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Trending Tech to Watch: What Is Hybrid IT?

Companies asking “What is hybrid IT?” may be actually implementing it. Here’s how to take a strategic approach.

You’ve heard of hybrid cloud, but what about hybrid IT? The latter term is becoming more buzzworthy as businesses realize that they can’t move all of their workloads squarely into a cloud-based architecture.

What is hybrid IT? How is it different from hybrid cloud? When does it make sense to use a hybrid IT strategy? In this article, we provide answers to all of your burning hybrid IT questions.

What Is Hybrid IT?

Hybrid IT is an IT strategy that involves the use of cloud-based resources and on-premises or legacy environments at the same time.

In other words, a business that uses hybrid IT might run some applications or host some data in the public cloud, while others reside in a private data center.

Hybrid Cloud vs. Hybrid IT

That probably sounds a lot like hybrid cloud, which also involves using public cloud and on-prem environments concurrently.

However, the key difference between hybrid cloud and hybrid IT is that in hybrid cloud, public cloud and on-prem resources are managed through the same control plane. Modern hybrid cloud frameworks like Azure Arc and Google Anthos make this easy to do. They allow users to deploy and manage workloads both on-prem and on public cloud infrastructure using the same set of public cloud APIs and management tools.

In contrast, in hybrid IT, a company’s cloud resources and on-prem resources function as separate domains. Under a hybrid IT model, you would use an entirely different set of tools to deploy and manage your on-prem workloads from those that you run in the cloud.

Using Hybrid Cloud and Hybrid IT Together

That said, hybrid cloud and hybrid IT are not necessarily mutually exclusive. You could host some resources on a hybrid cloud platform that allows you to spread them across public and on-prem infrastructure, while at the same time running other workloads purely on-prem, without the help of a hybrid cloud management layer.

Why Is Hybrid IT Important?

If hybrid cloud provides centralized management of resources that span the public cloud/on-prem divide, why would a business choose a hybrid IT model, which makes management more complicated (in the sense that cloud and on-prem resources have to be managed separately)?

The answer is that not all workloads can be deployed using a hybrid cloud model. Hybrid cloud platforms support a limited range of configurations and resources. They typically let you deploy applications using a public cloud provider’s name VM, container and serverless functions, for instance.

That’s great if your application was designed to run on that type of cloud service. But what if you have an application that requires some kind of proprietary database that is only supported on-premises, for example? Or, what if it requires specialized bare-metal hardware that isn’t available from a public cloud IaaS service? In those cases, you’d choose a hybrid IT model that allows you to run the application on-prem under the configuration it requires, while deploying other resources to the public cloud within a separate environment.

Security, too, may be a consideration for choosing hybrid IT. If you have certain types of workloads that have strict security requirements and you don’t want to expose them to the public cloud in any way, you could use a hybrid IT model to keep those resources fully on-prem. This would not be possible using a hybrid cloud or purely public cloud architecture, which would require you to give a third-party cloud provider access to your data and applications through its APIs--even if you kept those resources on your own servers.

Cost may be a factor, as well. Certain types of workloads--such as those that involve high rates of data transfer over the network, which will quickly run up egress fees in the cloud--may just be cheaper to run solely on-prem.

How Can You Adopt Hybrid IT?

Unlike hybrid cloud, hybrid IT doesn’t require specific tools or platforms. It’s simply a high-level architectural approach that can be implemented in any number of ways.

Indeed, for many businesses, hybrid IT adoption is something that happens by default more than through a deliberate implementation strategy. As a business starts moving some workloads to the cloud, it may realize that others aren’t compatible with cloud services, or are not a good fit for the cloud. As a result, it ends up with a hybrid IT model that keeps some of its workloads on-prem.

That said, hybrid IT isn’t something you should approach in an ad hoc fashion. Instead, assess the current state of your on-prem resources--chances are you have at least some that fall into the category of hybrid IT, whether you realize it or not--and think about how you are currently managing them. Are there workloads that you should refactor so they can move into the cloud and free you from the dual management burden that comes with hybrid IT? Conversely, are there any workloads currently running in the cloud that you could repatriate back on-prem? If you’re going to run an on-prem environment anyway, it may make sense to move some workloads back to your own infrastructure to save costs or improve security.

The bottom line: Hybrid IT may not be ideal from a manageability perspective. But in a world where not every workload can move seamlessly into a public or hybrid cloud, hybrid IT is a fact of life for many businesses. You may as well treat it as a conscious strategy and work to optimize your approach to hybrid IT.

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