While cloud computing is now a core deployment model for IT — thanks to its reputation for revolutionizing agility and challenging the commercial model for delivering IT — hosted cloud services alone are a long way from being a panacea for all things IT for all businesses. So while many businesses today have at least one cloud-based solution in place, the remainder falls well short of placing everything in the cloud. As a result, they likely have or will have a hybrid model in place.
In a hybrid cloud environment, some workloads remain on premises, driven by legacy technology constraints, perceptions of data protection, sovereignty, speed, cost of reliable Internet connectivity, regulatory constraints, or simply company policy. Some workloads move to hosted cloud services to reduce IT management efforts, enabling more flexibility and agility, as well as a payment model centering on operating expenditures, rather than capital expenditures.
Most organizations find they must manage several deployment models combining in-cloud or hosted and on-premises, and as such they will still require on-premises IT for managing essential activities, like user credentials, maintaining a central file-store, supporting local services such as networking and printing, and running specific applications.
Historically, a professional hybrid IT experience has been a privilege for larger enterprises. Several vendors address this segment exclusively. VMware, for example, offers its VMware vCloud Air service, while HP, SimpliVity, and Nutanix offer hyper-converged infrastructure to help enterprise customers build their own private clouds. And, of course, enterprises also have the option of using Microsoft’s Azure appliance or Microsoft’s data center technology on their server estate to do the same. But for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), an affordable hybrid solution that offers the infrastructure they need has been elusive.
But hybrid IT solutions have been maturing, and now they can be a perfect match for SMBs, not just large enterprises. Offering the full flexibility of cloud coupled with the assurance that comes from incorporating on-premises data centers, hybrid IT can be delivered as a seamless service through managed service providers to the widest addressable market.
Changes to IT deployment models predominantly occur in concert with the natural refresh of infrastructure. In the period leading up to July 2015, the market faces the most significant IT server refresh of the last decade, with the end of support for both Windows Server 2003 and Small Business Server 2003. And these products have not only underpinned the IT server market for the last decade; they’ve been the basis upon which many local IT providers have built their businesses. Some customers will take the opportunity to move the server workloads to cloud services; some will undertake a rudimentary incremental upgrade; others will take the opportunity to refine their IT strategy. In any event, 2015 will see a material increase in cloud adoption by both new and existing cloud users.
For the channel, 2015 will be the year that they fast-track their move toward an annuity revenue model by embracing the end of support for Windows Server 2003 and the continuing battle for cloud market share as accelerants to the adoption of hybrid IT. This can prevent channel cloud bypass, increase their customer value and dramatically improve their service efficiency.
An emerging trend in the move to hybrid IT is the increase in organizations taking IT as a service. This trend is likely to grow, driven by the rapid pace of technology innovation and the pressure to unshackle precious IT resources from maintenance activity.
The new norm is hybrid IT — the intended coexistence and interaction of on-premises and in-cloud IT solutions. With this as the backdrop, the next big trend — especially for SMBs — may very well be the rise of managed services to deliver a holistic solution for customers, round out the definition of IT as a service.
Nick East is chief executive and a cofounder of hybrid IT startup Zynstra.