February 11, 2019

Market Analysis

The One Thing You Need to Understand to Get Hybrid IT Right

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Image credit: Emilio Labrador.

This article was originally published on Intellyx.com

It was the look that always stopped me in my tracks.

I was a boy, blossoming into a young man, and at that awkward stage in which I wanted to prove to the world — and especially to my dad — that I could handle things. I wanted to show him that he no longer needed to treat me like a child.

“I got it, dad. This in cinchy,” I would tell him, using my favorite word for something that was so easy, obvious, and self-explanatory that any grown, non-child could handle it without any further instructions.

Inevitably, it was at those moments that I got the look, often accompanied by a slight shake of the head, that said, “You silly boy. You think you’ve got this handled, and you don’t even understand the question yet.”

Much like my adolescent confidence was born of a combination of ignorance (about the real complexity or challenges with a situation) and a wanton desire to show the world that I was ready to tackle any problem, today’s enterprise leaders are projecting a similar bravado with a concept that deserves much greater attention: Hybrid IT.

As industry analysts, we spend a significant amount of time exploring emerging trends and discussing them with both enterprise leaders and tech company executives.

And more than any other term, the one that seems to simultaneously engender the most confusion — and dismissal — is hybrid IT.

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The fact that the discussion around hybrid IT is not a top-of-mind issue with both enterprise leaders and tech company executives represents a significant risk and missed opportunity for both of them — especially because there’s really only one thing you need to understand to get it right.

Confusion Soup: What is Hybrid IT?

In fairness, it’s easy to see why there is so much confusion around the hybrid IT term.

We often tell the tech companies we advise that technology terms are tough because we have used each of them in so many different forms over the years that they all come with a certain amount of baggage. The only way to avoid the confusion and negative history that may accompany a term is to make up a brand new one — but then, of course, no one will have any idea what you’re talking about!

As a result, the industry continually reuses and repurposes the same words and phrases. This recycling is particularly challenging in the case of hybrid IT because there are a whole bunch of related and interconnected terms that mean only slightly different things — and whose meanings have been slowly and subtly shifting over the years. These include terms like cloud, private cloud, public cloud, hybrid cloud, and multi-cloud.

Intellyx president Jason Bloomberg wrote a recent Forbes article tackling part of this story as it relates to the evolution of private cloud, the confusion the term created, and its connection to the hybrid IT story.

As Jason explains — and as we’ve both been discussing for quite a while — the essence of hybrid IT is its workload centricity, “This workload centricity, in fact, is at the heart of hybrid IT, as workloads connect the infrastructure to the applications that IT puts in front of customers. Distinctions of public vs. private vs. hybrid eventually become implementation details that organizations can configure as a matter of policy, while supporting the changing needs of customers in the digital era.”

The first step to getting your head around hybrid IT, therefore, is to understand what it’s not, and grasping the workload centricity that is at its core.

But that’s still not the one thing you need to understand.

Overcoming Hybrid IT Laziness

Because of hybrid IT’s workload centricity, it is inclusive of public cloud, private cloud, co-located infrastructure, on-premises infrastructure, legacy technology stacks — and everything in between.

As a result, it’s easy to merely think about hybrid IT as a default state.

If you have a little bit of everything — and who doesn’t? — then you have hybrid IT.

But that’s what I call hybrid IT laziness — and it misses the point.

Hybrid IT’s workload centricity is pivotal precisely because it forces organizations to move beyond the traditional systems-centric architectural view that mostly amounted to assembling and connecting collections of infrastructure and applications.

The move to hybrid IT is centered on the idea that we must now look at and evaluate each workload from the perspective of its ability to support competitive differentiation in the market, and then use that as the barometer which drives technical and architectural needs.

This perspective flips the traditional model upside down.

Workload demands may also change over time or even based on things like time-of-year — all of which may demand different operating environments at various points.

This workload centricity, and the need to be able to move workloads to different environments based on business drivers, is the essence of hybrid IT.

It requires conscious, strategic thought and planning — the antithesis of hybrid IT laziness.

The Intellyx Take: Making a Deliberate Bet

Have you figured out the one thing you need to understand to get hybrid IT right?

If not, I’ll give it to you in one word: deliberateness.

Most people are getting hybrid IT wrong because they are looking at it wrong. They take the term to either be code for “figuring out how to make all my stuff work together” or they see it as just another way to implement their current systems-centric architecture.

But it’s neither of these.

Instead, adopting hybrid IT is the act of making a deliberate bet to turn your architecture upside down.

Making that bet demands that rather than starting with an internal perspective and attempting to assemble your various clouds, legacy components, and other sundry parts, you instead begin with a customer and value-based perspective, manifested in the workload, and construct and continually adapt the elements necessary to deliver business value and delight your customer (and employee and partner).

This transformation is only possible when you stop focusing on the platform, system, technology or medium, and focus exclusively on the business value and competitive differentiation you hope to create — and then use every resource at your disposal to deliver it.

And that’s anything but cinchy.

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. Intellyx publishes the Agile Digital Transformation Roadmap poster, advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives, and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. As of the time of writing, none of the organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers.


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