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BYOC and the Rise of Hybrid Cloud

Imagine a new technology trending at the consumer level and users love it. Meanwhile, IT leaders in the enterprise are considering the implications of this trend in their organization. Before IT can draft a policy for implementation and enforcement, employees are already using the technology on the job. After all, tools such as Dropbox can increase workday productivity, providing a collaborative repository that ensures users have access to the latest versions of documents, while eliminating the need for constant emails.

It’s not hard to guess what we’re talking about: the consumerization of IT. It is nothing new, but with a trend like bring-your-own-cloud (BYOC), employees using public or third-party cloud services to perform certain job roles and tasks, it comes with a new bag of tricks for IT.

Bring-your-own-cloud is rapidly proliferating due in large part to the benefits users derive from it: convenience, agility and cost-savings. Because getting approvals from IT can be a difficult and time-consuming task, and often the requested tools don’t even exist in-house, bringing-your-own-cloud just makes sense for the user.

IT staff who are already struggling to keep up with their current environment, now find themselves further stretched by the combination of developers who are rapidly building new capabilities and solutions and the users who continue to bring in “their clouds”.

Risks of BYOC

For IT, having a number of unmonitored and unauthorized services running on your network introduces vulnerability and complexity to your infrastructure that must be brought under control. You need to take a good, hard look at what is running through the IT veins of your organization, and understand each component’s impact. Here are some of the top risks of BYOC:

  1. Overuse of resources: Say you are sharing a 1 GB file on DropBox with a few colleagues and suddenly everyone is downloading the video. Your network may not be designed to handle this additional data being moved in and out of the cloud. This can negatively impact the quality of availability and strain the resources that other people on the network are using to complete work.
  2. It will cost you: In the past, funds were once allocated strictly to IT. Now they are often being siphoned off to different business units, giving them the right to build their own infrastructure. IT has no say in how the added infrastructure is built-out, yet is still responsible for preventing and fixing malfunctions. It is not uncommon for a business unit to not consult IT when signing on for a SalesForce subscription, packaged with training and support. IT remains none the wiser until a system failure results in lost information or the network strains to support the additional bandwidth consumption thus resulting in downtime. According to “Amplifying the Signal in the Notice of IT Monitoring,” the cost of downtime can average more than $100,000 per hour.
  3. Information vulnerability increases: Employees placing company information where it cannot be monitored or managed is like leaving an unlocked laptop unattended for an opportunist to find. Organizations have little to no control over BYOC services because they are owned, or at least controlled, by employees, and are hosted by a third-party provider. An example of this is employees using their personal (File sharing and collaboration) account for work. The sophistication of hackers is not to be underestimated, especially when employees are working remotely and connecting to unsecure networks.
  4. Complexity: Even though the cloud enables organizations to push computing outside of their in-house datacenter, the responsibility of delivering quality service to their customers doesn’t change. The organizations still own it. IT teams who are already struggling to reign in the complexity of their data center due to IT tool clutter and poor capacity planning now find themselves trying to monitor and manage services that are running in a domain outside of their control. Additionally, without a scalable network, business units end up competing for shared capacity.

Given the risks, why wouldn’t some organizations just wash their hands of BYOC altogether? After all, it is disruptive, introducing a new paradigm for IT. Why? Because you can’t! As the end-user driven penetration of Apple devices clearly demonstrated, the playing field has changed, this is not an IT driven environment anymore. Consumers love the ease and flexibility of using the cloud. And it’s only a matter of time before they use it in your organization (if they haven’t already). So rather than fight it, look for ways to embrace it and benefit from it. Do not be viewed an impediment to success and start to lose more power and clout within organizations.

One way this can be accomplished is by IT re-inventing itself as a value creator, after all when it comes to IT solutions and processes you reign supreme. Reach out and offer your expertise to parts of the organization that are working on cloud projects. This will encourage them to keep you engaged and seek your advice when making decisions about tools seen to be outside of your purview. This will be a win-win situation for you, not only will you be viewed as an asset, but getting things done right will actually make life easier for you in the long run.

