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Leveraging IaaS Hybrid IT to Power Digital Transformation

By Eric Helmer, chief technology officer at Rimini Street

Cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) has emerged as an attractive way for organizations to reduce IT costs, improve performance, and serve as the basis for launching new technologies. But many businesses are reluctant to actually move to the cloud for fear of having to decommission their non-cloud resources - tossing those investments and disrupting the business in the process. 

In reality, an "all-or-nothing" approach to the cloud is not realistic for many organizations that should retain non-cloud resources, which is where a hybrid approach to IT comes in - a mix between internally-deployed and cloud-based workloads. 

Where to Start Your Hybrid Infrastructure

The logical first question to ask when moving to a hybrid IT infrastructure is, "where do I begin?" The answer isn't quite as simple, however, because it depends on the objectives of the specific organization making the move.

The first thing to consider is the age of your current internally-deployed hardware. If you only just recently invested in brand new hardware, jumping to a hybrid infrastructure now probably doesn't make much sense because you'll likely be throwing away ROI by walking away from machines that are perfectly capable. That caveat aside, most organizations begin their hybrid IT journey based on one of three variables:

  • Geography. Just as it sounds, this entails transitioning infrastructure that is located in a specific region of the world or country. If, for example, your servers in Texas run non-production environments that aren't mission-critical to the business, they're a good candidate to move to the cloud with minimal risk of disrupting operations.
  • Department. For some organizations, it may make sense to migrate operations to the cloud based on individual department, such as finance or accounting. It typically makes sense to start with the departments that can make the move while slowing down business as little as possible.
  • Timing. Organizations are often at a crossroads when the time comes for a hardware refresh, but this can be an excellent time to transition some of your infrastructure to the cloud. When executed shrewdly, moving to the cloud can provide operational efficiencies and cost savings as opposed to investing in the latest and greatest internally-deployed hardware. Further, investing in new hardware means you're committing to said hardware for a number of years, which ultimately limits flexibility. 

The path your organization chooses may require a full audit of your IT infrastructure so you can identify which areas to attack first.

Potential Pitfalls to Consider

The major cloud providers have online calculators designed to help you estimate the total cost of ownership (TCO), but organizations should use them with a cautious (if not somewhat skeptical) eye. These tools only really provide a loose estimate of what your costs will be because they can't possibly take into account your organization's specific situation needs. They also rarely take into account other costs associated with migrating to the cloud, including disaster recovery, cloud-specific training and labor, continued data center support for resources that remain internally-deployed, and other organization-centric costs such as data transfer fees.

The costs can certainly add up quickly and may lead to sticker shock for those who aren't prepared. It's on IT leaders to understand the complete costs of their current operations, as well as what each cloud vendor includes in its services. Many cloud platforms simply provide access to compute and storage, but people often don't realize there could be additional costs including other essentials such as backups, administration, data integration, bandwidth, and usage monitoring.

Another major consideration is security. A common misperception is that cloud providers include application and network security - they usually don't. You need your own protections and security mitigation approaches in place, and most businesses that move to the cloud don't have an existing person on staff to handle these logistics. This is absolutely vital because the potential costs of recovering from a security breach can be downright crippling.

Winning Organizational Buy-in

Getting executives to buy into a move to an IaaS cloud can be a challenge, but that's not particularly surprising once you understand the time and resources it takes to successfully pull off such a move. I have found it successful for CIOs (or other IT leaders) to partner with CFOs (or financial leaders) to strategize, sell, and ultimately implement a hybrid IT strategy. On one hand, CIOs can strategize a migration that makes sense for everyday users on the ground while also explaining the business value to the CFO. Armed with this information, the CFO is in a much better position to convey the business value to a wider audience, specifically those who will ultimately make the decision to move forward.

Before starting a cloud journey, organizations need to take a hard look at what the current costs of their internally-deployed infrastructure are today to truly understand what the ROI could be. I've seen far too many organizations take a blind leap of faith into the cloud, only to be burned by experiences and expenses they didn't foresee.

Even though migrating to a hybrid IT infrastructure is a technical move at its core, it will ultimately be viewed as a financial decision. The bottom line is that if the move doesn't make financial sense to the organization, it's not going to fly with key decision-makers. The migration needs to be accompanied by underlying business benefits, whether it's fostering innovation, driving new revenue, slashing costs, taking market share from competitors, or a combination of the three. 

In the end, going "all-in" on the cloud isn't a realistic goal or approach for most organizations. A more measured hybrid IT infrastructure strategy is typically the right answer for most organizations, and those who win are those who map out a strategic launch calendar, consider the costs and potential pitfalls involved, and work with business leaders to achieve full buy-in from the top.




Eric Helmer is an information technology executive with 25 years of experience and  proven leadership delivering strategic corporate IT transformational projects. He has a strong track record in designing and implementing technical, complex enterprise technology initiatives that provide real return on investment, competitive advantage, and growth for companies.

Mr. Helmer has a broad consulting background with firms such as Linium, ADI Strategies, and The Hackett Group, where he has delivered successful IT projects throughout the U.S., the U.K., India, the UAE, Singapore, and Thailand.

As Chief Technology Officer at Rimini Street, Eric is charged with advising clients on strategic innovative initiatives that align with financial, technical, and functional long-term corporate goals across various applications including Oracle, SAP, IBM, and Microsoft.  These initiatives are designed to maximize the effectiveness of their mission-critical enterprise software systems.

Before joining Rimini Street, Mr. Helmer was a vice president at Velocity Technology Solutions, where he led the application services team in delivering transformational cloud and IT solutions for Oracle enterprises.

He is a published author, Oracle ACE alumni and a sought-after, award-winning industry speaker in Oracle conferences. He also has served on many board of directors including the Oracle Developer Tools User Group (ODTUG).

Mr. Helmer holds a Master's degree in business administration and a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science.

Published Thursday, January 27, 2022 7:35 AM by David Marshall
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