IT's a hybrid world

Written by Phil Alsop, Editor, DCS Europe Published 2022-11-22 10:41:50

It is very much a hybrid IT world for the increasing number of organisations who recognise that, when it comes to digital transformation, one size definitely doesn’t fit all.

Hold on to your desk, or your park bench, or your deckchair, or you armchair – depending on where you are working right now – for a whistle stop tour covering the many ways in which so many organisations have embraced the idea of hybrid solutions. Without such a hybrid approach, the ideas of digital transformation and business optimization will remain just that – ideas.

First up, we have the on-premises versus colocation versus cloud/managed services data centre debate. You might think you are lucky enough to believe that only one of these three options is required to run your business successfully. However, I can all but guarantee that a minimum of two out of three, if not all three options, are the only way to truly optimize your data centre footprint.

Sticking with data centres for now, we then have the centralized versus regionalized versus local/edge conundrum. To guarantee application optimization, and the best possible performance for the consumer (whether employee or customer), bringing IT nearer to the point of use has to make sense. Once again, if you only have one type of data centre, you are missing some major business improvement opportunities.

Depending on your choices above, you might also have to decide where you want your data centres located in terms of which city or country best meets your needs around cost v capacity v performance. For example, some applications will need to be right next to the user, others not. The cost of energy varies from country to country right now, so you might want to consider where your data centres are in terms of power availability/cost, set against performance requirements.

And on the subject of energy, you’ll almost certainly want to be accessing more and more renewables, as opposed to fossil fuels. This might be something you leave to your energy supplier for now, but into the future, your various stakeholders might just want a bit more transparency as to your energy sources, rather than just being able to tell them ‘my supplier tells me it’s all renewable/sustainable’.

We haven’t finished with the data centre just yet. After all, the workloads required to run within the facility are dynamic and, increasingly, higher density. So, you might need to ensure that your data centre has separate areas optimised for both ‘ordinary’ workloads and high performance computing (HPC). And here we revert to on-premise, colocation and cloud – what’s the best place to host/access different workloads?

And with the advent of HPC and higher compute densities, the issue of (cost-) effective cooling raises its head. Air cooling is as old as the Greeks, but in 2022 there’s more and more interest in, and requirement for, liquid cooling. And there are different types of liquid cooling – from chip level to immersing the whole data centre in the sea! Yet more choices to be made.

Moving on to the IT hardware we are, once again, in the middle of a very hybrid world. Compute power is provided by everything from HPC/supercomputers, via traditional servers, PCs and laptops, to a large array of smaller, mobile devices. Okay, so most users can work out what compute resource best meets their needs, but that doesn’t mean your organization shouldn’t take a deep interest in ensuring that your employees are properly ‘compute-optimised’.

Storage-wise, with the constant mantra that ‘data is the new oil’ always at the forefront of your mind, almost every organization operates a two or multi-tier approach. SSDs provide the high performance storage required to run many real-time applications; spinning disks (HDD) are used for less critical applications and for data backup and recovery; and good old tape still has a role for long term data archiving. If all of your data sits on only one type of storage, something is wrong!

As for networks? Well, a combination of wired and wireless access is essential in this digital age. Feeds and speeds continue to rule, so do make sure that you do actually receive the performance levels sold to you by your vendors. And, as if you could, don’t forget that 5G networks are out there, offering major benefits, but not backwards compatible with 4G, so you are almost certainly going to be adding yet one more networking technology to your current, hybrid portfolio.

Before finishing, let’s move away from the hybrid technology itself, and take a look at the modern, digital workplace. Ah, well the idea of everybody heading to the office in the rush hour, spending seven or eight hours at their desk, and then returning home, has long since been obsolete. Even before the pandemic accelerated the idea of the hybrid workplace, more and more of us were mixing and matching our place of work. Some days at home, some days in the office. Plenty of work done at the airport, on the train or bus even, alas, some done on holiday.

Feel free to try and put the genie back in the bottle and get everyone back at their office desks five days a week, but don’t be surprised if productivity suffers and employees move elsewhere.

As for your customers? Well, they will no longer all dutifully come along to your physical premises to buy your products and services. Increasingly, they will want to interact with you online, in the virtual world. So, you have to ensure that, no matter how, where or when your customers want to do business with you, there’s a reliable, fast way of doing so – whether in a physical store or via your website.

Indeed, customers might want to phone you, they might want to text you, or email you, or tweet about you…you’ll need to decide just how many types of communications you need to support. And they might want to read a sales brochure, or listen to a podcast or watch a video.

And mention of the physical and the virtual brings us to the metaverse. I’m not sure I am the right person to be guiding you through the benefits of this new virtual world (after all, I still enjoy buying and reading real books when all around me are waving their kindles in the air!), but it can’t be ignored for much longer. At the very least, you’ll need to have a convincing answer if a customer asks you about your metaverse plans.

Exhausted yet?

Don’t worry, there’s only one more hybrid to go (although I am sure you will all be able to think of ones I’ve missed). Hybrid job roles. Yes, there are still a bunch of job titles which hark back to the idea of departments and responsibilities, and the IT world is still sadly clinging on rather too much to the idea of silos, but the modern, dynamic workplace means that collaboration is the order of the day. Job titles are not completely irrelevant, but it’s now much more about job responsibilities. The marketing department might just be procuring IT resources – hopefully with some IT department involvement; the sales team might be working in a hybrid team with the DevOps folks to develop a new customer application. Parallel processing works much faster than serial communications!

If this article achieves only one thing, I hope it will be the recognition that hybrid is the future across almost every aspect of the business world. Those companies who embrace the idea will secure significant competitive advantage into the future.

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