Collaborate with your vendor to make the most of the hybrid cloud

Collaborate with your vendor to make the most of the hybrid cloud

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August 06, 2015
CIO Cloud

Very few companies, especially large companies, can move their IT operations completely to the cloud. Nor can most companies these days afford to keep everything on-premises. Put those two facts together and you can see that most companies will need to move to some form of hybrid cloud. In part one of a two-part interview with The Enterprisers Project, Rich Hillebrecht, vice president and CIO of Riverbed Technology, which supplies application performance software, explores how to work with your vendor to ensure you both get the most out of the relationship.

The Enterprisers Project (TEP): Using a hybrid cloud means you don't have complete control over the technology your business depends on. What are some of the topics that need to be discussed up front with the vendors?

Hillebrecht: There are several areas that need to be discussed up front when it comes to hybrid enterprise systems — from migration to integration to performance.

I'd like to focus on the topic of performance because I've seen because that impacts end-users and the business the most. In fact, application performance issues, whether the app resides in the cloud or on-premises, can cripple business and leave a really bad taste with customers and employees alike. We live in a world where slow is the new down. There's very little tolerance for poor app performance and the business does not care if the app is provided or hosted by a cloud vendor or by the IT organization.

For example, we use CRM from a SaaS provider, leveraging integrations to boundary applications we build and manage directly. Our SaaS CRM system is critical to the sales process and transactions need to flow through to our internal systems to create and fulfill orders. When that path bogs down near quarter end it is pretty much the end of the world to our sales team — and not very pretty for IT leadership either. We routinely optimize that CRM traffic and monitor performance as we support a global user base.

When we recently encountered issues of slow performance, it was critical that we isolate where the bottleneck was — our internal network or systems or services in the SaaS environment. Using application and network performance management tooling we could quickly identify that we had an issue inside the SaaS provider's infrastructure. We were able to share the data with our SaaS partner's support organization and agree on the action they needed to take on our behalf. Problems will occur. Identifying the source and the right teams to fix it is critical to restoring acceptable service quickly.

TEP: Are there any strategies IT leaders can use to improve their control when working with cloud vendors?

Hillebrecht: Controlling variables to ensure stability and consistent end-user experience is a fundamental challenge for every IT organization. This has become even more true with the explosive use of the external cloud model, where service providers make changes to their environments as a way of meeting the needs of the many. Schedule of changes, review of changes and impact assessments get either far more complex or completely out of sight for an individual IT organization. For these reasons today's hybrid world puts more pressure on IT to create strong vendor relationships that are collaborative and strategic.

The key here is the relationship and operating agreements between organizations. As part of vetting your cloud providers carefully, it is critical to discuss performance-guarantees and service level agreements (SLAs) with them and how they will be monitored and managed operationally.

IT leaders and teams need to discuss visibility into application performance from their vendors. Along these lines, IT requires better tools for managing cloud operations, billing data, compliance and workload profiles. IT risks financial and operational hits when we don't have data on cloud performance and management. Just the other day I ran across Forrester research that showed over half of IT leaders were not happy with the overall support process from their cloud providers. Having third-party performance and management tools is essential and can help cope with the limitations of the cloud.

In part two, we will discuss how CIOs can band together to address vendor problems.

Rich Hillebrecht is Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Riverbed Technology, responsible for leading Riverbed’s enterprise IT operations and strategy. He is focused on identifying and delivering strategies that bring value for Riverbed customers, partners and shareholders. Previously, he served as Vice President of IT at Riverbed and was responsible for overseeing the company’s enterprise architecture initiatives and IT program management office, which included the deployment of Riverbed's application performance management solutions across the company. Hillebrecht has more than 25 years of IT leadership experience aimed at enabling enterprises to achieve their corporate objectives. His expertise lies in information technology as product/service, building strong teams and operational capability, broad IT infrastructure and application management, as well as business partner and client relationship management. Prior to Riverbed, he served as an executive IT management consultant at Taos, where he had interim leadership roles at Sephora and Adobe. He has also had senior IT management roles at leading brands including Intuit, Electronic Arts, Corio and Apple.

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Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and columnist for Inc.com. She is co-author of "The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don't Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive," as well as several other books. She lives in Snohomish, Washington. Find her at www.mindazetlin.com.  

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