Address hybrid cloud management from the get-go to sidestep costly IT silo mistakes

HotLink CEO Lynn LeBlanc offers advice on managing hybrid IT, transforming your data center, and getting started in tech entrepreneurship.

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IT silo approaches and hardened environments will not work in the hybrid cloud future that's already coming around the bend. That's the take-home message in this Q&A with Lynn LeBlanc, CEO and founder of HotLink.

Looking at 2016, she predicted that enterprises will have more workloads in the cloud, with several cloud providers in their hybrid mix. Unlike in the past, when "corporate IT developed best practices around isolating like-resources to harden the environments and reduce risks of failure," she explained that IT teams "will need the ability to administer and manage several cloud platforms and a range of on-premises resources from a single pane of glass."

HotLink CEO and founder Lynn LeBlanc
Image: HotLink

The past simply won't work anymore. LeBlanc said that "technologies have advanced, demands on IT have increased, cycle times keep shrinking, and IT budgets won't keep pace. The only solution is data center transformation, and IT decision makers need to look for those technologies that provide orders of magnitude productivity improvements to survive."

Located in Santa Clara, Calif., HotLink's goal is to "simplify hybrid IT management complexity" and streamline the management of cross-platform IT resources for its clients.

Also in this email Q&A, LeBlanc discussed hybrid cloud management challenges, her experience as a tech entrepreneur, and her advice to those getting started in entrepreneurship.

TechRepublic: Regarding data center management, what issues and technologies should IT decision makers be thinking about one or two years in the future?

Lynn LeBlanc: As we move into 2016 and beyond, enterprises will want to move more and more workloads into the cloud, but not every cloud offering will be the right fit for every workload. We'll see more organizations with a range of cloud providers in their hybrid IT portfolios. These needs will change over time, as well, so the ability to mix, match, and reshuffle will be key. At the same time, data center teams will need the ability to administer and manage several cloud platforms and a range of on-premises resources from a single pane of glass and single point of integration and automation.

For good reasons, in the past, corporate IT developed best practices around isolating like-resources to harden the environments and reduce risks of failure. But technologies have advanced, demands on IT have increased, cycle times keep shrinking, and IT budgets won't keep pace. The only solution is data center transformation, and IT decision makers need to look for those technologies that provide orders of magnitude productivity improvements to survive.

TechRepublic: What are the biggest challenges that enterprises have when it comes to hybrid cloud management?

Lynn LeBlanc: Hybrid IT environments have historically been very complex and expensive to deploy, manage, and automate. Why? Because disparate platforms aren't designed to work together. As a result, a plethora of tools, consoles, databases, APIs, scripts, etc. are likely to comprise the typical hybrid data center. Naturally, different skills are needed for all these solution stacks. This is basically an IT silo approach to managing multi-platform infrastructure. Unfortunately, this classic methodology completely erodes the economic benefits and agility organizations hope to gain from the cloud. That's why it is essential to consider hybrid IT management strategies from the beginning.

How will IT streamline management of on- and off-premises resources? How will they leverage the familiar management tools the team has already mastered? And how will they structure management processes to retain the economic and agility benefits the cloud can offer? These are all key questions enterprises should address from the start, rather than repeat the costly IT silo mistakes of the past.

TechRepublic: What was the mission and purpose that you had in mind when you founded HotLink in 2010?

Lynn LeBlanc: The founding mission of HotLink is as true and relevant today as it was when we launched our first product in 2011. Our aim is to dramatically simplify hybrid IT management through our unique (and patented) transformation technology. Today, we deliver a suite of hybrid-IT management offerings, targeting specific use cases, for easily streamlining the integration, administration, and management of cross-platform resources.

HotLink has more than 1,500 customers, many with similar goals: to easily integrate cloud-based resources into their production environments, to leverage public clouds for low-cost disaster recovery and business continuity, to enable development teams to use public cloud services in a structured and compliant way, to increase agility and to reduce IT costs. I can proudly say that HotLink has solved some complex IT challenges in a very elegant way.

TechRepublic: What is unique about HotLink's technology platform?

