Homogenous or entirely on-premise IT environments provided by a single vendor can offer a one-stop shopping solution for streamlining deployments, operations, and support. However, vendor lock-in can also be cumbersome and monolithic. Not to mention, it can produce inefficiencies, delays obtaining a resolution, or wasted investments on unused or overpriced features or components.

What’s the solution? Hybrid IT, which represents an array of à la carte technological options such as hardware, software, or services sourced from a blend of different providers or vendors. For instance, hybrid IT can blend in-house resources and cloud resources to better meet the needs of businesses with complex or diverse requirements.

SEE: Vendor comparison: Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, and Google Cloud (Tech Pro Research)

What enterprises want

I spoke with Chris Downie, CEO of Flexential, an infrastructure services provider, to learn more about the challenges and benefits of hybrid IT.

Scott Matteson: What are enterprises asking for when it comes to hybrid IT services and connectivity? What’s important to IT teams today?

Chris Downie: Current hot-button topics in the industry right now are disaster recovery and interconnection like edge and cloud computing, peering exchanges, subsea cable implementation, etc.

SEE: Disaster recovery and business continuity plan (Tech Pro Research)

Scott Matteson: How should companies approach the concept of hybrid IT?

Chris Downie: Enterprises need to have a broader perspective on what technology is available to them as well as what’s critical to a specific requirement/application, and why.

In the 12-plus years I’ve worked in the business, most customers arrive with a design in hand for how they would like to architect their stack, but often haven’t leveraged the use cases that might be relevant or available to them. The IT community is constantly asking for more resources available at the point of engagement. And it’s up to IT providers to help them find the greatest capability out there and help people come up with the best solutions for their business requirements.

Additionally, customers are increasingly looking for affordable and fast connectivity to their customers – regardless of geographic location. Flexential recently launched FlexAnywhere, a software-defined network fabric that delivers high capacity, low latency and secure connectivity from the data center and cloud, to the edge.

Businesses today struggle to keep up with the rapid pace of technology evolution. With cloud technologies, once they select an infrastructure solution, they often can find themselves locked into long-term contracts as better technologies emerge. Services like FlexAnywhere lets users consume network and infrastructure in a more flexible way, helping them to remain nimble.

Scott Matteson: What factors can help IT teams make the right choices when choosing their hybrid IT strategies?

Chris Downie: A one-size-fits-all strategy does not work in IT: Every enterprise has different needs for their data operations. IT teams should engage third-party experts on the front-end and leverage the use cases of enterprises that have learned the hard way. What they should keep top-of-mind is how to find the right place for the right workload.

Not enough people say ‘my business is xx, I’m trying to accomplish xx performance across the different business applications’ and it’s rare to hear an IT leader ask, ‘have you seen anyone with comparable requirements?’ or ‘Can you suggest a strategy for my specific case?’

Oftentimes there’s an enterprise that already pioneered what you’re trying to accomplish. There are not many people that can bring that perspective into a single conversation and this really underscores Flexential’s broad set of capabilities from colocation to professional services.

SEE: Google Cloud Platform: An insider’s guide (TechRepublic download)

Scott Matteson: What are some current hot topics in hybrid IT?

Chris Downie: M&As in the hybrid IT space are presently in the spotlight. A recent report from Synergy estimates that the total volume of data center M&A deals in 2017 reached $20 billion. Forty-eight transactions closed last year–three more than in 2015 and 2016 combined. I led the combination of two successful IT providers [Peak 10 and ViaWest] in 2017-18.

Scott Matteson: Can you discuss the process and what went well?

Chris Downie: We embarked upon a journey carrying a ton of weight, as we were rebranding at the same time merging two organizations together. But we recognized the opportunity to get it right straight out of the gate. Companies are rarely afforded the opportunity to take a step back and build the back office they need to best support the business for the long term, and we were afforded both money and time to get things right. Our investments in our systems and processes have resulted in a best-in-class back office, which is scalable. And scalability is key in the ever-evolving technology–and more specifically IT–industry.

Scott Matteson: What were the biggest challenges of the process?

Chris Downie: Culture. Culture has a tendency to kill success in M&A situations. Integration of two companies whose population and processes spanned from Portland down to Ft. Lauderdale to Philly to Phoenix. This was one of the biggest worries for us, but the cultures at Peak10 and ViaWest ended up very aligned and turned into a seamless integration.