The past five years have belonged to the public cloud. IT departments have, at times, looked on in horror as business managers outsourced next generation applications and resource requirements to the likes of Amazon, Dropbox and others that can seemingly provide agile solutions, more rapidly and at better cost points. The public cloud, seen as a place of possibilities and easy answers, is taking all the glory; by contrast, the IT department has looked increasingly rigid, slow and obstructive in comparison. Not surprisingly, some have mooted the imminent demise of IT departments and described a future in which IT resources are solely delivered as-a-service via public clouds.
But is it really that black and white – and is this the future we really want? Isn’t it actually the case that businesses depend on their IT departments for vital considerations such as governance, security and performance – and, in a world of proliferating options (internal and external), need their expertise in brokering the best solutions that will enable them to drive the business acceleration that they are looking for?
It is time for the IT department to take a stand; to fight back and compete – to show that it recognises that it is no longer a monopoly, and to transform itself accordingly, with a focus on innovation, service-orientation and agility. Why? Because their businesses need them to.
Giving the business what it needs
But how can the IT Department achieve this transformation, assemble that range of options – and reaffirm its relevance? These challenges may seem daunting, but the Hybrid Cloud offers a path to renewed relevance: a means of reasserting the central importance of IT and once again proving its strategic value to the business.
The reason is simple: hybrid cloud solves the business problems of IT consumers within the business. Why? At present, the battle between IT departments and their public cloud competitors is being fought at the workload level: if a business user finds that a public cloud provider can answer his or her workload requirements more quickly, cheaply and flexibly than in-house IT, they will go to that provider. There is no inherent loyalty to the IT department: the loyalty lies instead with the business and, fundamentally, with getting the job done – hence the growth of ‘shadow IT’.
IT needs to earn its own loyalty by offering a more attractive proposition to its clients and hybrid cloud allows them to do this. Hybrid cloud allows workloads and applications to be delivered over the most suitable mechanism for each specific workload instance – whether that is over private or public infrastructure and software. Rather than limiting businesses to an either/or model, hybrid is platform agnostic, allowing IT to manage and orchestrate the best solutions according to the specific workload requirement each and every time.
This is a claim that no public cloud provider can make and it is a competitive differentiator that IT departments should be shouting from the rooftops. Companies want to make the right decisions when it comes to the complicated and careful considerations of how to manage their workloads and how best to provision business-enabling IT. These decisions need to be based on the right range of options, not purely on expediency, and IT is clearly best-placed to provide that level of consultation. Every workload has its place in the private/public/on-premise mix and it the IT department’s natural job to broker the right solution for each case.
Getting hybrid right
While the hybrid cloud offers IT departments a powerful weapon in the battle against shadow IT, success is by no means automatically guaranteed: IT departments need to adapt to today’s post-monopoly reality and deliver hybrid cloud in a highly user-friendly way.
What exactly do we mean by this?
Well, in the past IT had the luxury of being able to deliver services in whatever way they saw fit, with their clients something of a captive audience. Today, if a business user has difficulty using an IT-delivered service (either due to the time it takes to provision or the inherent clumsiness of the user interface) they can easily find a third-party alternative that meets their needs. Shadow IT therefore puts the onus on the IT department to become much more service-driven and to provide its customers within the business with agile services that are easy to use and as quick to provision as competing public cloud services. The end-user experience is key.
In this respect, the challenge for IT departments is to balance their traditional (and still essential) concerns around security, performance, economics and compliance with this need to deliver genuine agility in IT service provision, and be seen as a facilitator of business enablement. If the user experience is seamless, business users will quickly warm to it. A hybrid cloud is not, after-all, simply the co existence of a public and a private cloud at the same business: it is the integrated management and orchestration of both types of cloud by the IT department for the benefit of the wider organisation.
Let the fight back begin
By answering the business imperatives of their clients, IT departments will become more competitive and naturally focused on seeking out excellence in service delivery. Even better, hybrid cloud will help IT teams to select the right options for their internal customers – and the right balance of security, performance and economic efficiency for each use-case. This is what their clients are crying out for: in a recent survey, Line of Business managers stated that they would prefer their IT departments to broker all services for them, by a margin of nearly three to one1.
A competitive IT department that seeks out excellence in service delivery will help its business – and find its own path to redemption. These teams are well-placed to bring much-needed balance to the cloud conversation; to deliver the answers and options that their businesses are looking for; and to show why well-run hybrid clouds will become the default future choice for many. It is time for the IT department to stand up and be counted, to have confidence in what it does and in what it can be.