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Why every CEO should be a dummy about hybrid cloud

October 28th, 2019

Executive Summary:
Hybrid clouds (IT resources hosted in one or more public clouds and at least one private cloud) will play an increasingly important role in business operations moving forward. CEOs, presidents, and business owners will benefit greatly from understanding the pros and cons of this new model, and how it may affect future business strategy.

One of the first lessons I learned from my sales coach, Dan Stalp with Sandler Sales Training, is that it’s good to be a dummy.

A “dummy” isn’t stupid. A dummy is smart enough to realize he or she doesn’t have all the answers. A dummy is always ready to learn. A dummy knows how to ask the right questions.

This was a valuable insight for me. I started out as a computer and networking expert, and like a lot of IT engineers, I wanted to be the smartest guy in the room. When I began running my own organization, however, I learned the key skill was identifying the smartest “guy” in any room, and learning from him or her.

Perhaps that’s why I have long been a fan of the “Dummies…” series of training materials (originally published by IDG Books, now by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) Using a well-designed, standardized format, these materials are excellent at boiling down a complex subject and presenting an easy-to-understand overview. They are a great way to become conversant in an important topic, so you can start asking good questions.

Last year, Wiley teamed-up with Red Hat and Intel to release a short .PDF entitled “Hybrid Cloud Strategy for Dummies.” If you are a CEO, president, or business owner who wants to move your organization into the cloud, this document may be a valuable resource.

In part, “Hybrid Cloud Strategy for Dummies” is an advertisement for Cloudforms, Red Hat’s “single-pane-of-glass” cloud management tool. This, however, is very minimal. For the most part, it’s an excellent high-level overview of the challenges and rewards involved in developing a business strategy for hybrid cloud-computing. I encourage any CEO with cloud-computing needs to review it. Below is a brief summary of what it covers:

What is hybrid cloud?
By now, most CEOs are probably familiar with the public clouds (at least Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.) Some may have a good understanding of the private cloud model as well.

If you run a private cloud, you may have already learned that it’s difficult to entirely eliminate dependence on all public cloud resources. Even if you have no private cloud, you still probably have a footprint in two (or more!) public clouds. “Hybrid Cloud Strategy for Dummies” calls this heterogeneous model “hybrid cloud” (or, if no private cloud resources are involved, “multi-cloud”.) Spreading your cloud-computing around like this can have advantages, but it can also result in some nasty billing surprises if it’s not planned and deployed correctly.

Cloud strategy basics
The document does a good job outlining a “measure twice, cut once” approaching to planning and deployment that can help organizations avoid unexpected cost over-runs. It touches on formulating cloud strategy goals, planning for flexibility as the project develops, and assessing outcomes to confirm success. If you do nothing more, conducing an initial strategy session with your executive team focusing on these best practices can save you time, money, and heartache on almost any cloud deployment.

Infrastructure-as-code
Many IT departments — even those experienced in virtualization — have a hard time adopting the concepts governing virtual infrastructure in the cloud. Moving to the cloud without making this shift is worse than staying where you are. A legacy IT operation transported as-is into a cloud environment is a money pit. The key to making the shift is grasping the idea of “infrastructure-as-code.” This section does a good job explaining the infrastructure-as-code concept and why it’s important for a cloud environment. Your IT director and your development director should both read this part of the document. Twice.

Snowflake servers and Phoenix servers
Radical server standardization is central to making infrastructure-as-code work. Learn the important distinction between “snowflake” servers that require continual manual intervention, and “phoenix” servers that you can deploy once and forget. When a change is required, simply deploy updated instances of those same servers and delete the previous instances.

Unified IT Management
Finally, if your IT resources are spread across multiple clouds (both public and private) you’re going to need a central location to manage all of it. This is where Red Hat really wants you to look at Cloudforms, but there are a variety of single-pane-of-glass cloud management systems to choose from. This section explains why you may want to do a proof-of-concept and set aside a budget for this type of management capability.

The topics covered in this document are relevant for any organization thinking of investing in public or private cloud resources. It’s certainly worth a 25–30 minute read to get up-to-speed on the subject and the critical implications for your business strategy going forward. Take time to check it out with your team.

Next Steps:
Share With — 
CTO, IT Director, Development Director

Action Items — 
• Define IT strategic goals
• Conduct gap analysis regarding current IT outcomes
• Assess cloud strategy needs

Brian S. Pauls is the founder and vCTO of Cloudessy. He likes hybrids everywhere but in his garden.

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