Is the hybrid cloud blowing past most technology executives before they understand it? 

They're still trying to wrap their heads around whether public clouds are inherently less secure than private data centers. And next thing you know, this thing called a hybrid cloud seems to appear on their consultants' lips out of thin air. 

These clouds promise speed to market, more flexibility, quicker and more cost-effective scaling up, and the security of retaining legacy systems as needed.

And for the enterprise leaders who are grasping the strategy of blending private and public clouds as needed, the consultants are already touting the next-generation hybrid cloud.

Simple and Automated

Such is the case with Accenture and its Intelligent Business Cloud. Accenture officially touts it as "an open, scalable and integrated approach to managing the hybrid cloud landscape from a single point, smartly connecting intelligent infrastructure, data, applications and business processes."

Digging a little deeper with Marshall Wells, managing director in Accenture’s IT Strategy group, we get a better sense for what that brochure-ese means. 

An integrated, one-stop-shop-like approach, versus typical hybrid model setups, he said, which are "a patchwork of different capabilities, often a result of multiple departments bolting together different capabilities for their immediate functional needs." 

In this next-gen approach, there's automated portability between private and public clouds. Analytics and enterprise policies determine where workloads get placed. 

Security procedures and management can happen on an enterprise level, across multiple cloud platforms. And everything can be handled through a single dashboard.

Everything-as-a-Service

Overall, this particular hybrid arrangement can be considered a step in the direction of having Everything-as-a-Service at an enterprise scale, across multiple clouds.

And of course, it is one hybrid offering among many, some better than others. 

David Peraza, cloud architect at software firm Persistent Systems, points to AWS CloudForms, OpenStack Heat Templates and DMTF OVF specs for hybrid cloud solutions doing a better job at standardizing workload packaging (the major challenge he sees with hybrid clouds).

Linux, Docker and Google are adopting container packaging, a light-weight, next-wave virtual system, he also says.

Whatever the hybrid arrangement, it appears enterprise leaders are aware they are the future … or at least the near future. 

Marc Olesen, SVP and general manager of cloud solutions at operational intel provider Splunk, cites a Infonetics Research (which was acquired by IHS last December) report that suggests hybrid cloud adoption is doubling between 2014 and 2015.

According to a recent Dell flash poll of IT decision-maker worldwide, provided by Jim Ganthier, VP of engineered solutions and cloud at Dell, nine in 10 say a hybrid cloud strategy is a must have for IT transformation.

But Are They Ready?

These business execs, according to Accenture’s Wells, have four steps to go before they can ramp up to hybrid, let alone Intelligent Business Cloud mode:

  1. See cloud as the basis, "the connective tissue," for a company’s digital business foundation. One global chemical that Accenture works with is using a solution to deliver IT as a "consumable service" anytime, anywhere.
  2. Re-architecture applications with a “cloud first” mindset: auto-scalable and with a "pay-as-you-go" approach.
  3. Invest with business outcomes in mind. The mining giant Rio Tinto is using hybrid cloud for a new information and technology delivery system that it expects will lower infrastructure costs and increase savings from more flexible cost arrangement.
  4. “Skill up” for the intelligent business cloud — for instance, by hiring and developing IT architects who think digital on an enterprise level, not just department to department.

Olesen agreed that the path to hybrid and beyond "will require a change in mindset and corporate culture."

Perhaps that is why only three out of 10 decision-makers in Dell’s poll have realized that goal.

"The hybrid age is just one stop on a much longer cloud journey that will change how businesses around the world use technology," Olesen said.

In other words, business leaders still have a little time to catch up with consultants and the cloud.

Title image by Michael Hull