By Russ Banham
For operating efficiency and cost-effectiveness, many businesses are turning to hybrid IT, an approach comprising a mix of in-house resources, managed hosting, and public and private cloud-based services.
Sounds simple enough, but deciding which resources go where is complicated.
The overarching goal is to somehow put together the pieces to build an ideal IT infrastructure, one with the computing power, diverse applications, and flexibility to conduct the company’s business at optimal functionality and speed. The challenge is crafting this infrastructure amid constant change.
“Even the best IT departments have trouble keeping up with the breakneck pace of innovation and the rapid changes in technology this produces,” said Scott Brindamour, director of the advanced technology solutions architect team at CenturyLink. “If you can’t keep up, you fall behind. Your competitors embrace the new ways of doing things to your disadvantage.”
What Should Stay In-House — And What Shouldn’t
In many enterprises, an external perspective often is needed to collaborate on company strategy and ensure the IT roadmap can support business requirements while being agile enough to drive it forward.
“Every IT department is different, with different core competencies,” Brindamour explained. “In some cases, IT adds value; in others it is consumed in doing things that are not core to the business. Knowing which is which is an important first step in going hybrid.”
For instance, IT may be particularly adept at managing a specific application, such as a database, but not have the in-house skill set for managing other applications. If this is the case, the company may want to outsource the management of those apps to a cloud-service provider. The alternative is to beef up IT staff skill sets, which can be expensive.
“You need to assess IT capabilities on an app-by-app basis, examining the workload constraints,” said Brindamour. “If the IT environment must be highly secure because the business collects and stores customer credit card data or patients’ health care records, then security needs to be a core competency of IT. Access to multiple infrastructure options and wide breadth of IT professional services ensure you have the right outsourcing options to meet unique requirements around security, compliance and resiliency.”
By dispersing the workload internally and externally, a business can augment its internal IT professional skill sets. Companies also benefit by improving the flexibility needed to operate in today’s 24/7 work environment and the IT support this requires. A case in point is an e-commerce company with sales, order fulfillment and product delivery around the clock. The unending workflow is a problem for the many IT professionals who work a traditional eight-hour day; outsourcing allows the company to adopt a follow-the-sun support model without investing in additional human resources.
“If something goes wrong for some reason, and the system crashes, IT personnel will receive a text alert in the middle of the night or on the weekend, urging them to come into the workplace immediately,” Brindamour said. Such fire drills are not needed at organizations that have a safety net of outsourced personnel.
When supported by IT specialists on a 24/7 worldwide basis, internal IT staff are spared the burden of handling emergencies. Depending on the service level agreement with the service provider, the recovery time may take only a few minutes. And because a service provider shares its staff across multiple customers, the cost is much less than what may be incurred by full-time IT personnel brought in after hours.
Hybrid Strategy Will Evolve With New Tech
Many situations call for hybrid and multi-vendor solutions, among them: company strategy, IT staff core competencies, IT system functionality, security and compliance requirements, and the criticality of an application or workload. One cloud can serve a particular location; another cloud a particular workload; a third a specific set of applications, or some composite thereof.
“Maybe Amazon is perfect for this particular app, but IBM may be right for that one, and CenturyLink is better suited for another one,” Brindamour said. “The objective is to craft an IT infrastructure built from the best components and a vendor that can help you manage it all through the use of agnostic cloud tools and platforms.”
Another advantage of outsourcing is infrastructure agility. When IT personnel no longer have to manage, operate and fix every busted pipe and broken wire, they’re liberated to innovate around new services.
These decisions are not for the fainthearted. The most effective approach is to secure the advisory services of an external cloud provider to work closely with internal IT in building tomorrow’s infrastructure. Best of all, this is not a one-and-done exercise.
Change is constant.