Stephen Green, CTO for MEA, Dimension Data.

Stephen Green, CTO for MEA, Dimension Data.

Today's business doesn't have to choose between in-house or outsourced IT, public or private cloud; hybrid IT presents the best of both worlds.

Hybrid IT brings together the best of internal and external IT resources, and as adoption of a combination of public and private cloud becomes increasingly commonplace, businesses are turning to providers for help in negotiating a previously undefined model.

Dimension Data's CTO for MEA, Stephen Green, says the hybrid IT environment presents organisations with a mind-shift in terms of how they think of data centres and the manner in which they operate.

"The main challenge is that companies have big investments in on-premises IT and systems. This footprint is typically representative of ageing and less energy efficient systems than those available today, and this provides for an opportunity to migrate these platforms to either on-premises converged or hyper-converged platforms and or various formats of private and public cloud.

"At the same time, there's a continued shift towards software-defined data centres with virtualisation of the network and storage as prime candidates. Cloud is central to these considerations because it has the ability to accelerate the time to benefit clients, and speed of doing business is critical in digital transformation."

Green continues: "Of course, the journey to cloud has led to many conversations about security and data sovereignty and we have had to address these concerns by demonstrating both our global security and data privacy certifications and standards. Over the past five years, we've spent a lot of time positioning the cloud value proposition to clients. In the last 18 months, however, we've seen a shift in engagement model with CIOs now asking how quickly their environments can be moved to cloud-based solutions.

"Along this journey we've also learnt some interesting and valuable lessons about moving to the cloud. For instance, you have to fundamentally change your thinking around servers. In the past, companies typically bought servers that could accommodate peaks in their consumption, but this meant a lot of wastage when that superfluous capacity wasn't utilised. The mindset shift required is around IT efficiency, so we encourage companies to buy server capacity for the median and then pay for peaks as and when they arise."

The challenge, according to Green, is that companies want to replicate their current server requirements in the cloud, which results in wastage. "The conversation around the cloud needs to underline that not all workloads are equal, and therefore not all workloads should end up in the cloud." Green advocates a workload-centric approach where appropriate workloads are either run in the cloud or on modern hyper-converged platforms in the client's data centre (private cloud). This has led to the whole concept of hybrid IT.

He says: "This is where we find ourselves today, at the entry point to hybrid IT, which incorporates both private and public cloud infrastructure and services as well as those served by the client's on-premises environment. These hybrid IT infrastructures result in additional considerations for the enterprise network and the security posture required."

Security in hybrid IT

Green says: "We've had to relook at security and network performance in this new hybrid environment. As workloads move from the data centre into the cloud, old network designs have to be modernised to cater for the additional traffic. This is especially the case for core enterprise applications where response times are critical. Network and application performance optimisation is required, otherwise service delivery suffers. Similarly, security models need to be reworked. In the past, you put a firewall between the data centre and the Internet tightly controlling what got in or out. As clients use more software as a service (SaaS) workloads, the security model must include new firewalling and security monitoring capabilities integrated between the provider and the enterprise network.

"This adds complexity to the IT workload because the cloud isn't something that any one company owns; you're dealing with a proliferation of SaaS providers, connectivity between them and security challenges. For these reasons, we've introduced a number of managed services across the various hyperscale providers to assist with the complexity and manage these environments for our clients."

The other side of the coin is that some companies refuse point blank to consider the cloud, but closer examination reveals they're already in the cloud because they're using Dropbox, Gmail or other SaaS providers, for example.

Green says orchestrating an enterprise-size move to hybrid IT entails a fair amount of engagement with internal teams to design an enterprise-class, fault-tolerant and secure network, along with workload assessments to understand what the appropriate cloud platform or infrastructure is for application placement. Moving to a hybrid IT model is a journey.

Who to travel with

Choosing the right partner for your hybrid IT journey can result in cost-savings, reduce your risk and improve your organisation's service delivery with minimal disruption. Below are three things to consider when adopting hybrid IT:

* Decide which data should reside in-house and which should reside on your public cloud;
* Automation is key in managing different cloud environments cost-effectively; and
* Ensure your data is secure across public and private cloud environments.

Read more about hybrid IT and how your business can embark on the journey here: