Future-proofing IT for the fourth industrial revolution: How hybrid cloud fits the bill

Philip Hammond proclaimed in this year’s Spring Budget speech that the fourth industrial revolution is “well and truly under way.” Building on the third industrial revolution that saw the rise of electrons and IT to automate production, this new digital wave is characterised by a fusion of technologies that blurs the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres.

As noted by Hammond, everyone will need to be “agile and bold” to embrace this revolution. But what does this really mean for companies and IT teams with regard to daily activities, and how might it affect the bottom line as budgets are being set for 2018 spending?

From a technology perspective, the far-flung-future forecast will see current emerging technologies such as Artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), automation and big data play a key part of this digitally-led revolution. The potential to transform business models as well as IT operations by changing the way we work and the applications on which we depend is tremendous.

In the more immediate future however, benefits of the ‘fourth wave’ that organisations can reap at an operational level will depend on their adoption and use of cloud technology. This is already happening – IDC forecasts that public cloud spending alone will reach $122.5 billion in 2017, which is a huge increase of 24.4% over 2016 and promises to continue expanding exponentially in 2018.

The transition and journey to cloud from the more ‘traditional’ technology is not one that happens overnight, and although Gartner’s latest CEO survey found that 42% of CEO’s have already begun their digital business transformation journeys, it’s important to still protect legacy infrastructures while integrating cloud implementations. That said, investing in cloud-first plans will go a long way towards future-proofing infrastructure. Gartner predicts that by 2020, a ‘no- cloud’ policy will be as rare as a ‘no-internet’ policy is today.

So with large, long-term investment in mind, which solutions may fulfill budget criteria and aid the transition to cloud while bridging this gap at the same time?

The cloud has come a long way in its evolution from a basic data storage model to a powerful, cost effective platform for increased agility and responsiveness. A technology expansion that started with mass adoption of virtualised environments over the last decade has now progressed to cloud infrastructure, and focuses on enabling IT to play a bigger part in overall business goals by leveraging scalability, performance, development and budgeting.

Many companies are however understandably cautious of fully depending on the cloud for IT requirements right from the get go, which could explain the current popularity of a cloud hybrid model. A hybrid model allows each workload to sit in the appropriate infrastructure – on-premises, private or public cloud – to optimise performance and meet budgetary requirements.

The adoption of cloud – and hybrid cloud environments in particular – brings about a new iteration of an age old IT issue, that of how to combine legacy infrastructure with new technologies. Whether it is because it takes time to fully migrate to the new technology or that the combination of new and old is the best plan moving forward, the process can be a complex, ongoing one to manage.

To combat this issue, businesses and CTOs must evaluate management tools for both current needs and future requirements, including considering vendor lock-in, development cycles of the product itself and the prospect of the vendor being at the forefront of supporting technology trends.

In summary, if the fourth industrial revolution really is well and truly upon us, then companies should align IT budgets to accommodate the new technology that will continue to penetrate both the business landscape and consumer markets. Hybrid cloud is an ideal IT model for cost saving and offers greater business benefits through its ability to scale and take advantage of the continuous data output of applications.

As we look forward to 2018, it is becoming increasingly important to invest in software that can support hybrid cloud models to deliver seamless delivery and continuous uptime. And possibly most importantly, organisations need to make provisions for the innovations of the far-flung-future, which may not be so far away.