Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Let’s talk some more about hybrid IT


During a recent trip to Silicon Valley there was barely a meeting where the topic of hybrid IT didn’t come up and yet, almost every time, what was being described as hybrid IT was different … so, what’s going on?
                               
Many a Sunday afternoon of my youth I spent trackside north of the Sydney suburb of Hornsby, watching the steam trains pull up a grade as they headed south into the metropolitan area. These tracks had little to do with race cars, mind you, but watching the mighty locally designed and manufactured 38 Class locomotive as well as the even more famous (among Australians at least) Garrett locomotive, with its distinctive configuration where a separate water tank was located ahead of the boilers and engines in a detached carriage. Back in those heady days I actually took a trip from Sydney’s Central Railway Station to Newcastle on the famous Newcastle Flyer where somewhere the other side of Wyong, through a downhill cutting, we hit 70 mph! Wow … and yes, we were “flying!”

The age of diesel trains arrived soon after and all the fun went out of watching trains. The 44 Class introduced in the mid-1950s was a diesel electric locomotive and as such represented my introduction to hybrid vehicle power. But absent the belching smoke and the whistles and screeching metal, these locomotives were relatively boring, but nonetheless, they introduced significant change into the transportation industry as now very long distances could be covered without the need for water tanks to be erected at regular intervals along the track. Yes, the world of hybrids revolutionized transportation finding its way not only into trains but supersized dump trucks operating in some of the world’s biggest open-cut mines as well as in ships of all sizes, including many of the cruise ships where we vacation.

With as much talk as there is today about hybrid vehicles where nearly every auto manufacturer has at least one hybrid in their portfolio of vehicles, it isn’t at all surprising to find the word has crept into IT. I can’t recall exactly when I first heard of hybrids and hybrid IT but it has to be more than a decade ago, and maybe longer.  Despite how we got here – every IT vendor is talking up their hybrid IT solutions as if nothing else mattered and maybe it doesn’t any more. In one way I thought that this would be a possible outcome for IT as businesses gradually realized that their business wasn’t IT but rather banking, retail, telecommunications, transportation, etc.

We no longer see operating theaters and lines of doctors resident in businesses just as we don’t see large architectural offices. There may be the occasional consulting doctor or architect to help a business determine future product directions but more often than not, we bring in outside consultants in these fields as needed. So why staff up as big an IT organization as we have had in the past if we look to better integrate IT into every function within the business? Perhaps hybrid IT is ushering us in a new era of computing where IT is nothing more than the data equivalent of the HVAC!

But what is hybrid IT and how did we get here? In my post of March 28, 2018,
How did that happen – I have hybrid IT? I referenced a quote by HPE blogger, Gary Thome. This came after HPE commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct a survey to evaluate the current state of Hybrid IT. “While Hybrid IT is the new normal,” Thome noted, “two-thirds of businesses ended up with a hybrid estate by accident – not design.” Ouch; kind of reminds you of how suddenly we all woke up one day to find everyone had a smartphone that needed to access the data center. Or worse; suddenly every desktop and laptop owned by an employee need to have these clients access servers throughout the enterprise.

As early as 2012, however, it was Gartner who began coverage of hybrid IT where reference was also made to cloud computing and the connection between the two really energized the marketplace. According to Gartner, “Hybrid IT is transforming IT architectures and the role of IT itself … Hybrid IT is the result of combining internal and external services, usually from a combination of internal and public clouds, in support of a business outcome.” So rather than simply falling into hybrid IT by accident, the real story here is that it is very much associated with clouds both public and increasingly, private. "Many organizations have now passed the definitional stage of cloud computing and are testing cloud architectures inside and outside the enterprise and over time, the cloud will simply become one of the ways that we 'do' computing, and workloads will move around in hybrid internal/external IT environments," said Chris Howard, managing vice president at Gartner.

