Steve Foster Fri, Dec 13, '19 11 min read

What is hybrid IT? Exploring one of the big IT trends in 2020

Several tech experts from around the world have signalled a rise in the term and practice of hybrid IT. Businesses are already moving towards this and some are already practicing it. But what exactly does it mean? Hybrid IT can be described as when an organisation adopts a mix of IT services from different providers. While traditional IT was almost exclusively in-house (purchasing and maintaining all IT resources), hybrid IT operations are a combination of in-house IT resources and cloud-based computing services. The essential element moving forward is that these services cross isolation and provider boundaries.

While hybrid IT environments can be made up of various service providers, there are some packaged service providers such as Google, AWS, and Microsoft. Office365 can be considered a Hybrid IT environment. While the bulk of services are delivered from a single cloud provider (Microsoft), the hybrid aspect comes through integration with on-premise Active Directory. Microsoft’s Azure Stack is an on-premises version of its public cloud offering. It allows a business to manage its on-premises infrastructure in the same manner that they manage their public (Azure) cloud environment. Azure Stack is closely integrated with the Azure public cloud.

What are the benefits of hybrid IT?

A hybrid IT model allows an organisation to make the most of its investment in existing IT resources, rather than undergoing a lift and shift of all IT resources to ‘the cloud’. Here are several benefits you can expect.

Increased business agility and product development. Gain the flexibility to quickly trial products or services without capital costs and time for installation. Importantly, these products or services can be removed once they’ve moved onto a further stage or have been abandoned.

Improved customer service. Hybrid IT is often used to deploy customer-facing services that bolt on to systems of record, which are typically a combination of difficult and slow, and are expensive to change.

Cost management. Hybrid IT shifts from a complete capital cost for in-house to an OpEx model where recurring costs are generally predictable.

Highly redundant and lower complexity. Cloud services can be configured with high levels of redundancy, at a lower cost, and with less complexity than traditional IT.

Remain current. Adopting cloud services can help future proof a system, with software releases maintained as part of the latest releases.

Knowledge transfer. Employing a managed cloud service gives businesses access to a depth of IT knowledge that can be hard to find and expensive to employ in-house.

Scalability. Cloud service providers have sufficient resources available for an organisation to easily scale up or down as their needs change. Even where a core system is maintained in-house, a copy can be quickly established in the cloud for test or project work.

What are the challenges of hybrid IT?

Like with any technology play, it comes with its share of benefits, but it also comes with its challenges too. Here are some points to be mindful of when you’re considering moving to a hybrid IT model – keeping in mind these shouldn’t dissuade you from taking the leap, so long as the overall benefit outweighs the cost.

Initial productivity costs. Learning new tools and changing ways of working can be unsettling and disruptive. IT staff will need to be upskilled on potentially multiple cloud services.

Service variations. Continual change in services by cloud service providers can cause disruption to business continuity. Enquiring into product and service roadmaps can be one way to understand where each provider is going.

Security of hybrid connectivity. The more integrations and service providers you work with increases your security risks. Selecting service providers that use the latest security protocols can help mitigate and limit your exposure.

Intergratability. Older systems can be harder to scale and potentially slower to accommodate hybrid add-ons.

Shadow IT and snowballing costs. As non-IT staff can deploy some cloud services without IT oversight, businesses can face insecure system deployment and run-away IT costs.

General disruption and complications. Multiple or disconnected IT systems may support poor business processes, service disruptions or delays. Likewise, managing and securing a mix of IT infrastructures can be costly and complicated, especially when data can reside nearly anywhere.

Ownership of data. Data sovereignty needs to be considered, where company policy or sovereign law dictates that data is housed in a specific location or under certain requirements – such as GDPR.

Upgrade and maintenance issues. The upgrade cycle of cloud services is not within your control, which can introduce instability or unpredictable behaviours in your systems.

Latency problems. Cloud services generally have higher latency, which for certain industries or tasks can contribute to an unacceptable (or unreliable) performance of a system.

How would you describe the general uptake of hybrid IT?

As with any new technology, the momentum is initially slow and will gradually pick up. Encouragingly, we’re starting to seeing more and more hybrid cloud deployments being adopted throughout the market. These often involve retaining core legacy systems on-premise (or co-located in a local data centre), while new customer-facing systems are deployed on a public cloud. Data sovereignty concerns often dictate that the core legacy systems remain under the direct control of, and in the same jurisdiction as, the organisation itself.

How can businesses streamline the transition to hybrid IT?

As you’ve just read, there are several challenges businesses face when moving to the inevitable hybrid IT model. Much to the relief of IT departments around the world, they don’t have to go through or overcome these hurdles alone. And this can be achieved with managed cloud services.

Managed cloud services carry out many of the day-to-day tasks that are performed by an IT System Administrator in an on-premise IT environment. It’s effectively an outsourcing of the IT management associated with those cloud services and potentially other systems of record. A cloud service provider can provide infrastructure and application-level support. With an increased focus on efficiency, these tasks are often automated and can be performed with little or no interruption to service.

Importantly, managed service providers generally stay current on changes by the cloud provider, which alleviates the need for an organisation to track such changes.


What role does an IT department take on when outsourcing its managed services?

Out-sourcing many of the day-to-day operations associated with a traditional IT system administration role can be seen as a threat to the IT Team. It can also infer a loss of control of IT resources by the IT team.

At Jade, we view this quite differently. We see ourselves as being in partnership with our customer’s IT team, not in competition with them.

We work to remove much of the drudgery associated with the traditional IT system administration role. This, in turn, allows the customer to take a more strategic approach to their IT needs and to focus on delivering what their business wants, rather than maintaining existing systems.

Furthermore, key systems often rely on support from both the IT team and the managed service team. We work with the IT team to ensure that services are kept safe, up-to-date, reliable, and fast.

An effective managed service also relies on both parties having a clear understanding of responsibilities. This should be clearly defined at the outset, so everyone knows who is responsible for what, plus with clear escalation plans in place in the unlikely event of downtime. Hence, the IT team maintain control through the scope of the managed service, rather than doing the hands-on work itself.

Are you planning on moving to a hybrid IT model or you have and want to enjoy the benefits plus overcome the challenges you’ve read in this article? We’d love to chat.

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