generation of global competitors, the Internet, mobility and analytics. But existing infrastructure can be part of an ecosystem that exploits the scalability and flexibility of cloud services.

“Hybrid cloud is an IT-centric view of services and is an engine for IT transformation that can be embraced by the whole organisation,” says Intel’s Markus Leberecht. “Organisations have the possibility of a software-defined architecture and consolidation, which gives the best fit of IT to the business to not over-deliver or under-deliver. The beauty of the cloud approach is that it can evolve over time horizontally or vertically.”

Development teams, for example, want to be able to innovate quickly and respond to competitors without eating up the IT budget. However, they may not want to touch legacy code and risk compromising years of investment.

Hybrid cloud allows organisations to keep sensitive data on premises and bring powerful services into the data centre, while allowing development teams to innovate faster and scale out.

Changing perceptions
Perceptions of the capabilities and use of hybrid cloud have changed over recent years.

“Previously, hybrid cloud was understood as a possibility for scaling work into the public cloud that you couldn’t do in the private cloud. Now, the approach to cloud computing is looked at from the perspective of workloads. We have a much more differentiated approach to IT services and the spectrum of work delivered,” says Leberecht.

He stresses that IT transformation is not a “big bang” and there are good reasons why legacy should exist. Different services will require different solutions.

“What organisations have as systems of record, such as ERP and payroll, are doing the jobs they have been designed for effectively and efficiently,” he says. “As such, they may be forced to evolve less than IT services fueling digitisation. They could and sometimes should stay in methods of classical models for enterprise, but systems of innovation can capitalise on new trends such as analytics and cloud. Companies have different ways of approaching their needs.”

Leberecht says it makes sense to keep the “stuff that works” in the established part of the business model but to look at hybrid cloud for innovation and as-yet-undefined business that could be the answer to competitive developments.

“There may be good reasons to keep systems in house, such as speed and security for the business crown jewels or increased concerns about how to handle personal information with GDPR regulations,” says Leberecht. “However, when it comes to new dimensions of agility, cloud computing can offer the most likely way to evolve.”

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Making the business case
As each specific workload has distinct needs, it will have its individual business case—which should, in turn, be the basis of an implementation decision within a hybrid cloud strategy. The aspect of geographic distribution may serve as good example: If a global organisation needs local points of presence near its globally distributed customers, the geographic scalability of public cloud providers may be the dominating factor driving toward a largely public-cloud-based workload implementation.

“But whatever configuration is decided for each service, the organisation must deliver it in a seamless way to users, so hybrid cloud ultimately becomes a methodology to look at workloads in a differentiated way, while choosing the appropriate sourcing and delivery method for each,” says Leberecht.

However, as with any transformation, it is vital to ensure that IT and business work together collaboratively. Early payoffs can help by tackling business challenges.

“It is important to build momentum early on in cloud-orientated transformation. Get people on board from within the organisation and build communities around it,” advises Leberecht. “You then must evolve legacy infrastructure in the direction of the new model. Look at organisational pain points and start the process by picking the lowest hanging fruit.”

Building communities
He adds that within the new normal of deliverable IT services, there are two philosophies—how applications are designed and how operations are delivered—and they don’t gel with classical IT.

“Building communities is necessary to make it easier to understand organisational needs, and this is the biggest part of cloud transformation,” Leberecht notes.

Through the use of a software-defined infrastructure, which uses horizontal scaling and virtualised storage and networks, many of the previously compartmentalised functional roles of IT become intertwined in new ways.

For example, server administrators need to understand cloud storage and cloud networking, and have to adjust their knowledge. Building communities helps identify the training needs and allows people to learn from each other for a joint cause.

“The emphasis is on people and processes and is not just a technology problem. Focus will depend on where an organisation is in adoption of cloud technologies. Early adopters will be further along with adjusting roles,” says Leberecht.

That means it sometimes matters where you start: Web-born businesses such as Airbnb and Uber don’t have to deal with legacy and are therefore wholesale adopters of the native cloud technologies on which their business model is based. But hybrid cloud is enabling existing businesses to innovate and compete along similar lines.

For successful transformation and innovation, businesses must not view IT as a drain on budget but rather an engine for change.

“The IT organisation must understand their role evolving, and the board must understand IT’s role is not just a cost centre,” says Leberecht. “From Intel’s point, we see this very clearly. Companies that are very involved in innovation are investing in IT as strategic to success.”

Critically, evolving toward hybrid cloud and a software-defined architecture enables agility and scale. “Scale is where the digital disrupters are showing other local companies how to think big if your starting point is appealing to every consumer in the world,” says Leberecht.

Hybrid clouds built on Intel Xeon Scalable processors deliver this scalability and flexibility, so businesses can innovate and provide high-demand applications in a hyperconnected digital economy.

If you would like to better compete in today’s digital economy, please visit https://www.intel.co.uk/content/www/uk/en/cloud-computing/overview.html

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Intel Select: https://www.intel.co.uk/content/www/uk/en/architecture-and-technology/intel-select-solutions-overview.html

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