There is a significant amount of industry buzz around cloud. According to analysts, 2014 will be the year when a majority of enterprises begin to transform their IT operations from a “build-operate” model to a “broker-provider” of IT services, says Mark Ridley, regional director for Africa, NetApp.This approach is referred to as “hybrid IT.” In this way enterprises can manage the cloud lifecycle using internal and external cloud resources, delivering a self-service IT user experience while meeting the needs of the business.

Hybrid IT integrates the “hybrid cloud” model, which combines both private and public clouds. Private clouds are either built in-house or hosted and managed externally. Public clouds are hosted by service providers such as Amazon Web Services or Rackspace. We can assume that most IT organisations will apply this model.

Hybrid IT brings a wealth of benefits to the enterprise. For one, it enables businesses to maintain a centralized approach to IT governance, while experimenting with cloud computing. To achieve this, IT organisations must adapt their operation’s processes to the hybrid IT paradigm.

Deciding which cloud model to use depends on various factors such as workload type, application pattern, user cost, event-based composition (expected capacity or availability), or dynamic composition where the application workload could leverage both private and public clouds (bursting to the cloud for needed resources).

Considering all of these factors is great. However, a number of questions remain: “Who makes the decision when it comes to sourcing cloud services?” “Who manages the cloud?” “Who operates the cloud environment?”

This is where hybrid IT comes in. In one scenario, IT could aggregate all clouds, provide a catalogue of services to users, and manage the entire cloud lifecycle. In another, IT could help source, integrate, and audit the services. An example of this is Software as a Service (SaaS).

The essence of hybrid IT
Implementing hybrid IT requires a lot of effort across organisations. NetApp has identified eight major factors that come into play:

* Culture. Evolve the corporate culture toward a cloud model. Key to accomplishing this is in getting buy-in from major stakeholders such as IT and business leaders who can influence and drive change, which will fuel the need to build core talent around cloud architecture, design, and operations.
* Governance. Develop a “cloud first” governance model backed by a cloud decision framework” that drives workload placement through business needs, provider capabilities, security, data privacy and risk measures, and both service-level agreements (SLAs) and return on investment.
* Architecture. Choose the right service architecture – whether Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service, or SaaS – based on use cases and maturity. To achieve this, you must understand your customers’ needs, identify service workloads, and develop an exit strategy if SLAs are not met, to name some.
* Security and Risk. Develop a sound security/risk framework to minimise risk and ensure that IT adheres to enterprise data governance, compliance, and privacy policies. Just as important, create a process for evaluating your service provider. Audit the providers regularly to mitigate risks.
* Finance. Price the “service unit” appropriately – not only taking hardware, software, and resourcing into account, but also other variables such as elasticity, time to capability, reliability, and security. This approach will help businesses achieve a utility-based model and make cost-effective decisions.
* Operations. Invest in cloud management platforms that enable IT to effectively manage the cloud lifecycle. This approach will help drive costs, service efficiency, and standardization across multiple clouds.
* Applications. Develop and/or adopt cloud-aware applications that maximize cloud advantages such as fault tolerance, statelessness, auto-scale, and latency.
* Vendor Management. Take costs and SLAs into account when managing service providers. And, perform periodic audits of both service providers and IT to ensure that the right services are being offered and expectations are being met.

As you implement these factors, continually review where you are in terms of maturity: Are you in an elementary state, a more managed state, or are you realizing a fully optimized state? Checking your progress periodically will bring your IT organisation closer to achieving a hybrid IT model.