Meridian IT’s Hybrid Cloud Delivers Business Outcomes with IBM & Red Hat That Even Your Mum Would Like
You couldn’t say that the business of hybrid cloud is mature, but it’s been around longer than most people think. For all those that focused on a leading edge ‘cloud only’ strategy 10 years ago, hybrid cloud is where they almost all ended up – accidentally. Back in the day it wasn’t the destination – just part of the journey. But as often happens, the destination proved to be just over the horizon.
However, today moving to hybrid cloud or multi clouds is very much by design and the pragmatic approach to deploying IT resources, applications, and data. And ‘cloud’ isn’t the destination – that’s the reserve of the business outcome we all strive for. David Hewitt (Executive Director for IBM Cloud) put it well at IBM’s THINK on Tour event when he said his mum “didn’t care” – she was happy that the bank was “courteous and efficient” (not realising she was being served by an AI ChatBot that resided somewhere in the ether).
That got me thinking that depending on where you sit in the consumer supply chain your desired ‘business outcome’ is quite different (Our goal at Meridian IT is to deliver a great service, drive growth, manage costs). We are all consumers like David’s mum – but the outcomes I desire for my business are quite different and within them there are dozens of outcomes I need to deliver along the way. Like it or not IT features heavily in the complete ‘outcomes’ supply chain. Why is that?
It’s because the drive for digital transformation has also been an IT objective for the past 10 years or so. By transferring manual business processes into a digital format, like it or not technology IS the business outcome for organizations like ours that are operating in the middle of the supply chain.
The best business outcomes are delivered through digital transformation programs and at Meridian IT, our experience is that hybrid cloud underpins digital transformation.
Hybrid Cloud is Complex
If, in those early pioneering days of ‘cloud only’ the intrepids found that the high watermark of their voyage was hybrid cloud – it wasn’t because they found it easy to manage – its because it was getting too difficult to get to the planned ROI. Which means hybrid cloud is on the bleeding edge of complexity. In order for David’s mum to have the swan like experience of a serene customer service, the rest of us below the waterline have to paddle pretty hard.
Deploying workloads and managing them on-premise, in a private cloud and in public clouds simultaneously in order to achieve the best balance of IT performance and cost is an operator’s greatest challenge. And if you don’t manage your costs, the best performance in the world is all for ‘nought’. I think Meridian IT does it well, but I also think we are only just starting to learn how to do it. Which, thinking positively means there’s a greater opportunity for even better results to come – you just have to unlock the promise of it.
The main complexity for me results from the divergence in the way compute resources are deployed and managed. In public cloud, resources are deployed on a point and click basis, spinning up in minutes and software is deployed in containers. This is because in public cloud infrastructure is deployed as code. In private cloud and on-premise resources are constructed and employed much more manually with LPARs and VMs taking a handful of experts many days to build the environment for apps and data. This makes it harder for the three environments to co-operate seamlessly.
You are Not Alone
Joanna Hodgson (UK Country Leader) of Red Hat, speaking at the same event as David put it well when she said “don’t attempt this on your own”. No need to learn all the same mistakes again. Collaboration with like minded organisations is the key. I can’t think of 2 better organisations to combine our own talents with than IBM and Red Hat. Their technology, wealth of expertise and vision for open hybrid cloud is the same as our own and this has made it much easier for Meridian IT to succeed where plenty before us have struggled.
IBM’s Power 10’s and Flash Storage combine to provide the most reliable, energy efficient and secure platforms for data and applications. Put together with Red Hat and their 3 technology pillars that make up open hybrid cloud – (Red Hat Enterprise Linux – Ansible Automation Platform– Red Hat OpenShift) and you have the best chance yet of deploying, managing and securing applications and data in hybrid and multi cloud environments.
We have, over the past 7 years developed a capability of deploying and managing IBM platform workloads, iSeries, AIX and Red Hat Linux in hybrid cloud environments. About 50% of our customer workloads are still deployed on premise, whereas the rest are mostly deployed in our private Power cloud and public cloud platforms such as IBM, Azure and Google. And we use public cloud services more often now as part of our own delivery model. The most valuable experience we have developed though has been to build our capability with support of key vendors such as IBM and Red Hat.
Build Once Deploy Anywhere
Put simply we would like an easy life – now that’s the same as David’s mum – and I’m pretty sure that’s the same for most of us. At Meridian IT, buried in the middle of the digital transformation supply chain we want to deliver a great service and have an ‘easy life’… that would be a great outcome for us. But as already identified hybrid cloud is complex. So, we set out to change that. We wanted to address the inconsistencies between on-premise, private and public cloud – making the ‘point and click’ resource deployment the same no matter where the platform resides.
Our development team have used a combination of Red Hat and IBM tools to create an automation engine so we can deploy infrastructure as code – on a point and click basis so non-public cloud resources can be spun up in the same way as public. This means that there is more consistency across the operation and the desire for ‘ease of deployment’ that drives people towards public cloud is available in private and on-premise clouds.
Hybrid cloud becomes more manageable and provides a common operating environment for applications and data. Meridian IT can pre-build client specific templates for IBM Power LPARs and associated X86 VMs and deploy them within minutes for clients and not days. This means we build once and deploy anywhere.
The Tech Stack/What’s involved?
Like any digital transformation project, automation is a journey and does not happen overnight. There is a definite shift in workload to be more on the planning and preparation side, rather than execution. The process needs governance and audit capabilities, which is the reason Git is the industry standard for source control management as Ansible is for automation. YAML files is the foundation to defining the Ansible playbooks, which are at the heart of any automation journey.
Any automation strategy should contain Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform (which includes a vast set of certified collections for integrations) and allows for a centralized management system for controlling automation. With the ability to define complex processes using a workflow of playbooks rather than just siloing automation to either individual monolithic scripts or manually linking playbooks from one to the next, which in turn leads to more risk.
Just like Terraform is widely used for provisioning of infrastructure (IaC), and IBM Power VC (IBM Power on Prem), Ansible allows you the ability to take the automation to the next phase. Red Hat AAP also allows an organisation to integrate from internal systems for a complete end to end automation process and/or looking for an event driven automation journey.
Depending on where you are on your transformation journey, Ansible skills are key to reduces risks and ensure that repeatable tasks are executed the same on different environments.
Meridian IT can help you along the automation journey, from both an IaC perspective as well as automation in general across various business use cases, to apply repeatable tested processes.
The Business Outcome
It turns out there are many we need to achieve before David’s mum is happy. Of course, we have aspirations for our own business and the people within it. If we can grow the business each year, safely, securely and our Team is for the most part content and motivated – that’s a great outcome for us. We enjoy being creative with technology (we stole Disney’s Imagineering concept years ago) and we are great at solving customers problems whilst working in Teams to do so. Many of the outcomes we need to achieve are personal to the people within the business, many belong to the Company as a whole.
But the most important outcome for us is when we create a solution that puts our Clients ahead, when their customers benefit and as a result our Client does better. Like David’s mum’s experience at NatWest when she contacts Cora from Customer Services, and she gets the answers she is looking for without knowing or for that matter caring that Cora is an AI ChatBot delivered across a hybrid cloud platform. Well done IBM and Red Hat.