Hybrid businesses must move to a multi-cloud platform

Posted on: March 20, 2018 by John Davenport

Organizations are becoming mashups

Almost every organization delivers its mission by using a mixture of in-house capabilities and external elements. Increasingly these external elements are consumed as services and the balance between in-house and external is tipping more and more towards the latter with organizations focusing mostly on their core differentiators.

It is no longer obligatory to have an explicit IT function

Technology is present in more and more aspects of life and plays a larger and larger part in all sorts of services. Every year the proportion of the working population who are not IT-literate decreases and the number of services that can be setup, and used, without professional IT help increases. The boundary between the ‘business’ and ‘IT’ within an organization is becoming increasingly blurred and the remit of IT is changing.

Focus should now be on hybrid service delivery

Perhaps it starts to make more sense to think more of business service delivery, of which IT is an inseparable part, than IT service delivery. Given the amount of services consumed from outside, particularly cloud, this is very much hybrid [business] service delivery.

Processes, Applications, Application Platforms and Infrastructure

The processes that comprise any aspect of a business are underpinned by applications – a business user’s view of applications that is. At one end of the spectrum this may be an ERP system or a core banking system. At the other end of the spectrum are simple utilities – a database of particular job details for instance. These applications are provided by a series of components; this is the IT view of applications. That ERP system for instance is likely to be made up of multiple components – at the most simplistic level a web front end, some business logic, and a database perhaps. Each such component may leverage some kind of application platform that abstracts the underlying services to a greater or lesser extent. The Application platforms (PaaS) space has fragmented into serverless compute (FaaS) where you have no real visibility of server usage at the top end, microservices full-lifecycle platforms like OpenShift in the middle and ‘raw’ container services at the bottom end. Underneath everything is compute and storage along with the datacenters that house the physical devices that deliver these services. Each layer in this stack not only has an associated direct cost but also requires support and/or management.

A business increasingly comprises multiple ‘as a service’ variations

The diagram below illustrates the aspects of hybrid service delivery that are the direct concern of the organization vs. those that are the concern of service providers, depending on the level at which an external ‘as a service’ is consumed.

Hybrid service delivery needs to cope with outsourced business processes (BPaaS), SaaS applications and applications deployed on every flavor of platform abstraction as well as a significant number, albeit reducing, on variations of non-cloud infrastructure. Consequently, an organization needs its IT function to be not so much a provider of services but more of an enabler and policeman of cloud services:

  • Integration between cloud services of all types;
  • Identity and access management, plus tracking of application performance and license utilization, across the different services from SaaS downwards;
  • DevOps pipelines to production;
  • Common orchestration and management across multiple clouds;
  • Cyber security management.

Ironically the combination of the complexity of such a setup, and its distance from the core business, makes these services good candidates to be consumed ‘as a service’.

Application Transformation and a multi-cloud Platform are key

In the quest to maximize efficiency organizations are becoming increasingly hybrid; consuming more and more elements ‘as a service’, particularly cloud services. The effective creation and delivery of this operating model needs access to two things in particular:

  1. A strong transformation capability to take the organization from a state dominated by non-cloud IT and traditional IT service delivery – both application transformation and service transformation;
  2. A secure, multi-cloud platform with umbrella end-to-end service management to maintain a holistic view and to ensure the advantages of different services are not squandered by the inefficiencies of a fragmented service delivery.

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About John Davenport
Chief Architect - Financial Services
John has worked in IT for nearly 30 years and specialises in looking at things from an application portfolio perspective. He started his career developing large scale monitoring and control systems for the utility industries before moving into architecture roles in the financial services industry and for public sector. John has held a variety of lead architect and design authority roles in which he has been setting strategy, optimising application portfolios and establishing solution governance. Recently he has concentrated on digital solutions for financial services covering the use of hybrid cloud, robotic process automation, compliance and digital customer experience.

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