When COVID-19 hit the United States about a year ago, a number of organizations had started digital transformation projects that relied, in part, on hybrid cloud. But those efforts stalled when the pandemic arrived. SMBs and enterprises sent employees to work from home, a shift that created sudden, swift demand for unplanned cloud services. Business leaders halted on-premises infrastructure upgrades as IT scrambled to deploy cloud applications. All that activity led to chaos and gaps.
The pressure is easing somewhat. COVID-19 vaccinations are up and cases appear to be declining. As a result, businesses are re-examining the initiatives they were tackling a year ago. Leaders understand that their cloud adoption will continue, more so than their in-office technology upgrades. Indeed, most industry analysts and insiders expect remote work to remain a global staple even as COVID-19 subsides. That means organizations must support fast, secure cloud access to company data from anywhere. In most instances, this calls for a hybrid cloud setup — a combination of private and public platforms. Your customers may be doing this now, with all the requisite safeguards in place — but the majority probably are not. That’s for partners to assess, now.
That was the message on Wednesday from panelists on the Hybrid Cloud Deep Dive session at the virtual Channel Partners Conference & Expo. The time has come for agents, consultants and other experts in the channel to help clients make sure they’re spending money on the technologies that lead to desired business outcomes. Much of that points to hybrid cloud configurations. But first, partners have to find the gaps COVID-19 exposed. That, panelists said, begins with looking at organizations’ business continuity/disaster recovery strategies, and using hybrid cloud to fix problems.
COVID-19 a 'Soft' Disaster
To be sure, if COVID-19 taught us anything, it was that organizations couldn’t rely only on internal infrastructure. Many businesses left equipment sitting in their brick-and-mortar locations, hoping a hard drive or the power supply wouldn’t fail, said Jim Demetrius, cloud infrastructure architect at master agent TBI.
“It wasn’t a hard disaster; it was a soft one, but it really got tested,” he said.
Much of that gear needs to go into a colocation facility or a data center, Demetrius said. That way, employees anywhere in the world can access the resources theyneed to do their jobs.
Jared Stanley, senior platform solutions architect at Digital Realty, agreed. He also predicted that even as the world recovers from the impact of COVID-19, organizations will keep people working from anywhere, to a significant degree. The trends started by COVID-19 – think online ordering and remote work – are here to stay. Therefore, companies are analyzing the projects they were working on early last year and trying to pinpoint what needs to change for the new workforce. This, Stanley said, is where partners shine.
“Help customers pivot to agile ecosystems,” he said. “They may not need AWS today, but they may need it tomorrow.”
The key is to focus on business need and the technologies that will reduce cost and mitigate risk.
That was the word from Chance Irvine, technology consulting practice lead at Percipio Partners, who also moderated the Hybrid Cloud Deep Dive session. And, remember, partners have another opportunity inherent to all these technology changes: “Someone still has to manage it somewhere,” Irvine said.
A good starting place? Explore the Band-Aid solutions your customers deployed to support remote staff, said Demetrius. Maybe these platforms just need to be tweaked, but maybe they need to be replaced altogether. Within those technologies, delve into the individual processes and applications. That will bring to light any issues with connectivity, accesses and security. In fact, that last point is perhaps the most critical.
“Security is white hot,” Demetrius said.
‘Network Is Almost Like a Toilet Bowl’
The network is vital, too, said Stanley. Workloads and applications must live at the edge, without suffering from outages, DDoS attacks or access hiccups.
“Network is almost like a toilet bowl — nobody cares about it until it backs up,” Stanley said.
With that in mind, make sure clients stop using legacy MPLS, he noted. Get them onto SD-WAN instead. Above all, think about what’s coming down the pike and design customers’ networks accordingly. Infrastructure, he said, “will be hybrid for the foreseeable future.”
Of course, customers have to consider budget for all this. Things look promising, Demetrius said. Businesses are abandoning large commercial spaces, which frees up dollars that were going into overhead. Help clients funnel that money into hybrid cloud configurations that take workloads to the edge, he said.
If you can get customers “to see under the covers,” he said, you can show them erroneous spending.
“There are opportunities to generate funds with existing money a lot of times.”