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Hybrid Cloud for IBM Z

By Destination Z posted Mon December 23, 2019 03:36 PM


Technology users want choices, and so do customers. They want to choose their access device, interface, deployment options, cost and even their speed of change. Luckily, today’s hybrid age is all about choices.

This is reflected in recent IDC data, which found that by 2021 over half of the G2000 will see one-third of their digital services interactions come through open API ecosystems, amplifying their digital reach far beyond customer interactions. And maybe most telling—by 2021, enterprise spending on cloud will grow to over $530 billion and over 90 percent of enterprises will be using multiple cloud services and platforms.

For Z shops, this shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. IBM has been preaching the hybrid gospel for years. The basic message has always been the same: Center the core of your business on the mainframe and then build around it—preferably using LinuxONE and hybrid cloud.

What Is Hybrid Cloud? 

Can you operate hybrid cloud? Well, it depends on how you define it. For many, a multi-cloud strategy is synonymous with hybrid cloud. Multi-cloud organizations use two or more different clouds. One might be a compute cloud and the other might offer a storage cloud. Or, they might have different clouds—like a cloud for finance, another for R&D and yet another for DevOps.

In a recent survey by RightScale, 81 percent of responding technology professionals reported that they have a multi-cloud strategy and 51 percent said that they have a hybrid strategy. However, a separate Stratoscale survey got a wide range of answers to the question “What does ‘hybrid cloud’ mean to you?” The two most popular answers amongst IT specialists were:

1.     Different workloads belong in different environments (39 percent)
2.     The ability to move workloads between private and public clouds (38 percent)

For this article, let’s agree that multi-cloud is synonymous with hybrid cloud.

The reasoning behind a multi-cloud strategy can also vary. Reasons can range from risk mitigation, to the need for specialized functionality, to cost management, analytics, security, flexible access and more. 

Managing a Hybrid Cloud 

Initially, the cloud was seen as a way to simplify IT operations. Basically, it promised an easy way to outsource various IT system headaches. Just turn it over to the cloud provider and—presto—the headache is relieved with no capital investment required. While that may have been the promise at the start, it certainly isn’t the way cloud works today. While the advent of multi-clouds or hybrid clouds can complicate an already muddled situation, they also provide more options and choices as organizations seek the best solution for their needs at their price and terms.

According to Gartner, by 2020, every dollar invested in digital business innovation will require enterprises to spend at least three times that to continuously modernize the legacy application portfolio. Ironically, here in 2018, legacy application portfolios are often viewed as a problem and subjected to large-scale rip-and-replace efforts in desperate attempts to salvage them. Application leaders should instead manage their portfolio as an asset, removing impediments and executing continuous business-driven modernization—typically around microservices and APIs—to provide optimum value.

Legacy applications contain valuable core functions and data that are essential for digital business initiatives. Application leaders should look to transform these legacy applications into the basis of a platform for digital business. Then, they should surround these core legacy applications with a multi-cloud strategy.

A multi-cloud strategy can provide a mechanism to migrate away from centralized IT to get to the cloud fast. It will also help integrate old and new platforms and leverage new cost and consumption models to achieve IT transformation. That alone should lead to delivery transformation and, ultimately, digital transformation. Almost sounds like Nirvana—a promise IT managers have heard many times before.

The Power of Microservices 

This time, the promise might be different. “Companies have lots of records on Z, and the way to get to these records is through APIs, particularly REST APIs,” explains Juliet Candee, IBM Systems Business Continuity Architecture. Start with the IBM Z Hybrid Cloud Architecture. Then, begin assembling catalogs of APIs and leverage z/OS Connect to access popular IBM middleware like CICS. By using z/OS Connect and APIs through microservices, you can break monolithic systems into smaller, more composable and more flexible pieces that contain business functions.

This results in what Candee describes as a new style of building consisting of much smaller components, which are easier to monitor and debug. Then, connect it all to IBM Cloud on Z using secure Linux containers. This could be a hybrid cloud combining IBM Cloud Private or an assortment of public clouds along with secure zLinux containers as desired.

Succeeding With Hybrid Cloud 

As IBM hybrid cloud client Fulcrum Global Technologies discovered, business growth often presents significant challenges—especially for its law firm clients. For example, the complex effort of integrating data, processes and operations can distract attorneys from their core focus of serving clients, diminishing effectiveness and reducing profitability while the trend toward alternative fee arrangements such as fixed-fee services, volume discounts and fee caps work toward operational efficiency.

However, Fulcrum harnessed the power of SAP to build a suite of applications and services to help law firms and corporate legal departments streamline their back-office operations and achieve operational excellence. Moving toward a cloud-based infrastructure eliminates much of the time and effort law firms currently spend on hardware investments, server maintenance and data center management.

Most standard multi-tenant public cloud architectures couldn’t offer the level of security and resilience that Fulcrum requires to handle sensitive and confidential legal data. “We need to know where our [client] data is, how it’s stored and how it’s protected—and that’s just not possible with a commodity cloud provider,” says Ahmed Shaaban, managing director, Fulcrum Global Technologies

Finding the right kind of cloud architecture was difficult, but Fulcrum ultimately opted for IBM Cloud running bare metal servers that provided a dedicated, single-tenant architecture. Fulcrum now uses this to offer clients complete control over where and how data is managed, exchanged and processed. The company can configure an IBM Cloud environment in an appropriate IBM data center to meet specific client needs.

IBM Cloud combined with hybrid cloud can be tweaked to meet a variety of business needs. That’s the power of private, public and hybrid cloud.

Alan Radding may be reached at
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