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When IT Universes Collide
How 'Swing Shift' Hybrid Clouds Can Help Transition Post-M&A IT Assets
By: Steve Bulmer
Mar. 3, 2013 12:00 PM
You may be the CIO or IT manager for a fairly complex IT environment. You also may already have begun moving your data center to a private cloud paradigm that offers greater efficiency and agility to meet your company's needs.
While there are still a few challenges to work through, most days seem to run fairly smoothly. In the course of a week, however, the landscape changes. You are suddenly drawn into discussions with company management about a potential acquisition or merger in the works.
How do you advise your company on the impact of bringing both IT worlds together, let alone how best to navigate, post-M&A, the smooth integration of the other company's IT assets with yours?
As it turns out, a hybrid cloud paradigm - used in what I call 'swing-shift' mode - may be one way to mitigate risk when integrating IT worlds after a corporate merger or acquisition.
Expanding Use Cases for Hybrid Cloud
1. Cloud Bursting
Using hybrid cloud to temporarily boost in-house compute cycles can give companies an extra weapon in the capacity-planning arsenal and a better way to balance capital expenditures with on-going operating expenses. Capital expenditures can be budgeted to meet a company's general, steady-state processing capacity while operating expenses are contracted based on usage in order to meet a yearly services rush. The business advantage to buying-for-the-surge is that the additional cost can be associated with the specific event. Subsequent cost/benefit analysis is then focused on that specific event.
2. Swing-Shift IT Integration (Post-M&A)
This type of hybrid cloud usage can help address many of the challenges that occur when acquiring companies with technology assets. Such challenges include:
In each of these cases, the acquirer may be unwilling to bring such IT assets onto the network or into the data center too quickly or without ample triage around the migration approach. In contrast, a hybrid cloud environment can provide a temporary holding place for users' desktops, mailboxes, or even certain business applications. For the acquiring company it can offer a useful virtual, 'cleansing' environment to use as a base prior to ingesting into the permanent environment.
Swing Shift Hybrid Cloud in Action
In 2011, Gartner published its own case study surrounding international Milwaukee-based manufacturer Brady Corporation that had acquired 50 companies in relative short order. The case study, "Brady Corporation: Hybrid cloud sourcing accelerates post-merger integration," [ID Number: G00211838] described various ways the company was able to leverage cloud services to help it migrate IT infrastructure and systems following its various acquisitions.
In late 2012, enterprise cloud provider Virtustream also shared how Domino Sugar used its hybrid cloud services to migrate and integrate IT assets from a recently acquired holding, Tate & Lyle Sugars. In this case, Domino Sugar had to first 'carve out' Tate & Lyle Sugars' business applications from its prior parent company's IT environment before the newly acquired company could be integrated into Domino Sugar's IT environment. At the time, Domino Sugar was also using Virtustream cloud services. To aid the process, the cloud provider deployed an on-premise cloud appliance at Tate & Lyle Sugars' U.K. data center. It then connected the appliance to its own off-premise cloud nodes in the U.S. A post-merger integration, migration and archiving methodology was followed by Virtustream in order to successfully transition and merge IT assets between Domino and Tate & Lyle. [See press release dated 09/13/2012, "Cloud Leveraged for a Rapid Post-Acquisition Integration of Tate & Lyle Sugars." ]
Such use cases highlight hybrid cloud's ability to serve a number of functions, including its use as a viable staging and filtering area for incoming IT assets stemming from a recent acquisition.
Swing-Shift Hybrids: What You Need to Know
Here, it might be helpful to consider that much of the same methodologies and planning apply to the post-M&A environment as they do when you are conducting other major data center transformation efforts:
In all cases, a wide variety of large and small details and dependencies must be identified, evaluated and addressed. Experienced IT advisors can help minimize a company's risk during this process. This includes knowing where best to employ a hybrid cloud to further minimize risk and streamline integration. Armed with this type of advice, a company in the midst of M&A activity should be able to better address:
Among the points identified earlier in this article, organizations also need to take a closer look at certain IT management elements like data protection and security. The term "hybrid cloud" implies that certain controls like authentication and management/monitoring can be extended from your company to the cloud provider. Even disaster recovery may need to be considered and included. Organizations should also spend time looking at the provider's data migration plan and application migration strategy since the data originates from an external source, the acquired company.
This is also an area where details really matter. A service provider that can effectively serve the role of a swing-shift hybrid cloud provider must exhibit the appropriate level of technical expertise, technological capabilities and customer references. The provider's contract and service level agreement must also have much of these details spelled out before you sign on the dotted line. IT advisors can help in this type of vetting process as well.
Once you have a viable roadmap to help navigate through these potential obstacles, hybrid cloud used in this type of swing-shift mode can be a very satisfying and efficient way to ease the burden of acquisitions. It can also help ease IT operational headaches and smooth the integration of an acquired company's people, processes and IT assets.
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