Hybrid cloud benefits and wine maturity: they are different right?

Having just returned from a holiday in Italy and eaten and drunk far too much fine wine and pasta, I returned to the office and was struck by some of the claims being made about cloud computing by the big cloud service. Some of them were quite surprising to say the least, and then I wondered if there may be some similarities between building a cloud strategy and producing a fine wine.

When I compared the two, I was surprised that the new wine producers seemed to have struck exactly the right balance, but the cloud providers were in my view offering a vintage wine, but without the ageing process and at a very low cost. Similarly, to most things in life, “if it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is”. So are they really offering us all a shortcut to a better future? Let me explain more;

During my trip around Tuscany and numerous wineries the same message kept being repeated that Tuscan wine (largely Chianti) was not really noted for its vintage and that was explained as being due to the reason that it didn’t age very well. This was due to the Sangiovese grape variety which is largely used for making Chianti. Having happily consumed quantities of Chianti and finding it to be a pleasing but not overwhelming experience, I then discovered a winery that had a French wine maker who has been pioneering French methods to revolutionise the process, and hey presto he is producing some fantastic vintage wines. I was particularly struck by the fact that he was still using traditional techniques but had blended production and grapes, which appeared to be a true “hybrid approach”. When I spoke to him about this he was surprised that more producers had not followed his approach, but said that the main reasons for lack of adoption were fear of failure, lack of skills and poor processes and analytics. He also said that you had to be able to offer an experience that preserved traditional techniques with modern production.

In many respects these are similar challenges to the ones which modern CIO’s are experiencing and ones which, we at Intergence also see on a very regular basis. “How do we transition services to the cloud, but do it in a way that we retain end to end visibility of the entire IT environment and keep our users happy?” Which brings me back to the rather outlandish claims made by the big cloud providers. For example, I saw one yesterday, a well known global company which stated that “everything now can go in the cloud so what’s stopping you?”

For those of you who can remember back eight or ten years ago we were all talking about “Utility Computing” and the ability to be able to buy and consume IT as you needed it. At the same time, many CIO’s were under pressure to outsource IT, as it was seen as “non-core” to the main business. That seems to have come back full circle now as many IT leaders and boards discovered that not only were they outsourcing a problem, but they were also losing some really skilled and knowledgeable staff. Moreover, the large organisations offering outsourcing were not always offering a brilliant service as they were understandably trying to make a profit out of small margins.

But what if similar to the innovative wine producer there was a way to do both, to have your wine and drink it? There has been a big debate over the last 18 months in IT about having a hybrid approach that allows the best of both worlds. Keep critical applications in-house vs cloud, but allow scaling to the public cloud when demand requires it. This has been difficult for two main reasons; Firstly, lack of skills in cloud computing and secondly, good analytics as orchestration techniques and instrumentation are not very mature.

Additionally, it was really difficult to decide where to start, as many IT departments have complex data silos which are not always up to date, so the first task before you even start to migrate to cloud is “what am I baselining?” Then you need to look closely at the strategy and ask “what are the desired business outcomes?” Many of the public cloud offerings appear very good value until you start to move large amounts of data into a production environment where it can become very expensive, so the business model really needs to stack up. This can be really tricky and is still a major obstacle for large scale cloud deployments.

Similarly, to the challenge of the wine producer I mentioned earlier the CIO has to attempt to get the strategy right, target the right market, but keep control of production. That means growing your own expertise in house, but also supplementing this with help from outside partners. At Intergence, our experience underlines this approach, and that this really is the way forward for cloud computing in the same way that the new world wine producers are thinking in Tuscany; Use in-house expertise and complement external know-how with world-class production and analytics.

The Conclusion Of Hybrid Cloud Benefits

In summary, in a similar way to the new Italian wine industry, IT leaders will need to embrace the position that cloud computing should not be treated in the same way as outsourcing was a few years ago and be delivered as a pure cost-saving measure. To realise the hybrid cloud benefits businesses requires a long term strategy, investment and analytics for end to end visibility of the entire IT environment to produce a quality outcome for the customer. Our advice is to ensure that you have your cloud computing maturity model clearly mapped out with great analytics. This will enable you to turn your journey to the cloud into a vintage performance for your entire organisation and most importantly your customers.