Setting the stage for BYOC in your infrastructure 

Here are some tips to make BYOC an integral part of your organization’s infrastructure:

  1. Be clear about why you are adopting the cloud: Is it for on-demand capacity, long-term storage of archived data, meeting compliance mandates or a suitable way to advance the business on a budget? Know why you are doing it.
  2. Put policies in place to align the entire organization: Create a reference guide or offer a tutorial to your employees on best practices for using the cloud within certain parameters that are most useful to the organization.
  3. Performance monitoring: In order to obtain the agility and elasticity of the cloud, tighten up your overall infrastructure by minimizing the number of tools used in your dynamic datacenter. Seek out a solution that monitors every aspect of performance, from network, server or cloud. A holistic view of your entire infrastructure offers transparency and efficiency where tool clutter can be overwhelming.
  4. Capacity Planning: Understand what organizations are looking to do, what new services they are planning on bringing on board and how that will affect your existing infrastructure. Is this a service that will negatively impact other services or users? Again, engaging with the appropriate groups will ensure you are not caught unaware.
  5. Use the enterprise version: Whether using the cloud for storage or computing, be sure to look into a cloud version that is sanctioned by your organization, instead of a consumer version, like GoogleDrive. Many enterprise versions that enable synchronization can actually improve security.

The Hybrid Cloud Plight

We want to spend some more time on exploring the hybrid cloud concept. This trend is gaining a considerable degree of popularity and is predicted to carry the same level of, if not more, momentum into 2014. In short, a hybrid cloud, or multi-cloud environment, is the deployment of public and private clouds for building out your organization’s cloud architecture. Thus, the enterprise can take advantage of the convenience of outsourcing infrastructure (public cloud) and services while preserving the privacy of internally sensitive services (private cloud).

Amazon Web Services and Windows Azure are among the leading public clouds freshening up the strategic cloud portfolio for the enterprise. Pinterest, FourSquare and Toyota all use the public cloud to assist in scaling out their growing business, and to help with long-term trend analysis, and expand their storage.

For IT though, migration to the cloud (whether public, private or both), is like reorganizing your closet: some things will have to get moved around. While weaving through, you will figure out where you have flexibility to discard items and where to put what you are keeping.

Getting Hybrid Cloud to Fit Right in

On one hand, it is tempting to just use the public cloud and throw everything you have into it. However, there are a number of directions you can take your cloud, including:

  1. Mix and Match - Multiple Clouds: Mergers and acquisitions can bring together organizations where each is standardized on different platforms, business leaders have made a determination that certain units will continue to run unchanged at least in the short term and will have to continue supporting two separate platforms.
  2. Specialized capabilities: Platforms as a Service (PaaS) offerings such as liberate an organization of the expense and use of added resources to evaluate and deploy hardware or software for their applications. Depending upon your needs you might want to consider this approach for your public cloud rather than a standard Infrastructure as a Service.
  3. Optimize Cost: You may find it more cost effective to combine approaches with hybrid cloud by deciding to use an open source private cloud for lower priority/less time sensitive projects, while paying to support tier-one applications with a public cloud SLA or a top-notch private cloud infrastructure.

A concern often brought up when talking about Hybrid IT is the Ops aspect. How many tools do you actually need to manage every part of your data center, after all there are storage arrays, networking, servers etc. Using a unified approach to IT ops allows you to minimize complexity and manage your physical and virtual components (including cloud), with the same tool. This approach unifies performance and availability on simple notifications to more complex, but necessary integrations. It improves your organization’s mean time to resolution (MTTR) and patterns that later serve the predictability of your environment.

If you don’t have a unified view of your environment, then any control you have is limited and often misleading. A single pane view of IT operations will make life much easier. Without it, employees will adopt technologies on their own and IT will end up dealing with multiple cloud platforms.

The savvy IT leader understands that their organization must embrace the cloud, explore cross-cloud management and implement a proactive strategy across the entire organization to maintain transparency and management. Whatever your business goals are, from requiring the transition to a hybrid cloud model or creating budget flexibility with an open source cloud, align your plan with those objectives. By doing so, you are taking advantage of the opportunity to get the cloud to live up to its promise in your organization.

About the Author

Chris Smith joined Zenoss in 2012 as CMO and is responsible for all aspects of brand management, product marketing, and demand generation. Chris has over 20 years of IT marketing experience and has helped a number of early stage software companies achieve rapid growth and market leadership.

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