Lynn LeBlanc: HotLink's technology platform approaches hybrid IT management from the bottom up. It isolates, abstracts, transforms, and automates the complexities of virtual and cloud-based computing resources to provide customers with a streamlined, flexible, and unified management solution. By contrast, most hybrid management approaches provide specialized automation on top of multiple native management toolsets, as an overlay and with separate management consoles.

Because HotLink abstracts hypervisor and workload metadata, enterprises can natively support other resource types with their existing virtualization management infrastructure -- like VMware vCenter, including related tools and automation. No other technology allows users to mix and match disparate virtual infrastructure while fully leveraging existing management solutions, skills, and investments.

TechRepublic: What market opportunity did you pursue with the release of HotLink Cloud Management Express in August 2015?

Lynn LeBlanc: Most enterprise roadmaps are now hybrid, and IDC predicts that will continue, with more than 65 percent of IT departments moving toward the hybrid cloud before the end of this year. That shift is prompted largely by the pursuit of cost savings, agility, and speed to market. To capture all of those benefits, IT teams have to architect their environments to manage a wide range of possible on- and off-premises resources without increasing operational complexity or headcount -- and without succumbing to vendor lock-in. HotLink Cloud Management Express enables data centers to benefit from the rapidly growing choices in the cloud market with the flexibility to plug-and-play utilizing their existing VMware management environment ¾ including AWS, Azure, OpenStack, vCloud Air, KVM, Hyper-V, XenServer, and vSphere.

TechRepublic: Let's say I am an executive at a company that's about two years into using the cloud. What can HotLink's offerings accomplish for my enterprise?

Lynn LeBlanc: HotLink solutions give IT teams the means to "crawl, walk, run" toward successful hybrid management, as George Crump, president and founder of Storage Swiss, recently put it. HotLink DR Express lets users leverage the public cloud for seamless disaster recovery and business continuity. HotLink Cloud Management Express allows them to manage a long list of on- and off-premises resource types using existing VMware vCenter management capabilities. And HotLink Hybrid Express adds the ability to incorporate workload cloning, migration, live migration, bi-directional workload conversion, analytics, and a range of other advanced hybrid features.

Flexibility and agility are two of the top reasons companies are adopting cloud-based technologies at such a rapid pace. The HotLink Hybrid Management Suite was purpose-built to address customers' evolving hybrid computing requirements via a highly streamlined and easy-to-deploy management model -- one that's packaged for a wide range of use cases.

TechRepublic: What are some of the most important experiences you've had in your career as an entrepreneur?

Lynn LeBlanc: I've been immersed in entrepreneurship since an early age. My grandfather used to involve me in many aspects of his metal foundries, and I began walking the floors of that business when I was only four-years-old (with a pink hardhat). The lessons I learned helped shape my views of what it means to build a business -- to do whatever it takes to get the job done, but also to soak up as many experiences as possible to build a foundation for a steady-stream of creative ideas.

I worked in many technology-oriented positions before I ever started my own company, including more than 20 years at Fortune 500 companies and Silicon Valley startups. Before HotLink, I founded FastScale Technology, which VMware later acquired. I certainly learned a lot from that experience, as well as in the general management, marketing, and sales roles I held at companies including Cadence Design Systems, Octel Communications, IBM, and others.

TechRepublic: What would you say to someone in their twenties getting started in tech entrepreneurship?

Lynn LeBlanc: I would say that before you start your own company, go work for someone else's. A common mistake I see young entrepreneurs make is jumping into their own ventures before they're ready. Even if you are an exceptional technologist, go get the business knowledge you'll need to launch, fund, run, sustain, and grow a startup. Seek out positions that will teach you the range of functions your future business will need -- not just engineering, but also support, sales, marketing, operations, etc. Of particular importance is to have some kind of customer-facing experience -- the issues customers face deploying and using products in the real world are often not the issues you expect back at the factory.

Finally, the adage you've heard about the start-up team making or breaking the company is absolutely true. As much as possible, tap folks you know with relevant experience so the trust level is high and the getting-to-know-you period is short. While all start-ups are high risk, you might as well stack the deck as much as you can.

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