IT executive navigating cloud computing concept on whiteboard

CIOs Scare the Competition with Hybrid Cloud Orchestration

12 Dec 2016 by Amanda Best

This article originally appeared in Volume 1, Issue 1 of <theScript> Quarterly digital magazine.

As enterprises of all sizes have raced to the cloud, their IT infrastructures have become clunky and disjointed — a big, convoluted “frankenstructure.” Industry professionals have coined this term as a nod to the scary consequences of hastily bolting disparate solutions into internal and cloud resources, wreaking havoc on agility, productivity and even security.

A perpetuation of this behavior has heavy implications on business agility. Meanwhile, the competition races by, touting their latest innovative bells and whistles that improve the customer experience.

But unlike in the “Frankenstein” story, where one mad scientist developed an experimental monstrosity, there is no one person to blame for the notoriously inefficient makeshift infrastructure.

Let’s take a look at what causes this mess and walk through intelligent solutions that move businesses toward true agility to regain their competitive edge.

Too many students in the lab

End users are rarely aware of the technology systems that exist behind their screens. Their only concern is, and should be, the ability to do their jobs well. So of course, they are interested in procuring the best and brightest tools.

But this often leads to short-term operations-based decisions to tack on more cloud computing apps. Now we have nontechnical teammates playing in the IT space, using the same logic and processes they would when buying a stapler. With the best of intentions, operators across the business can really create a franken-mess.

Love is blind.

The allure of Software as a Service (SaaS) point solutions to solve business problems is undeniable. When the business finds cloud solutions that quickly and affordably solve real business problems, it’s like the bride of Frankenstein meeting her big, bolty guy. With both private cloud storage and added cloud based servers and apps, workers everywhere naively zigzag around happily with the appearance of productivity.

It’s no secret that businesses are enthralled with both types of cloud computing. According to a 2015 MarketsandMarkets report, the size of the hybrid cloud market worldwide will grow by roughly $60 billion from 2014 to 2019.1 (See Figure 1.)

Graph depicting Size of the hybrid (public/private) cloud market worldwide, from 2014 to 2019 (in billion U.S. dollars). 2014: $25.28 billion; 2015: $32.18 billion; 2016: $40.97 billion; 2017: $52.15 billion; 2018: $66.39 billion; 2019: $84.67 billion.

Figure 1

No mistake, the marriage of public and private clouds through orchestration and automation is a good thing. But when business and cloud apps enter a more committed relationship via a Service Level Agreement (SLA) without any forethought, the budget and architecture can go awry.

Disparate departments purchase cloud computing apps with the click of a button — buying the same apps on different accounts. Sometimes apps don’t work together as expected or workers experience app latency.

All of this causes a complicated private and public cloud service mesh as IT works hard to ensure a standardized environment and continuous application availability. Not to mention the great surprise of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) when long-term expenses are calculated.

In the short term, the problem isn’t noticeable. “But over a couple of years as that goes on, the CFO starts asking, ‘Where’s all this spend coming from? We’re paying $100,000 a month in cloud-centric applications. The salespeople are all using CRM. I’ve got my R&D people using Azure, and I’ve got all kinds of stuff going up in test and development,’” explains Steve Dodenhoff, president of Insight U.S. “The CFO is coming back to the business and to the CIO saying, ‘How did you let all this money get spent?’ Typically, the CIO responds, ‘That’s not me. That is just things going amok.’”

Imagine the beads of sweat forming on the Chief Information Officer’s (CIO’s) brow, and the CFO’s bulging forehead vein. Hopefully, you haven’t been there.

Walking like Frankenstein

When the business acquires cloud services without forethought and planning, it creates security holes and vulnerabilities relative to performance. Without the presence of protocols placed on teammates playing with cloud apps across multiple gadgets, business continuity and security are at stake.

