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Successful hybrid clouds begin with IT broker skills

IT is becoming more integrated into business strategies that support the company, and must serve as a broker of internal and external IT services to build hybrid clouds.

LAS VEGAS -- Enterprises are typically behind the curve on innovation, but that needs to change as we enter a new phase of IT.

It's critical that enterprise IT looks at ways to optimize existing data centers and develop and implement new strategies around hybrid cloud deployments to be successful in a changing business world, according to a chorus of analysts from Gartner, Inc., based in Stamford, Conn.

"Cloud computing is here, it is a major wave and you must act immediately in developing your strategy and associated plans, otherwise that wave will certainly consume you," said Dennis Smith, research director at Gartner.

IT has become more integrated into the business strategies as those decisions become more integral to the overall health of the company, the analysts said repeatedly during the Gartner Data Center, Infrastructure and Operations Management Conference here this week. IT pros need to start thinking horizontally and fill the role of integrating end-to-end hybrid cloud monitoring that ties all the pieces together.

The thing that drives me nuts is this whole discussion of 'get the skills,' but we don't know what the skills are or where to get them or if anybody else has them
Steve Roycesolutions manager for servers and storage, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

These new tasks will include being a broker for internal and external IT services for standards and policies, the ability to move from test and development to production across infrastructure, optimization of service level agreements and costs, access and efforts to reduce vendor lock-in, said Donna Smith, Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst.

Cloud brokers can work internally or through outsourcing, and it requires a holistic view of the needs of the enterprise through optimization or additions, Scott said.

"A cloud broker at the heart of it is trying to manage supply and demand and trying to get ahead of demand in terms of acquiring services that the enterprise can then use," Scott said.

Enterprise uncertainty

IT pros said they can see the writing on the wall, but had reservations about the transition.

"The thing that drives me nuts is this whole discussion of 'get the skills,' but we don't know what the skills are or where to get them or if anybody else has them," said Steve Royce, solutions manager for servers and storage for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Private cloud challenges pushing more
enterprises to a hybrid model

Greg Anson, enterprise infrastructure architect for UNUM Group, a benefits provider based in Chattanooga, Tenn., said those skills will be needed, but most enterprises don't have the time or money to convert everything to this new way of thinking.

"To be able to wear all those hats at the same time now, it's something you have to get comfortable with but it's not going to change solely to that for some companies, ever," Anson said.

IT has always been a service provider by looking for the best products at the best prices, said Bob Ess, vice president of enterprise IT infrastructure for MedAssets, based in Plano, Texas. And while Ess sees the change coming, he’s not there yet. .

"That speaks to a concern about a certain dumbing down of the skill sets required," Ess said. "The easier we make it, the less skill set you need and we lose solution engineering."

Bimodal strategy for hybrid cloud

 IT must implement a bimodal strategy that bifurcates how IT handles traditional application workloads and the new agile workloads tied to mobile and cloud, said Ray Paquet, Gartner managing vice president, during the conference.

Analysts suggested an action plan that starts with data center fixes that can be done immediately, including a focus on cooling, airflow and equipment placement to optimize existing space. From there, begin looking at application continuity and criticality, and spend 90 days developing an overarching strategy with the goal of a full hybrid workflow operational in the next three to five years. That will include having staff with the skills to evolve with these changes and to develop partnerships to make it a reality.

In the next 12 months, enterprises should design for agility, flexibility and scalability, both in terms of technology and organizational strategies, according to Gartner. They should develop a clear path to a hybrid data center through services such as cloud, collocation and managed services.

Applications can be categorized by criticality to help map out the transition to cloud, but it's also important to think about application lifecycles and how that fits with your existing infrastructure and where you're headed, Scott said. Skills around automation will be critical, and one of the key ways IT pros can serve the enterprise is to stay on top of spending, she added.

"Understanding what it costs to deliver services internally and then using the financial information to optimize whatever your solution, whether it's private or public, is really an important investment," Scott said.

Trevor Jones is the news writer for SearchCloudComputing. You can reach him at

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