Why the Future is Hybrid

Four key considerations shape the way forward when engaging with a rapidly changing digital infrastructure landscape

Matthew Gingell

The term hybrid conjures up many images—from hybrid plant species to hybrid cars and, a bit closer to home, hybrid digital-infrastructure architectures. The word evokes the blending of one thing into another. Maybe it’s genetics, or fuel types, or in the case of IT, a foundational element of architectural design. The result is often an in-between state—not necessarily one thing, nor the other, but something new.

Think about the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) for a moment. Hybrid cars are powered by both conventional fossil fuels via internal combustion engines and by battery-based electric motors. There are both potential benefits and possible disadvantages to this combined powerplant solution. A PHEV is comparatively fuel-efficient and provides unique operational flexibility. It can be powered by either gasoline or electric sources. However, to take full advantage of this flexibility, PHEVs require the support of a robust national, or at least regional, electric-charging infrastructure. Until then, the operational advantages of PHEVs are largely limited to local travel and lost on long-distance driving. However, at some point, the transition to electric-only automobiles is inevitable and gasoline-powered cars will no longer be supported. For the time being, the PHEV is a compromise situation that moves in the direction of electric power while acknowledging the real-world logistical limits.

You can draw an analogy between the hybrid car and the “point-in-time migration” of traditional/legacy physical IT infrastructure evolving to modern digital infrastructure. Similarly, it is impossible to jump directly into an all-cloud, virtual infrastructure from a predominantly legacy physical IT environment with no intervening stages. However, if your IT infrastructure does not integrate into the contemporary digital world, you’ll be at a competitive disadvantage relative to your peers.

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Creating an agile, resilient organization through digital transformation remains a top priority, but most organizations struggle to reach the more advanced, mature stages. Read this IDC white paper to learn how organizations can accelerate, enhance, and ultimately benefit from a digital infrastructure strategy that is anchored in hybrid infrastructure and connected ecosystems.

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The way forward: Hybrid multicloud digital infrastructure

Hybrid multicloud architectures represent the best path to engage with a rapidly changing infrastructure landscape. It allows you to manage legacy data-intensive processes while simultaneously embracing new “born-in-the-cloud” data frameworks.

In a recent, Equinix-sponsored, IDC white paper entitled “A Blueprint for DX Success: Start with Hybrid Infrastructure and Connected Ecosystems,” IDC analysts said this about the importance of hybrid multicloud environments: “With few exceptions, most enterprises looking to support their future business applications will need to deploy a hybrid digital infrastructure

Four important dimensions specific to your data and application infrastructure warrant careful analysis when assessing the potential benefits of hybrid multicloud solutions for your IT environment:

  • Physical versus virtual implementations—Leveraging a hybrid multicloud solution involves determining what elements of your environment require dedicated physical hardware deployments. A thoughtfully executed physical deployment can take up to three months to install, test and make operational. The option would be “virtual” deployments, which present a range of functions, such as software-defined networks (SDN), compute and storage capabilities and edge applications (apps) that could be deployed in a matter of days. Selecting between a dedicated hardware solution and a virtual solution depends on a range of considerations, including specific data-ownership, application performance and security requirements.
  • Public versus private solutions—Conversations about hybrid workload architectures tend to emphasize migration to cloud. There’s a reason for that. Every organization faces the question of how to optimally migrate IT functions to the cloud because business-critical applications are evolving within cloud environs and cloud-based resources are growing at an accelerating pace. This changing landscape is applying pressure on IT organizations to adapt. A hybrid approach presents genuine benefits to any enterprise looking to optimize private/public implementations. You gain increased agility (for example, by implementing virtual strategies for emerging applications), but you also retain the security of managing legacy systems via private cloud resources.
  • Go-it-alone development versus off-the-shelf (OTS), industry standard, ecosystem-based solutions—Choosing between in-house development and OTS solutions boils down to weighing the cost of in-house development against factors such as potential regulatory limitations and specific data-security requirements. It’s becoming increasingly impractical to sustain the kind of development required to effectively manage complex IT environments. In addition, it’s essential to adopt a single pane-of-glass approach to manage a hybrid world. Otherwise, the interplay of physical, virtual, legacy, cloud-based, private and public elements can become overwhelmingly complex. Without a consistent and comprehensive approach to managing infrastructure, you could slow your digital transformation. That can be further complicated by large numbers of partners, varying service levels and different ways of accessing resources.
  • Edge versus core implementations—An essential step in assessing how to implement hybrid multicloud is determining which applications and services should run in the core and which to run at the edge. Certain applications might demand that data stores remain centralized—on-premises for data privacy, protection or to lower cloud egress costs—yet still require fast access to cloud-based analytics or other applications from multiple clouds. Such requirements might be best suited to a core, cloud-adjacent solution. In contrast, you may have a requirement featuring many distributed elements. For example: remote offices, workers and data resources that are leveraging a virtual desktop integration (VDI) solution, or you might support an IoT network of autonomous vehicles, or a regional traffic control application. Those situations might be best served by an edge approach directly connecting with multiple clouds services. Organizations face an existential problem of managing core and distributed infrastructure elements simultaneously. It’s worth examining these contrasting requirements more closely.

Consider two storage situations in which a hybrid implementation presents the opportunity to optimize different storage deployment requirements. In situations where local, high-throughput cloud interconnectivity is required, storage located in a core location that implements a cloud-adjacent approach would be cost effective and performance suitable. Other situations might map to a smaller footprint approach. A scenario involving all-local processes would be better suited to an edge-adjacent, virtual storage solution. Such an edge-adjacent approach might include an instance of artificial intelligence (AI) or local compute processing. Think of an air transport jet, which typically downloads terabytes of flight data as it lands. That data could be directed locally to an edge-adjacent resource where it might get initial processing and be temporarily stored, and then later only the processed, summary data relayed to a core data center for further analysis and archiving.

Hybrid Multicloud Infrastructure Example Illustrating Core and Edge Scenarios

Hybrid infrastructure is here to stay

There’s no hiding. Some form of hybrid multicloud digital infrastructure is in your future—if it is not already part of your present. It’s imperative that digital leaders embrace the opportunities hybrid multicloud presents. A hybrid approach can allow you to integrate physical and virtual elements into a mixed environment that leverages the advantages of both.

A hybrid multicloud architecture achieves this integration within the context of a single platform that can cope with a heterogeneous environment and that is capable of supporting colocation and virtual services. This integrated approach allows you to access multiple digital and business ecosystems either physically or virtually. The key is implementing a simplified platform that does not compromise reliability, security or control and that is delivered by an organization that understands this complexity.

Every enterprise IT organization faces the same challenge—migrating from legacy IT infrastructure designs to modern, cloud-centric workload environments. Equinix’s global platform embodies the right set of capabilities for this challenge. We enable businesses to easily access Equinix and other fundamental partner digital infrastructure building blocks that simplify hybrid IT selection, deployment and orchestration, while leveraging our proven track record of unparalleled reliability and performance. The choices of digital infrastructure offerings on Platform Equinix®—such as Equinix Fabric™, Network Edge and Equinix Metal™—capitalize on emergent virtual capabilities at the edge and together simplify accessing and integrating the growing multiplicity of provider and partner ecosystems via direct and secure private interconnection.

To learn more about how the hybrid multicloud digital infrastructure fits into an accelerating digital transformation, download the IDC white paper “A Blueprint for DX Success: Start with Hybrid Infrastructure and Connected Ecosystems.”

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Matthew Gingell Product Marketing Senior Principal, EMEA
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