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While both “digital transformation” and “hybrid cloud” have been used for several years, it is in the last several months that they have reached buzzword stardom. As terms, they previously lacked agreed-upon definitions, but clarity has started to dawn as COVID-19 forced every business to not only adjust to the new reality but, for many, transform and re-invent the way they operate and seek new revenue streams in order to survive or grow, depending on their individual circumstance.
Let’s go down memory lane and start with the “dark days of IT” pre-cloud and circa early 2000s. IT controlled the budgets, provided edicts to the developers on how things will be done, and informed business users when new capabilities will be available. Along came a new paradigm of cloud computing that democratized access to compute resources, provided flexibility to the developers, and allowed lines of business to invest as they really needed, while, as a by-product, providing visibility into how IT dollars were actually spent. Everyone was in a “Kool-Aid” heaven, and for a good decade we were in a Cloud v1.0 phase where everyone just absolutely had to go to the cloud in varying degrees.
Again, there was a good reason for that. Cloud enabled a new approach to deliver value much faster, while concentrating the IT dollar spent only on what was needed and used. Continuous innovation, opportunity to experiment, and an ability to infinitely scale up and then scale down on a whim are incredibly enticing. Enterprises, particularly the non-incumbents, and progressive developers took the opportunity, addressed any initial hurdles, and led the charge to cloud-first.
And then the reality hit: the cloud can be challenging. Not the part about creating cloud infrastructures or writing one-off cloud-native applications. No! That is relatively straightforward. The part about getting the entire enterprise to completely transform to take advantage of the cloud. Why? Because cloud is not a destination; cloud is the new operating model for IT going forward. It requires changing the way people operate and approach things, and that is very hard.
The second part of the reality check was the realization that companies weren’t necessarily seeking the brands AWS, Microsoft, or Google per se but rather the capabilities those companies offered. And what if some of those capabilities were available on-prem? Do you still have to go to the cloud for things if they are already available? Case in point: one doesn’t need to be on public cloud to have sophisticated CI/CD processes and a high degree of developer sophistication.
Lastly, companies have realized that migrating EVERYTHING to the cloud is complex and migrations could be rather expensive. It is also a good bet that migrating all the applications and infrastructure from over 7 million data centers worldwide (statista link) into public cloud is just not going to happen. And there is now a question mark as to the necessity to do so in order to realize the perceived benefits of those early years.
That brings us to today’s reality: the world is hybrid. Enterprises will have part of their IT estate everywhere and want that cloud-like experience whether it’s on-premises, at the edge, on Microsoft Azure or in Alibaba cloud. In case there’s still doubt about the future, don’t fret about it. AWS has finally put an exclamation mark on that point.
“Enterprise environments are often a mix of cloud, on-premises data centers, and edge locations. Hybrid cloud architectures help organizations integrate their on-premises and cloud operations to support a broad spectrum of use cases using a common set of cloud services, tools, and APIs across on-premises and cloud environments.”
— AWS https://aws.amazon.com/hybrid/
Can you imagine AWS saying that, even as recently as a couple of years ago?
Hybrid cloud adoption through digital transformation
Hybrid cloud is not simply using public cloud and private cloud for your workloads. Hybrid cloud is a way to architect and operate your IT infrastructure that takes advantage of cloud capabilities available via CSPs, on-premises, and edge locations. It is cloud everywhere and we are now entering cloud v2.0.
Adopting public cloud is difficult enough for most enterprises. Hybrid cloud is even more complex and requires a different operating model. That operating model must take into consideration numerous aspects of distributed IT environment, and it must address people, processes, and technology across-the-board.
These groups make up the “what” of any transformation, including cloud adoption, but they are not the “why.” I have worked with hundreds of customers and have concluded that most enterprises embark on their transformation journey for one or more of these reasons:
Edge strategies to create a digital business model that drives new customer experiences and revenue stream
Data-driven strategies to extract actionable insights from data to drive competitive advantage
Cloud-enabled strategies to build IT supply that supports development
and responds to change
Your “why” might be different and most certainly will be related to one of the above, but what they all have in common is the need for a new operating model.
Based on our work over the last few years, our cloud and digital transformation advisors have developed a unique methodology that facilitates address one or all these strategies in a coordinated way. It is called the HPE Digital Journey Map and it is used to help organizations get to their hybrid digital nirvana in a much more streamlined, coordinated fashion. The map blends business and IT goals into a common initiative.
Regardless of what your “why” is, to be successful, enterprises must think through connection and inter-dependency of each of these strategic areas. It’s a transformation model that helps enterprises frame their approach and provides a prescriptive guidance on achieving their objectives. These goals are all interconnected, with the new operating model at its core. Hybrid cloud both shapes and is shaped by the edge and data-driven strategies. For true success companies must address all of them. If we’re entering cloud2.0 this approach is digital transformation2.0.
That does not mean you have to focus on every area right away, or that you should put the same amount of effort into each one. However, you should absolutely understand your current level of maturity first, and identify your desired target end state, so you can chart your course accordingly. And that is how the Digital Journey Map helps.
What the future holds – in my opinion
Cloud will grow in the future, if just through straight-line workload growth. It doesn’t mean enterprises will adopt cloud at the expense of current on-prem operations. I do not believe that 7.2M data centers in the world will disappear at all. There are lots of reasons why it won’t happen no matter how much Microsoft, Google, AWS, or Alibaba want it.
I think cloud, on-prem, and the edge will all grow significantly in the future. I think enterprises will start adopting the “cloud everywhere” mentality and expect the same level of agility, value, and cloud-like capabilities everywhere. They will focus more and more on the actual business value and will partner with vendors that can help them simplify their hybrid cloud operations so they can serve their own customers better.
I’ve seen how powerful the HPE Digital Transformation Map is with customers. It creates “aha” moment clarity and I love it! We are helping enterprises look at their transformations holistically, now with 2.0 clarity, to achieve their desired business goals. The ability to redefine edge experiences has a dependency on hybrid cloud, but now it’s no longer a buzzword, it’s 2.0 real too. This is definitely not easy, but we have a map to help us.
A seasoned technology executive with over 25 years of experience, he has had the privilege of helping companies transform their IT through a number of paradigm shifts: from mainframe to client server, to internet, and now cloud. His passions lie in helping organizations achieve their objectives through the effective application of technology. He joined HPE via the acquisition of Cloud Technology Partners, a premier cloud consulting company, where he held a leadership role. He now leads a team of talented experts responsible for envisioning and defining HPE hybrid cloud solutions around the globe. Alexey holds a BS in Computer Science from Hartwick College.