Q&A: IBM Cloud CTO Hillery Hunter Talks Hybrid, Multi-Cloud

Organizations may find themselves at the center of increasingly complex cloud environments stitched together from different services.

Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer

November 5, 2019

4 Min Read
Hillery Hunter, vice-president and CTO of IBM Cloud<p>Image: Joao-Pierre Ruth

The path to a hybrid, multi-cloud environment can be confusing, but there may be ways to take some of the pain out of the transition.

Hillery Hunter, vice-president and CTO of IBM Cloud, spoke at the ONUG (The Open Networking User Group) Conference in October on a panel for town hall on challenges organizations might faces as they go hybrid and multi-cloud.

Hunter spoke separately with InformationWeek about hybrid, multi-cloud picking up momentum and the demands of organizations facing change in this new frontier.


What challenges can arise as organizations become hybrid, multi-cloud environments?

There was an initial wave of cloud adoption and cloud adoption enthusiasm that was very focused on public cloud. But we see a significant transition happening as people ask why they were doing that, what was the purpose of it, and how can they actually architect a cloud strategy moving forward. That’s the conversation we see as being really relevant for the IT-oriented, Fortune 2000 client base. Companies have a deep responsibility for protecting client data. Many of them also have a deep responsibility to regulators that are overseeing their protections. As those nuances emerge, they’re entering “chapter two” of the cloud conversation. How do I get a whole architecture for the cloud that encompasses what I was doing in IT previously, that encompasses what I started doing in public cloud? That often leads to a much more nuanced conversation that is hybrid, multi-cloud.

It’s multi-cloud because of the reality that multiple cloud usages have sprung up, sometimes from different lines of business. Sometimes because of the different features and functions of public clouds. It’s hybrid meaning the combination of private and public, because not everything has immediate ROI to move to the public cloud. From our perspective, the conversation is about enabling clients to create a holistic cloud architecture. We think there’s key foundational, technical enablement points for that.

What should organizations consider as hybrid, multi-cloud environments are established?

A hybrid, multi-cloud needs to have some degree of openness or it’s not going to be multi and it’s not going to be hybrid or manageable. A lot of people are looking now for consistency across these environments. The reality is that it’s multi-cloud because of the different opportunities, different environments, different choices, and different lines of business. People are looking for open source and open standards to be a big part of their choice because they don’t want to get locked in. They’re seeing this as a more complex conversation. We see security and compliance as major technical decision-making criteria. We’re leaning heavily into that area.

What may organizations face after they start down the hybrid, multi-cloud path?

We see that as you’re moving past initial enthusiastic adoption of public cloud, a lot of times you get into nuanced conversations about data privacy, data protection, and data policy. We’re investing a lot in data governance, key management, data protection, encryption, and cryptography in order to create a consistent environment from a security and compliance perspective across the multi-cloud landscape and also in our public cloud.

The last emphasis is on management as it relates to even our acquisition of Red Hat, which is giving us this platform that’s available across all of our cloud environments. Management, not just of clusters but of things at the application, workload level and getting a grip on your data.  It’s really where it all comes together.

A lot of this seems transitional. Is hybrid, multi-cloud a short-term phase that will be replaced when the next big evolution hits?

When I talk to clients, I say, ‘Can you point out to me this spectrum of zero to 100% cloud adoption, where are you?’ We find that most people are down in the no more than 20% of their workload moved yet, which means there’s masses of content out there, masses of workload out there where not even the private cloud transition has been made. So, then there’s the step to visualization, the step to containerization -- and then there’s the decision if it is private or public. All of those things are being analyzed with pretty nuanced and deeper ROI tradeoffs. IBM Services has an IBM Garage methodology, which engages more at the developer level that’s got our hands on the keyboard. Let’s rip the application apart; let’s use the latest techniques. From that perspective, everywhere from developer engagement of trying to reconstruct and build new things, to the larger conversation on modernization of workloads that our services business do -- we see hybrid, multi-cloud as something that will be there for quite some time. That means people are now making a long-term architecture choice.

About the Author(s)

Joao-Pierre S. Ruth

Senior Writer

Joao-Pierre S. Ruth has spent his career immersed in business and technology journalism first covering local industries in New Jersey, later as the New York editor for Xconomy delving into the city's tech startup community, and then as a freelancer for such outlets as TheStreet, Investopedia, and Street Fight. Joao-Pierre earned his bachelor's in English from Rutgers University. Follow him on Twitter: @jpruth.

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