“Mix and match” might work for products on sale at the supermarket, but it’s not necessarily the best strategy for an IT department. In this case, the “mixing” involves adopting cloud solutions along with in-house IT systems, with the IT team managing the relationship between the different systems.
The issue of hybrid IT systems is one that concerns a lot of companies, and is growing in importance. According to a report by Markets and Markets, the hybrid cloud market is estimated to grow from $33.28 billion in 2016 to $91.74 billion by 2021, at an annual average growth rate of 22.5%. Thus, solving the issue of IT administration of these systems is essential.
It sounds like it could be a great idea – outsource some of the more labour-intensive functions to the cloud while retaining mission-critical activities or specialized resources (custom software, etc.) in-house. But while there are advantages to a setup like this, there are some big potential pitfalls. Among them:
The Cultural Gap: In many organizations with new cloud initiatives, there is a clear division about who does what. Many CIOs, it turns out, do not want the legacy teams to lead cloud innovation, because they feel they are too “stuck in the past” following old protocols and paradigms that might not work for the cloud. The business requires new applications to be up and running in weeks or months – while “traditional” service delivery models are perceived as requiring years to get there.
For this reason, they tend to create a completely separate cloud team, to allow full dedication and focus on the task. While great for the organization in the short term, such a separation carries an explosive potential. It’s only natural for members of the cloud team to feel that they are where it’s at now – a part of the new, elite group working on the cutting-edge of IT.
Now we have an in-group and an out-group – with the latter consisting of the legacy team (the former stars of the organization). If unhealthy inter-team dynamics set in, the interaction between the teams may often be postponed until the very last moment (i.e., when real workloads start running on the new cloud infrastructure). Natural integration challenges (see below) could then be too late (or too costly) to address effectively.
The Management Gap: Effective application lifecycle management relies on many moving parts: CMDB, change management, monitoring, deployment and automation, performance and capacity management – are only some.
Legacy infrastructure has a mature ecosystem for lifecycle management – which is completely independent than that of modern cloud infrastructure. And the two do not necessarily play well together. Getting those ecosystems to work in tandem has proven to be a major challenge – if not an impossibility, in some cases – and has contributed to major issues in resiliency in organizations.
The Resilience Gap: The lack of coherent teamwork, processes and tools could be detrimental to IT resilience – just when an organization needs it more than ever before. Customers have never been more unforgiving for downtime (and free to vent their frustration in social media). At the same time, regulation is tightening, and digital transformation leads to tighter than ever application integration. Any weak link could bring down entire business functions – dramatically impacting the bottom line.
In a system with multiple parts, the overall resilience and quality is always a factor within each individual component. Unless it’s done correctly, combining legacy and cloud systems creates longer chains of application and data dependencies. Left unchecked, this situation will lead to a decrease in resilience – and an increase in actual losses.
A survey by the Uptime Institute proves the point; asking over 1,000 data centre executives and end-users from around the world about their hybrid pain points. The Institute discovered that nearly two thirds, 62% of IT outages, were attributable to infrastructure failures by cloud and colocation suppliers, leading a whopping 92% of IT executives to express concern over the likelihood of an outage at their largely hybrid operations. According to Andy Lawrence, executive director of research at the Uptime Institute, “The rapid growth in the implementation of cloud and hybrid IT approaches has ushered in a period of great change-creating technology, organizational and management complexity. And these new challenges are many times unlike anything previously seen in the industry at this magnitude. It’s a perfect storm.”
So what can organizations do to avoid the hybrid blues? They can definitely start with evaluating and addressing the aforementioned gaps. While it’s okay to dedicate teams to achieve focus and agility, organizations need to define the roles and responsibilities of each – and lay down ground rules for interactivity, trust and respect.
Consider how you can turn risks (cultural, management, resilience) into opportunities. For example, this could be a great time to re-think quality management and continuous improvement processes. Since there’s so much on the cloud team’s plate – and process measurement is usually something left to the later stages of the development cycle – it could be a great opportunity for the legacy teams to lend a hand. Not only do they have more experience in these areas, now they have the opportunity to interact and cooperate much earlier on. And, consider the business benefits you can achieve if you end up with a more streamlined CICD process, tighter integration between management tools and the real measurement of resilience across both technology and business services.