The Evolution of Cloud Computing and the Rise of Hybrid IT

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In this blog post, we explore the historical trajectory of cloud computing, examining its promises, advantages, and eventual challenges. The narrative navigates through the initial excitement, the drawbacks organizations faced, and the emergence of a balanced solution—Hybrid IT. Learn how organizations strategically blend on-premises and cloud resources to optimize efficiency, mitigate risks, and meet diverse business needs.

Trends in technology tend to swing wildly, like a pendulum shoved with the greatest available force. It seems that inherent in the base appeal of technology is novelty and mostly, we have collectively decided that technology will always be better than it was before and that it will improve our lives and livelihood in some (hopefully) great measure. When new technology emerges it is often with exactly this promise and that is the start of the push of the pendulum. 

While the origin of the term and concept of cloud computing dates back to the early 90s, it was in the early 2000s that the term began to take root in technology circles as the internet became more and more ubiquitous and the internet is transforming from a “thing you go on” to occasionally check for updates to an entity in and of itself. The internet becomes self-sustaining as it grows and changes and evolves through the sheer number of people using, and building on it daily. 

This is the point at which IT consultants need to start differentiating for their clients between on-premises solutions and cloud solutions. This is the first time when there is even a distinction to be made. The idea that you can use computers that you don’t own or fully control and that these computers didn't even have to be in your office. 

Some of the advantages were clear, in some cases, capital expenditure was greatly reduced and shifted to operational costs and less staff was required to operate and maintain the on-premises systems that the cloud alternative.

During this ramp, technologists and enterprises alike were exalting the benefits of cloud computing. We’d reached the point where we could perform the bulk of our computational work using shared computing resources which can be rented on an as-needed basis, potentially saving millions in capital costs and ongoing computer systems and computer network maintenance. The promise of cloud computing was that large organizations that would usually have to spend hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars on refreshing servers and networks could forgo these large cyclical expenditures and instead pay a cloud provider on an ongoing basis only for the resources they used. One can see the advantages of this. For example, if you needed to purchase enough hardware, software, and network capacity to support your busiest time of year (which may be the holiday season if you’re a large retailer or tax season if you’re a large accounting firm) but only used most of that capacity for two months, while, during the rest of the year your business operations only used 50 - 60% of that capacity. The cloud was positioned as the perfect solution for this problem. The vendor pushed it as the final frontier, the only smart decision, and the pendulum was in full swing.

Many organizations made this move to the cloud, and in some cases, they moved their entire operational capacity to cloud providers. This is when the drawbacks became apparent; while staff dedicated to traditional on-premises resources could be reduced, cloud resources still needed maintenance, and there was specific expertise that needed to be developed for managing these new systems as well. Some costs didn't go away, like the costs of data backup for example and there were other tradeoffs as well. If your primary data store was no longer in your local office and that data had to be accessed via a direct or internet connection then your organization is now much more sensitive to issues with internet connectivity. You are now also wholly reliant on your internet and cloud provider for data and systems availability. While unlikely (and these occurrences were certainly more frequent during the technology’s nascent period), if there was an outage with your cloud provider there was little you could do but wait for the service to be restored. 

Once these hard lessons were learned, organizations decided that it may be best to use a blend of these two approaches. Use cloud resources to enhance their on-premises resources but keep at least a portion of their on-premises capacity to protect against connectivity or provider outages. 

This blend of on-premises and cloud resources is what we now refer to as Hybrid IT; it's an approach that seeks to take the best of what each has to offer while accounting for costs and business risk. Most cloud solutions now build this right into their offerings by providing a mechanism where data can be accessed even if the provider is unavailable. Depending on the type of business, however, it may be better to take a more deliberate approach to a hybrid strategy. 

I think of some companies we’ve worked with in the past where the documents, presentations, and spreadsheets used by most of the organization were well served by cloud-only or cloud-first storage solutions. The marketing department meanwhile had to suffer the long download times for larger image, video, and 3D graphic files that they use and would be better served by local on-premises storage. Here an approach where some data is stored locally and then synced to the cloud and other data is stored in the cloud and synced locally is exactly what Hybrid IT was designed to do. You can take advantage of the features and benefits of a cloud solution like mobility and (typically) enhanced reliability, while ensuring that teams who have different requirements are served equally well.

At Invizio we understand that your computers, networks, and devices are tools you use to do your best work. It’s important to make sure that they work in a safe, reliable manner. We help our clients optimize their efficiency by working with them to determine the best solutions for them whether that’s an on-premise solution, a cloud solution, or a hybrid solution. In addition to support for your users and management of your network and devices, our fully ManagedIT service includes ongoing consultation that can help you figure it all out.

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