According to an IBM whitepaper, “This expanding security infrastructure — often encompassing thousands of devices — can overwhelm security personnel, generating a flood of data that defies effective, timely analysis.”2 The flood of more connected devices running more applications collecting data leaves single-threaded responses to security threats. As the whitepaper puts it, this is much like “channeling a waterfall into a garden hose.”

Not only does the flood of data make precariously pieced cloud services, or frankenstacks, hard to manage, but according to the whitepaper, there has historically been a skills shortage in the areas of:

  • Cloud computing and server virtualization security
  • Endpoint security
  • Network security
  • Data security
  • Security analytics/forensics

So companies have a management issue not only due to big data, but also to personnel. It can be enough to simply crush the existing internal talent, on whom the organization depends to uphold mission-critical operations.

In other words, if Frankenstein is the gatekeeper, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. When the benefits of SaaS become your CIO’s biggest nightmare, it’s time to make some choices.

The brains of the operation

At this juncture, the IT organization desperately needs to deviate from the mad scientist approach and employ an infrastructure architect who can apply some logic to the situation. You could call this the brains of the operation, or an assessment.

The architect will need to ask questions such as, “What apps are talking to each other?” and “How are they affecting security and performance?” Many times, after performing an assessment, the IT organization is surprised by the findings. Insight has nine assessment steps:

  1. Envision where you want to go.
  2. Assess applications and services.
  3. Identify application dependencies.
  4. Rationalize applications and server.
  5. Evaluate hardware.
  6. Assess the network.
  7. Inventory workloads.
  8. Assess cloud extensibility.
  9. Determine workload distribution.

This is where an experienced, vendor-agnostic service provider can assist or act as the infrastructure architect. The service provider should employ this approach and be able to work within your budget.

The lungs: Hybrid cloud

After you’ve performed an assessment, determined where data and apps will live, designed your optimal hybrid cloud solution and performed necessary provisioning, configuration and testing, it’s time to deploy your orchestrated, automated hybrid cloud.

When your infrastructure is operating correctly, you will have a well-governed, automated and secure system. Like two lungs breathing, your on-premise data center and public cloud will work together seamlessly. When everything operates properly, end users will not be able to discern the location of their data and apps.

The process of determining what will live on premises and what will go into the cloud will even force you to become more efficient with your business processes.

According to Michael Guggemos, CIO at Insight, “Whatever you put out of your core environment, you want it to be as simplistic as possible and as heavily automated as possible for the different management layers. And that translates directly back into your core data center … whether it’s out in the cloud or on premises, it forces you to go through, check the number of steps that you have, check the data that’s retained, why is it retained, what tier is it at — all those other bits and pieces.”

Did you just breathe a sigh of relief? Yes, there is hope for any infrastructure.

Heart and soul: Orchestration

According to experts at Insight’s recent Intelligent Technology Forum: Hybrid Cloud, the answer to the seamless hybrid cloud experience is orchestration and automation in the abstraction layer.

What is orchestration, you ask? With your new architecture, you will be able to digitize business processes, adding intelligence to your hybrid cloud infrastructure.

“This includes the ability to act as your own internal service broker and spin up applications, services and storage within minutes to circumvent the need for business units to look outside, propagating shadow IT,” according to a whitepaper titled ”7 Best Practices for the Hybrid Cloud Journey.”

During the assessment phase, key leaders across the business can help you define what orchestrations and automations to create.

Goodbye, frankenstructure

With this level of intelligence at play, your cloud computing services and data center capabilities will begin to work in harmony. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but there are definitely some best practices organizations can leverage to achieve an intelligent hybrid cloud.

And with an orchestrated hybrid cloud in place, the IT organization can deliver automated support to end users, allowing the business to respond more quickly to the market. Your infrastructure will go from clunky, disjointed monster to an elegant tool that scares the competition.

1 Rosenbush, S. (2015, Oct. 20). Special Report: CIOs Say Hybrid Cloud Takes Off. The Wall Street Journal.
2 IBM. (July 2015). Enabling and Optimizing Hybrid IT Operations.

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