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Your hybrid cloud strategy needs an IT reality check

Commentary: Enterprise IT is messy by nature, and those companies that accept this may be best able to deal with it. Find out how a cloud strategy refresh can save money and improve employee morale.

Computer in a cloudy sky as a symbol for cloud-computing

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There is the IT world that a CIO might wish were true, and then there’s the complicated reality of her enterprise. Way (way) back when, Billy Marshall coined the phrase, “The CIO is the last to know.” He was talking about how open source increasingly found its way into the enterprise without the CIO’s blessing or knowledge. Developers downloaded it, anxious to get work done, and not particularly bothered by IT priorities defined by tee times with an enterprise software vendor. 

More recently, Redmonk analyst Stephen O’Grady extended the “last to know” theme, arguing that not only will “Open source…find a way” into the enterprise, but “clouds will [also] find a way.” What does this mean for CIOs and attempts to gate inbound open source or cloud services? “You can try to regulate and restrict however you want, but more often than not you’re going to find yourself using things that you weren’t aware of.” All those buzzwords like “hybrid cloud” and “multicloud,” in other words, are simply what happens to IT, not necessarily thoughtful strategies.

Accepting this reality just might save you a lot of money.

SEE: Top cloud providers in 2020: AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, hybrid, SaaS players (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Reality is messy

Name your vendor, and they’ve had a CIO/CTO up on stage at their event, proclaiming absolute, eternal devotion to that vendor. They’ve standardized on that vendor! They use nothing else! They have their entire army of developers, system administrators, etc. all marching to the same beat. It’s glorious!

If only it were true.

In his Open Source in Business interview, O’Grady rubbishes the entire idea of such strategy, perfectly executed. Asked if the default model going forward is hybrid cloud (“where part of your application infrastructure is running locally and you’re using some managed services, or you’ve got some compute running locally and kind of bursting out”), O’Grady was emphatic:

The difficulty for me with hybrid cloud as a term has always been that there are those who would suggest or believe that that term implies some super advanced architecture where you seamlessly are blending on and off prem assets and they work in perfect relation to one another, and that in my experience is exceedingly rare. So in other words, it’s really rare that people have essentially designed their architecture such that they can transcend on and off prem infrastructures, and more importantly the architectural differences that are implied there, with impunity. That just doesn’t happen all that often.

Why? Because think of how business actually works. Even if you had perfect consensus within an organization at a given point in time, people join or leave the company, management changes, priorities evolve, etc. In this constant churn, people get in the way of well-behaved IT. At the same time, developers tend to turn to whichever open source and/or cloud resources necessary to get work done as deadlines press. 

This is why O’Grady tends to be skeptical when companies make declarations like “I’m 100% on-premises” or “I use only one cloud provider.” Why? “Long experience has taught me that somewhere, somebody is using something that no one else knows about from some other provider.” That’s just how enterprise IT works.  

Yes, there’s a clear trend toward managed services, running in the cloud. But there’s also human nature (often risk averse) and business inertia (hard to get everyone aligned around common goals) that suggest many workloads will stay on-premises for the foreseeable future. If companies embrace this as reality, rather than trying to internally legislate a different reality into existence, they’ll end up saving money, improving employee morale, and getting more done. 

Disclosure: I work for AWS, but the views expressed herein are mine.

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