IBM Applies Fit-For-Purpose to Accelerating Hybrid Cloud Adoption

Almost every company is using the cloud, but not for everything, according to a recently announced study from IBM’s Institute of Business Value (IBV). Although 78 percent of the executives surveyed reported cloud initiatives as coordinated or fully integrated, almost half of computing workloads are expected to remain on dedicated, on-premises servers. This forces IT managers to consider applying IBM’s old server fit-for-purpose methodology to the cloud era, something mainframe shops haven’t seen since 2009-2010 with the arrival of hybrid mainframes.

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Given cloud evolution, notes the study researchers, it is imperative that organizations determine and regularly re-assess which combination of traditional IT, public cloud, and private cloud best suits their needs. This sounds eerily similar to IBM’s fit-for-purpose mantra that it used to steer buyers between the company’s various server offerings: enterprise mainframes, midrange machines, and entry level PC servers. Only in today’s cloud era, the choices are on-premises private clouds, off-premises public clouds, and hybrid clouds.

Picking up the fit-for-purpose mantra, IBM’s Marie Wieck said:  “Enterprises are moving to the cloud, especially hybrid cloud, faster than anyone expected to support their digital transformation, drive business model innovation and fuel growth.” She concludes by rephrasing the old server fit-for-purpose pitch for the cloud era: “Successful clients have integrated plans to place workloads where they fit best, and IBM’s hybrid cloud strategy provides this on-ramp for flexibility and growth.”

DancingDinosaur has no problem with the fit-for-purpose approach.  It has proven immeasurably useful to me over the years when pressed to explain differences between IBM platforms. That the company is starting to apply it to various ways of deploying cloud computing seems both fitting and ironic. It was the emergence of the Internet in the first place as a forerunner to the cloud that saved IBM from the incompatibilities of its myriad platforms. This was after IBM’s internal effort to make its systems at least interoperate in some rudimentary way, no matter how kludgy, failed. This happened under an initiative called Systems Application Architecture (SAA), which started in the late 1980s and was gone and forgotten by 2000. Vestiges of SAA actually may still linger in some systems. Read about it here.

It should be no surprise that the cloud has emerged as a strategic imperative for IBM. In addition to being where the revenue is heading, it is doing good things for its customers. The latest study finds that the top reasons executives cite for adopting hybrid cloud solutions are: lowering total cost of ownership (54 percent), facilitating innovation (42 percent), enhancing operational efficiencies (42 percent), and enabling them to more readily meet customer expectations (40 percent).

Furthermore, the researchers found that organizations are steadily increasing their use of cloud technologies to address wide-ranging requirements. Specifically companies reported undertaking cloud initiatives that enabled them to expand into new industries (76 percent), create new revenue sources (71 percent), and create and support new business models (69 percent).

Given the widely varying possible cloud starting points from which any company might begin its cloud journey the fit-for-purpose approach makes even more send. As the researchers noted: The particular needs and business conditions of each enterprise help define its optimal hybrid solution: most often, a blend of public cloud, private cloud, and traditional IT services. Finding the right cloud technology mix or deployment approach starts with deciding what to move to the cloud and addressing the challenges affecting migration. In the study, executives achieved the strongest results by integrating cloud initiatives company-wide, and by tapping external resources for access to reliable skills and greater efficiency.

Cloud computing undeniably is hot. According to IDC, worldwide spending on public cloud services is expected to grow from $96.5 billion this year to more than $195 billion in 2020. Even as cloud adoption matures and expands, organizations surveyed expect that about 45 percent of their workloads will continue to need on-premises, dedicated servers – nearly the same percentage as both today and two years ago. Clearly organizations are reluctant to give up the control and security they retain by keeping certain systems on-premises, behind their own firewalls.

Hybrid cloud solutions promise a way to move forward incrementally. Hybrid clouds by definition include a tailored mix of on-premises and public cloud services intended to work in unison and are expected to be widely useful across industries. Each organization’s unique business conditions and requirements will define its optimal hybrid technology landscape. Each organization’s managers will have to balance cost, risk, and performance considerations with customer demands for innovation, change, and price along with its own skills and readiness for change. Sounds like fit-for-purpose all over again.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

 

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