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HPE's Craig Partridge on the role of hybrid IT and why it matters

Hybrid IT isn't just a buzzword or a passing trend. It's a symbiotic relationship between idea incubation and idea implementation.

Hybrid IT isn’t just a buzzword or a passing trend. Neither is it a steppingstone in the transition to some future form of IT. “It’s not that traditional or transformational IT becomes irrelevant,” says Craig Partridge, Director Data Center Platform Consulting, HPE Pointnext. “It’s more of a symbiotic relationship between idea incubation and idea implementation.”

Here’s more strategic thinking from Partridge on why the hybrid IT model is so crucial and how to get the most from it. The term hybrid IT refers to an operating model aimed at harnessing the power of the corporate digital experience. It differs significantly from the traditional IT model of ruthlessly cutting costs in the search for ever more efficiencies. For example, in the traditional IT model, using cloud services is primarily a cost-saving decision, but with the hybrid IT model, using cloud services is more about building agility, flexibility, and innovation at top speed.

“What’s different now is data,” says Partridge. “Hybrid IT is about exploration, about finding your place in the market, about finding a new, more competitive business model. It’s about disruption.”

But, he says, ultimately it’s about more than even those worthy and crucial goals.

“In the end, once you’ve hit gold, you must use that information, those insights, to transform the organization,” Partridge explains. “That requires the expertise in your run organization to handle risk, compliance, governance, security, reliability, efficiencies and other things necessary to the optimum state of business.”

We sat down with Partridge to discover more about why the hybrid IT model is so crucial and how to get the most from it. Here are the juicy insights that came from that discussion.

Q: Why does moving to the new hybrid IT model right now matter if we’re just going to return to some semblance of traditional IT in the end?

Partridge: The world has already changed and continues to change rapidly. Physical and digital boundaries are blurring more every day. While traditional IT is well scoped, it’s not set up to explore this undefined but exciting new reality.

Traditional IT is geared toward delivering projects over many months or years. It’s not set up to deliver new projects very fast and in quick succession. A new model for IT was needed that would enable smaller steps or sprints, rather than marathons, in order to explore and exploit this new corporate digital experience.

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Q: At first brush, hybrid IT could appear to be more about managing big data than a makeover of IT. For example, maybe it incorporates more high-performance computing (HPC). Explain the relationship of big data and HPC with hybrid IT please.

Partridge: HPC is the engine for understanding data. HPC and big data are at the heart, but just understanding data isn’t enough. New models have to be designed and delivered so that the information and insights can be exploited and monetized.

Materializing what you learned from data requires a new IT operating model. That new model is hybrid IT, and it is uniquely designed to find ideas in the data and then move those ideas into a business reality.

Q: So, hybrid IT completes the big data equation? It completes the process of moving from actionable insights to completing the action?

Partridge: It’s about more than using data we have now and making decisions based on that. It’s also about strategically reaching out to harvest or create more data in order to explore and exploit possibilities even further.

Q: Then hybrid IT also incorporates the Internet of Things (IoT) and analytics on the edge?

Partridge: The hybrid IT operating model definitely incorporates data from all types of sensors, the Internet of Things, and analytics at the edge. But data can be analyzed at the edge for fast outputs and brought back in for more in-depth analysis.

The key here is the agility, flexibility, and speed built into the hybrid IT model. It allows you to prototype, test, explore, and experiment fast. Traditional IT is typically more of a guardian than an instigator.

Q: Does that mean that efficiency is no longer an IT priority?

Partridge: As everyone in IT knows, change is the No. 1 cause for downtime. Until everything became digital and data driven, IT was managed to ensure no failure. Traditional IT was focused on delivering more for less. That is, being ruthlessly efficient and reliable, always cutting costs, building business cases, and ensuring ROI.

But a creative tension results when you’re trying to stick to that model and still operate and innovate at the speeds it takes to be competitive today. Priorities in IT must be realigned to fit the demands of business today. That means speed, agility, and flexibility become the top priorities.

Resolving creative tensions between old and new priorities can’t be fully answered by technology. People within the business must make some very important, even bold, business decisions. If they don’t, creative tension becomes a barrier instead of the path to opportunities.

Q: Which leads us to the question of who is the run organization in this new operating model?

Partridge: Yes, that’s been one of the hottest questions today. Is your run organization—the people keeping everything running—your internal IT, or is it Microsoft, Amazon, and other cloud service providers?

That question is important because you need both a run organization and an organization focused on data and the innovation that it brings. That’s why many organizations now have a CDO—chief data officer—to keep the digital vision attuned to revenue opportunities and materializing the means to capture those. The CDO creates a new style of IT that is separate from the run organization.

It used to be that the CIO or CTO also served as the CDO, but that’s becoming less common.

Q: Isn’t moving the run organization outside, placing efficiencies on cloud service vendors, for example, a smart play?

Partridge: It can be. But what happens when data becomes a critical asset? When data is driving your revenue, caution and more control are prudent. This is another reason the hybrid IT operating model is so critical. It gives you more and faster control on how, when, and where you use data and materialize the results. As the appetite for risk changes, securing data-driven revenue becomes a rising priority.

Right now, organizations don’t know what they don’t know, what their R&D dollars will turn up. But there is a data imperative, and so separating the IT exploratory arm from the run organization is usually a good idea. There are many ways to do that internally and externally.

Q: How long does it take to switch to the new hybrid IT operating model?

Partridge: The answer to that depends on a number of factors. Large organizations may take longer simply because their size tends to slow the rate of change. However, that’s not always the case. Companies of any size, even the largest of organizations, that have the will and ambition at the board level often make a fast transition to the new model. HPE is even an example of that.

Having a clear vision—we’re talking about a CDO here with a clear vision on the new style of IT he or she wishes to create—helps speed the transformation too. You need a clear goal and a specific strategy from the start.

And a good deal depends on how disruptive that vision is. For example, in car manufacturing, the connected car system is highly disruptive and calls for an accelerated transformation to support that disruption. Industries in such highly disruptive scenarios tend to have companies making rapid progress toward a new IT operating model.

As organizations begin to delve deeper into data and what Partridge calls “the digital experience,” the demands on tools and IT operating models will tax their limits. It is already obvious that the traditional IT model is insufficient on its own, but as Partridge points out, it still plays a vital role now and for the foreseeable future. However, in a world that is now and forever data driven, IT must adapt to an exploratory mode that can more efficiently find and exploit new opportunities. IT must find ways to both be and combat the disruptor. A hybrid IT operating model is a strong foundational step in the right direction.

Making the most of hybrid IT: Lessons for leaders

  • Look at hybrid IT as a new operating model.
  • Understand how hybrid IT can let you take better advantage of the data your business collects.
  • Leaders need to provide the vision and guidance to make a successful transition from traditional IT models. 

Related reading:

How to make Hybrid IT simple: The best of both worlds with on-premises IT and public cloud

Forrester report: Hybrid IT strategy insights - Composable infrastructure and business breakthroughs

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.