Managing Hybrid Clouds
I had an opportunity to speak to the Mid-Atlantic CIO Forum at Towson University last week about new strategies and tactics for fully capitalizing on today’s Cloud alternatives. Because the group is composed of CIOs primarily from mid-size and large-scale enterprises with a lot of custom built applications and systems already in place, their biggest challenge is determining how to integrate the latest Cloud services into their legacy operations. Managing ‘hybrid’ Clouds is becoming a common challenge.
I had spoken to this group a couple of years ago when the concept of Cloud computing was just emerging. At that time, they were primarily interested in better understanding what the concept meant and why they should consider it. Like many CIOs, the attendees of this session are now trying to determine where, when and how to deploy Cloud services to meet their day-to-day needs and achieve their long-term corporate objectives.
Although some debate continues to swirl around the merits of public versus private clouds, most industry observers agree that the vast majority of organizations will utilize a mix of on-premise and ‘on-demand’ applications and computing resources to support their business operations. Therefore, the key to success is properly managing this hybrid operating environment to get the maximum value from the new Cloud resources will extending the life of existing on-premise systems and software.
While most IT organizations have been managing mixed environments for a long time, the advent of Cloud-based services adds a new wrinkle to this age-old challenge. Rather than simply acquiring and installing a traditional on-premise system or software application into a traditional computing environment, capitalizing on a leading Cloud solution entails a new set of considerations.
Beyond evaluating a Cloud solution’s ability to meet the organization’s functional requirements, the IT team must thoroughly assess how well the Cloud vendor can deliver on its promises.
This means determining how it has architected its service delivery infrastructure to ensure maximum availability and optimal performance. It is also important to investigate the vendor’s customer support capabilities and policies to fully understand how the vendor will respond if there is a service delivery or other important support issue. This means determining what service level assurances the vendor provides and how it compensates the customer if it fails to meet these obligations.
Equally important is determining the financial viability of the vendor. As a relatively new market segment, the Cloud is attracting a growing assortment of relative start-ups. This “Cloud Rush”, can’t sustain all the players and an industry shake-up is likely. Therefore, many vendors will either fail or be acquired by others. Considering how these scenarios could impact an organization’s dependency on a Cloud service is important.
IT and business decision-makers can also take advantage of a growing number of Cloud vendors that are providing unprecedented transparency regarding the reliability and performance of their services. Many are offering online ‘Trust’ sites that show the availability and latency levels of their services real-time.
A widening array of Cloud-based management tools are also coming to market which provide a ‘single-pane of glass’ dashboard that can help CIOs and their IT teams more easily deploy, monitor, measure and maximize the value of their hybrid Cloud resources.
Disclosure: This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.