"Hybrid IT is the new IT and it is here to stay. While the cloud market matures, IT organizations must adopt a hybrid IT strategy that not only builds internal clouds to house critical IT services and compete with public cloud service providers (CSPs), but also utilizes the external cloud to house noncritical IT services and data, augment internal capacity, and increase IT agility," said Mr. Howard. "Hybrid IT creates symmetry between internal and external IT services that will force an IT and business paradigm shift for years to come." You have to really love the enthusiasm of Gartner in this instance as they suggest yet another paradigm shift – but really? While volumes have been written about hybrid IT the only paradigm shift I am seeing is that there isn’t a single, uniting, unambiguous definition of hybrid IT and that it is very much something that is in the eye of the CIO. If he says he has hybrid IT then who is to argue with him?

In 2016 it was left to IBM to begin the process of making sure any paradigm shifts under way didn’t exclude participation by traditional IT vendors. “The simplest definition of hybrid cloud is that it is a combination of private and public cloud, but that is far from the entire story. To really grasp it, think about the challenges that businesses encounter every day.” Fair enough – clearly there is more to this story after all. “Hybrid is not even just about cloud. It’s also about traditional IT and legacy applications. It’s essential to ensure that legacy applications, which usually deal with core business functions, are able to exchange information with cloud applications and databases,” said IBM. “Hybrid cloud is not just about IT. It is also about business. It’s the logical ecosystem that can support business innovation and expansion in a fast and agile way and — at the same time — preserve the stability and efficiency of core business functions.”

Alternatively, the cloud service providers (CSPs) like AWS, a counter argument soon arises and in 2018 AWS explained how, “At the most fundamental level, hybrid computing can be viewed as having data that resides both on-premises and in the cloud. This is often done to economically store large data sets, utilize new cloud-native databases, move data closer to customers, or to create a backup and archive solution with cost-effective high availability. In all cases, AWS offers a range of storage and database services that can work together with your on-premises applications to store data reliably and securely. The most robust form of hybrid architecture involves integrating application deployment and management across on-premises and cloud environments. AWS and VMware have developed a deep, unique relationship to enable VMware-based workloads to be run on the AWS Cloud.”

It is hard to argue with AWS as they are the biggest player on the cloud stage even as it is hard to argue with the massive ecosystem that has surfaced of late in support of AWS. As AWS notes on its web site, “All AWS services are driven by robust APIs that allow for a wide variety of monitoring and management tools to integrate easily with your AWS Cloud resources. Common tools from vendors such as Microsoft, VMware, BMC Software, Okta, RightScale, Eucalyptus, CA, Xceedium, Symantec, Racemi, and Dell already support AWS, and that’s just naming a few.” Clearly, there is no textbook case of hybrid IT just as there are no classic use case scenarios. For IT, there are volumes upon volumes written about hybrid IT and pulling just one of them and checking a single chapter may prove interesting but shouldn’t be considered in absolute terms.

What we can all agree upon is that at a minimum, hybrid IT includes at least two different compute models and that they support data and business logic spread across them both with optimization undertaken to better exploit each of the compute models. Hence, given this understanding even the earliest NonStop systems where Linux was present – think CLIMs – can rightfully be described as a hybrid system but not a template for hybrid compute per se. What we can also agree upon is that somewhere in the picture is a cloud – a virtualized environment that is software-defined supporting an elasticity of provisioning that traditional compute models didn’t accommodate. And contrary to what IBM may propose, running a virtualized compute model inside a mainframe really does stretch all sense of credibility even as it looks like a cloud on IBM’s slideware!

For the NonStop community the introduction of virtualized NonStop represents a giant step towards greater participation of virtualized NonStop workloads within hybrid IT. Accommodating a heterogeneous mix of NonStop systems and Linux server farms is a step in the right direction but until we have NonStop living in the true world of software-defined everything, we have ways to go before we can wave the banner of NonStop in hybrid IT. Heterogeneous support is a great place to start but it is just the beginning and this is where HPE has done us all a huge favor by stepping up and supporting the virtualization of NonStop! In so doing, we won’t be seeing NonStop relegated to museums any time soon. As for the famous Newcastle Flyer and that 38 01, according to Transport Heritage NSW, "It is currently at Chullora having work done on it - i.e. its boiler is being fitted." It is hoped that it will return to life by the end of the year - most likely November - and take its place in the
New South Wales Rail Museum at Thirlmere, an outlying southern suburb of Sydney!

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