The trouble with IT sometimes is our terminology. It gets created, mutates as rivals compete for markets and often ends up with quite a different meaning from its original usage. Acronyms are downright pernicious in that context—who remembers what OEM meant a decade ago?
But Hybrid is good. It has no pretensions to precision but is useful and appropriate to describe the many ways in which we join up different types and strands of technology today to create working solutions. In fact the origins of the term ‘hybrid’ in biology make it doubly valid because the development paths and growth that have led us to develop ‘mix and match’ sets of solutions for various tasks is as close to organic as technology can be. It is also evolutionary, in the sense of constant change at a rather more rapid rate than vegetation.
Hybrid essentially means combining on-premise and cloud solutions. The premises could be a third party professional data centre—a growing choice for speed and connectivity—and there could be a number and variety of clouds. The key point is that hybrid offers a way to combine the technologies, services and software of choice to deliver an optimum, tailored solution. Choice is a highly important element: with hybrid, the entire range of Anything-as-a-Service is available, to be combined with leased or purchased solutions like ERP, mobile apps or whatever. Cloud services can be mixed in at will—public or private, regional or global, ongoing or burst.
It also offers a solution to the technical challenge of change, because it is actually pretty nearly independent of specific hardware. Yes, the on-premise elements are relatively fixed. But in these days of software-defined everything, hybrid is an approach, a strategy, almost a philosophy. It offers flexibility and speed in change with minimum cost penalty for moving to newer technology. Whatever is available and suitable for the organisation or particular workloads can be used, changed, tailored or developed.
It also delivers what many organisations still desire: direct control of their most valuable or most confidential data combined with smart, state-of-the-art applications. On-premise or data centre flash storage, for example, can keep up in speed and performance with cloud services or the most demanding real-time applications.
Commtech would very much argue that hybrid IT is now mainstream. It could be as simple as hosted email and mobile applications. It might also be an almost entirely virtual set of services and solutions on a global scale with only a minimal set of core applications and data on-premise. There now many solutions that are natively hybrid, from corporate application suites to data storage, communications to disaster recovery.
The service providers are key but that in turn depends on connectivity. Data centres and cloud services have multiple fibre circuits and redundancy in every facet of their operations. They invest at a level that would be out of the reach of all but a tiny minority of large organisations in order to deliver what might be described in the old-fashioned telecoms term Five Nines—99.999% availability.