In the IT world we are barraged by terms like cloud, agility, DevOps, and a myriad of others including Hybrid IT. If George Carlin was in the enterprise compute space today, I think he would have a field day with our current vocabulary. So what is this Hybrid IT thing? The truth is IT has always been hybrid in one-way shape or form. Every technology evolution requires that enterprise IT take a hybrid approach to implement new IT technologies.
Moving from Mainframes to Servers
If you think back over the evolution of IT, you will see this trend again and again. Think back to the client server transition from the mainframe environment. We all know that everyone did not just wake up one day and walk into IT and throw out all of the mainframes, buy all new infrastructure, and start running the apps on the new client server system. For what it is worth some of my clients are still running in a hybrid client server/mainframe environment. The sad thing is some of them think it is retro cool and is coming back. I have one thing to say about that. Mainframes are dead people, get over it, and try something new you might just like it. Anyway, I digress.
So are there other evolutions where this has happened? Well, yes. If we look at the technology evolution and map it to the OSI model, the infrastructure evolution that has happened at layer 5 and down has been continual. You can look at the evolution of datacenter to reduce PUE, the evolution of network infrastructures to reduce latency and collapse protocols onto a single wire, storage consolidation and automated storage tiers, and I almost forgot to add that little thing called server virtualization that was the catalyst for all of this rapid infrastructure change. I want to draw a line at layer 5 because the evolution that has happened above layer 5 is, and has always been comparatively rapid.
The truth of the matter is IT infrastructure teams are slow to change, and there is good reason for that. Usually, when the IT infrastructure teams change something, it is felt across the entire organization. If a piece of software breaks it may effect a small population and it is possible to plan for that. However, if a critical piece of infrastructure fails low in the OSI model that can be felt across the entire organization and by the enterprises customers in worst cases.
Introducing Software-Defined Infrastructure
What is happening now that is making this time different from those in the past? In short, it comes down to software-defined infrastructures. At the core, this is what is driving the current technology evolution. As I said earlier in this post, technology change at layer 5 and above in the OSI model happens very rapidly, and with development frameworks like DevOps and Agile they are happening at even a more rapid pace,. On top of it all, we are creating infrastructure components that are now software not hardware defined. Infrastructure guys and gals welcome to the world of software!
In conclusion, do not be taken aback by the term Hybrid IT, or even IaaS, or any of the other fun terms marketing teams are coming up with to define this new evolution of IT. Take comfort in the fact that IT is evolution. Evolution is what we do as IT professionals. We are always looking to make a system more efficient, more agile, and more elegantly simple. This is the drive of infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, and software as a service (i.e. cloud). However, implementations of new IT infrastructures are by their nature complex, risky, and lead directly to a hybrid strategy.