The next step for hybrid IT

Hybrid working
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For quite some time now it’s been clear that the future of enterprise computing is hybrid. That is, CIOs and CTOs create assemblies of ICT resources across platforms that are selected on a best-fit basis for unique workload needs. In practice, that usually means combinations of traditional on-premises, co-location facilities, private clouds and public clouds. But what we can expect next is something different, more sophisticated and well, just better. You might call this the age of Hybrid Operations where we still benefit from that ‘horses for courses’ approach but we can overlay management controls without caring about the underlying deployment model.

Think about it like a hybrid vehicle. Hybrids work well for many of us because they provide the cleanness and relatively low cost of electrical power with the option to flip back to the familiar internal combustion engine when we need it. If you were in California for the utilities outages or you live in Europe and are left slack-jawed at the prices marked on the pumps, or you’re just out of juice and the charging points are all taken, then you know why having the chance to switch modes is such a boon. And of course, you just assume the brakes, gears and all the other features don’t much care what’s going on under the hood or whether you’re running on a charge or liquid fuel. That complexity is masked from the driver who probably isn’t a car mechanic and certainly doesn’t need to know what’s going on.

That’s where the datacenter is going next. The IT chief can abstract away from the underlying variability and complexity of the deployment model and apply software-based operating instructions on top of that. The impacts are the same whether the data, workload or application is sitting on an internal datacenter server, a container or VM on the other side or colocation center outside the town. It. Just. Works.

Sammy Zoghlami

Sammy Zoghlami is a Senior Vice President at Nutanix where he leads the EMEA organization.

IT's in the data

Proof of the need for this Hybrid Operations world comes in the form of the Nutanix 5th Annual Enterprise Cloud Index where the marked increase in hybrid deployments is unmissable. Almost everyone (99%) said they have moved at least one application to different infrastructure in the last year. Most organizations (60%) said they already use more than one type of IT infrastructure and that number will increase remarkably to almost three quarters (74%) in the next three years.

But here’s the real stinger: 94% of respondents said they also want easier management and specifically a single, unified place to manage applications and data across clouds. And that is where we have got to get them to next: an environment where resources can be managed regardless of where they physically sit or what is the architecture within and around which they operate. These respondents clearly feel that’s a long way off, with just 40% saying they have complete visibility into where their data even resides.

Changing times

These are profound changes. A few years ago, there wasn’t nearly so much movement between computing deployment platforms. Now it is rife and the appetite that creates is for a way to wrap our arms around all these underlying resources, get to a single pane of glass and be able to manipulate what lies beneath. According to our survey, this need is now in the same bracket as the eternal IT obsession over cybersecurity.

Moving from the period of hybrid cloud or hybrid IT to the period of hybrid operations is a ‘crossing the chasm’ moment in several different ways. It’s really the third age of modern IT management. First, VMware ushered in modern datacenter computing through the ability to virtualize servers in order to gain better value from hardware investments, swap workloads around and try things out faster. With hyperconvergence in the second age we found a way to dynamically assign network, compute and storage resources to a server. And now for the third age we need to address that management concern that’s obsessing people in the survey. And this is figuring out a way to have unified operational control on top of all this movement between computing modes that’s clearly going on.

Do that and it’s a game changer all round. You have the freedom to innovate and onboard new vendors because your operating rules remain the same. It’s no longer rip and replace or taking chances with operating code running on the new platform: the operating rules you apply remain the same. You no longer need to hire a legion of specialists who know all about one platform.

In IT generally, we want to avoid doing unique things with our operating code. We want the simplest, most performant way to deliver functionality and productivity and then we automate via tooling to reduce the number of process steps we need to take and not have to reinvent the wheel. So, this is our next stop: software-defined, one-click control of the entire IT estate.

We’re not there yet. For example, containers are sometimes painted as a way to isolate workloads and apply management controls on top. Our survey shows that nearly all respondents (96%) have begun using open-source Kubernetes orchestration. But they cite designing and configuring the underlying infrastructure, storage, and database services as among the top challenges they continue to face with their Kubernetes deployments.

Of course, IT management won’t just go away but if we can get to Hybrid Operations then we have a different level of priorities and tasks. Data and metadata from operations will need to be scrutinized to inform the new operating code we will need to write. But the prize is big with cloud becoming our next true operating model rather than just consumption choice.

That will help the 85% of respondents who are concerned by managing IT costs and the 34% who say they are very concerned, and it will bring a new level of order without having to can all our current core applications and business processes. Decades after you last heard the phrase, we may finally be seeing ‘write once, run anywhere’ becoming reality as infrastructure and code becomes real and IT operations are finally truly hybrid. The "solution" is the hybrid multicloud platform. It's one place to run all apps and data.

We've featured the best tools for hybrid working.

Sammy Zoghlami is a Senior Vice President at Nutanix where he leads the EMEA organization.