Beyond the Cloud: Preparing for the Hybrid Organization

By Paul Cormier, President and CEO, Red Hat

In past years, I’ve written heavily about the importance of the open hybrid cloud to the present and future of enterprise IT. Clinging to the old world of corporate datacenters is a path to disruption, while going purely all-in on public cloud workloads can wipe out tens of millions of dollars in existing IT investments, disrupt critical systems and applications, lessen control, and add unpredictable costs. Leaning on the hybrid cloud, blending on-premises, traditional systems and applications with the next generation of cloud-native workloads and infrastructure, provides the best of both worlds, especially when built on a foundation of open technologies.

Hybrid puts control and choice in your hands - the technologies you want to use to give you new capabilities and drive transformation and workloads where you want them. Hybrid cloud offers maximum agility and resiliency - more so than I see available in any singular approach.

Cloud technology ensures unlimited cloud computing power on subscription basis

But the notion of “hybrid” isn’t just limited to technology or to an IT department - as current global events show us, organizations as a whole need to recognize the importance of hybrid across the business:
  • How do we blend remote working conditions while maintaining a commitment to customers, end users or constituents?
  • What can we do to keep critical systems up and running with limited resources?
  • How do we scale to meet growing demand for our services in the face of uncertain world dynamics?
Just as in enterprise IT, there’s no silver bullet for the conditions that we’re facing. No one could have predicted or planned for the societal, economic and personal ramifications rippling across the world but we have a choice. We can evolve or we can fold, and I have too much faith in our global community to imagine that we simply throw in the towel.

Instead, we’ll adapt, and we can do this by embracing the concepts of the hybrid organization.

It stars with IT Transformation

This evolution starts with a technology story, or at least one of technology demand. Whoever an organization’s end user is, whether it’s a traditional customer, a constituent or another business, the way they consume services and applications is shifting. We see an appetite for on-demand offerings, accessible 24x7x365, no matter where an end user is located geographically. This is a demand that cannot be addressed solely by traditional IT systems like CRM or ERP, but these systems are critical to actually delivering a comprehensive service that end users demand.

Rather than abandoning existing assets for the green expanse of the public cloud, organizations are transforming IT infrastructure to take advantage of what they already have while also leaning into cloud-native assets. This means building on top of that backbone of “legacy” systems rather than discarding them wholesale, providing a proven foundation for hybrid applications. The services provided by these systems are pulled into modern developer workflows that encompass artificial intelligence (AI), advanced analytics and more, bringing applications to light that blend the old with the new.

Running these applications at-scale, however, needs hybrid cloud infrastructure; corporate datacenters by themselves simply cannot scale, at least within a reasonable budget, to meet the demands of modern users. Some resources will continue to exist on physical, virtualized or private cloud footprints with the control that these environments provide; others will take advantage of the scale and power of the public cloud, often more than one.

These transformed applications running on the hybrid cloud need to process vast amounts of data closer to where this data is generated. The costs and latency associated with sending every single request back to a central datacenter or cloud region isn’t feasible or acceptable to end users, which led to the rise of edge computing where processing resources reside at the network’s edge.

All of these demands and these technologies, need to rest on a foundation of open standards. Without this common standardization and transparent code, we face a very real threat of fragmentation or silos, which could easily derail the technology gains that we’ve seen over the past decade. So it’s not just the hybrid cloud - it’s the open hybrid cloud.

But traditional organizational structures also need to evolve; they need to address the demand for remote work balanced with maintaining critical services. We need to build the open hybrid organization on top of the open hybrid cloud.

Organizational transformation beyond the IT shop

Digital transformation, where an enterprise evolves by using cloud-native technologies, is typically only referred to in a technical or IT sense. An IT department may reconfigure themselves to use agile practices or initiate a DevOps strategy, breaking down the traditional silos that exist between users, operations teams and developers. But this isn’t enough.

Global dynamics have completely changed how businesses and governments are now running. IT teams are fully remote or, at best, working in a limited fashion at various sites to keep services running. Demand on our networks, corporate and otherwise, is at an all-time high with streaming video, video conferencing, gaming and data transfers. Everything needs to be highly-available and on-demand, whether it’s customer facing or internal, as downtime is more critical now than ever.

Paul Cormier, CEO of Red Hat
Paul Cormier, CEO of Red Hat

We need to blend our existing, traditional business capacity with the next-generation of strategies. Organizations that were resistant to remote work are now forced to face the reality of a distributed workforce and have to address issues of data security, collaboration and productivity in a non-traditional setting. Businesses that relied on foot traffic or in-person interactions are now having to turn to virtual services, like digital concierges or crowdsourced delivery, with the new challenges that these pivots demand.

There aren’t just challenges here, there are also opportunities. It’s hard to look at a global pandemic through rose-tinted glasses, and we shouldn’t. But we can’t look at what’s happening and say “we can only succeed if we go back to what worked before.” What if we looked at what we’re doing now and linked that with how we worked previously to make us even better?

Hybrid cloud is a blend of existing technologies and the future; the hybrid organization is the same. We take what we already did and layer new strategies for business on top of it, whether that’s remote working, expanded digital services or new offerings for end users. It’s a mixture of the old and the new, creating something that is greater than the sum of its parts.