By Javid Khan, Chief Cloud Officer, Pulsant
In the mid-1960s, an American computer scientist named J.C.R. Licklider came up with an idea for an interconnected system of computers. He also envisioned a world where everyone would be connected and have the ability to access specific programs and data, regardless of where the access point might be located. While he didn’t refer to this as cloud computing, he was essentially describing how it would work.
However, we didn’t see this in action until Salesforce.com pioneered the concept of delivering enterprise applications via a simple website in 1999. Since then we’ve seen the development of different cloud services in the as-a-service approach, rhetoric on different models (public, private, multi-cloud), and a lot of comparison between hyperscale public cloud vendors like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).
When assessing which model to adopt, hybrid cloud has always been positioned as the ultimate solution to address the argument of which cloud model was better. The basic premise is still the same but today an organisation’s primary focus is optimising its existing use of cloud to get the most benefit for its business, as identified in the RightScale 2018 State of the Cloud Report.
Many financial firms have concerns around regulatory compliance which may hold them back from adopting a hybrid cloud model. However, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) doesn’t see any reasons why cloud services cannot be implemented in a manner that complies with their rules. Indeed, Accenture recommends that financial institutions follow a ‘cloud first’ approach and future-proof their IT by establishing a hybrid cloud environment.
What does hybrid mean and what does it have to offer?
The term hybrid is concerned with combining different elements to make something new. What it doesn’t define is the exact combination of each element and it’s the same with cloud. There is no universal description and the balance of public and private cloud can be defined to meet the needs of each individual financial institution and bring maximum benefit to users.
Gartner defines hybrid cloud as: “policy-based and service provisioning, use and management across a mixture of internal and external cloud services.” But, for many, it is more of an umbrella term — using the right mix of capabilities and resources for each and every business. And this mix includes a variety of things, from on-premise hosting and colocation, to leveraging services within public cloud as well as private cloud. How this mix is brought together will be dependent on each and every customer’s needs and expectations.
As with many things’ technology related, adopting an effective hybrid cloud strategy is all about taking the right approach. There are a number of possibilities. You can go full throttle into adoption, focus on transforming your organisation, embracing methods such as DevOps and automation and changing your business model. Or you could take a more sedate approach, evolve over time and maximise your current investment in infrastructure, upskill staff and ensure the business experiences minimum disruption.
There are also multiple ways of beginning your transition, but conducting a cloud readiness assessment to determine your organisation’s current state and where you need to go on your journey is a good place to start. Only then can you begin to formulate a cloud adoption transformation programme
Working with a cloud partner can be invaluable here, not just in terms of drawing on their expertise and capability, but also about determining which solution is best for your organisation, your outcomes and your requirements. Even if cloud isn’t necessarily the answer for your business, taking a transformative approach and developing a roadmap to drive IT efficiencies can help. It also determines the future capabilities your organisation can adopt alongside a scale of determined change and, more importantly, your return on investment.
Why a hybrid approach is the right one
On this journey to adopt hybrid services it’s important to realise that it’s not necessarily just about cloud. Cloud adoption isn’t just a technology update; it affects your staff, your processes and your wider business. Importantly, migration requires a change in attitude and mindset across the entire organisation to make sure it’s successful. If you consider that the journey should be more of a digital evolution rather than a transformation, it becomes clear that while technology is important, the journey and the process of change incorporates so much more.
Hybrid cloud, for example, is a broad concept, which means that selling the concept to the board, stakeholders and staff will be tough. More often than not, it’s about a mindset shift, again thinking about the outcomes that technology can enable. Looking at the people element also requires analysing skills; what’s needed, where the gaps are, and how you’re likely to fill those gaps, either through upskilling or recruitment. For the most part, this refers to your IT teams but can also include other users who need specific functionality from the tech they’re using.
On a wider level, you need to determine if your business is ready for cloud. Is it the best option? If so, how will migration affect your processes? Your operations? Which is why looking at your cloud readiness is vital. A move to the cloud will affect your processes, making them more complex, especially in a hybrid environment where you are managing both tangible assets and those in the cloud.
Reaping the benefits of hybrid cloud
Gartner says that by 2020, 90% of businesses will have adopted a hybrid infrastructure but which platforms and services are implemented will be very much dependant on the individual organisation. Financial Services organisations, like others, will need to interact with data and systems which could be anywhere. PWC offers cloud as a good use case and advises using hybrid cloud due to its ability to aggregate data and analyse activity, as well as reduce capital and operating expenditure.
This is why one of the most important elements in adopting hybrid services is working with the right provider. There’s a lot to consider from a technology, business and personnel point of view, so ensuring you have the right partner to guide you through the whole journey, offering expertise along the way, is a key indicator for future success.