In content management, what’s the difference between a hybrid cloud and a hybrid cloud?

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Well… our recent research has shown that although “hybrid” has been catapulted into the centre of vendors’ marketing word-clouds in large friendly letters, when we scratch the surface we find the term’s being stretched to cover a number of different capabilities.

What’s driving this race to capture the middle ground? Enterprise customers beyond the born-in-the-cloud digital vanguard (i.e. those with regulatory pressures to contend with, or those who fear latency in information access or storage in the cloud) now comprise a significant target market of “everybody else” that vendors are keen to woo as the market matures. In order to appear relevant and attractive to the large proportion of organisations that are cloud-pragmatic, vendors of all persuasions are flaunting their ‘hybrid’ credentials in an effort to tick all the right boxes in the PQQ.

In the context of Content Management, what does this actually mean? Well, there’s a wide spread of answers – depending on a given vendor’s history with respect to embracing the cloud.

Historically on-premise technology vendors coming late to the party tend to have quite sizeable supertankers to turn around as their strategic focus shifts out into the cloud, but at the same time there’s also a discrepancy between rhetoric and reality in the capability that the cloud-natives are actually able to deliver as they look to reach back into on-premise systems.

Basically: behind the ‘hybrid’ term is a whole nest of trickiness.

The technical ideal is what you might call ‘true hybrid’: all-encompassing hybrid support for both the storage and processing of content – i.e. applications running on such a platform don’t have to care about where content resides, or about where other applications they need integrate with reside.

But be careful. You could well encounter platforms that at first sound like they’re able to offer this ideal, but ultimately fall short in one respect or another:

  • They may be able to synchronise content between on-premise and cloud-based storage (often with rules-based replication so some can be firmly kept on the corporate side of the firewall if need be)…
  • Or they may be a historically on-premise platform sporting out-of-the-box connectors to SaaS offerings alongside the traditional on-premise variety (or vice versa)

– but they may not be able to do both.

Of course, you may not think this matters to you. You may be happy with where your content resides, and happy that your chosen ECM platform has it covered; and that it also plays nicely with all the applications (wherever they are) in your current environment. But… be aware that this situation is likely to change.

As your own information and technology environment becomes more blended across on-premise systems and cloud platforms and applications, will your ‘hybrid’ solution continue to be hybrid enough? That depends on the speed and direction of travel your supplier can demonstrate in its development roadmap. Your supplier may not be inclined to travel very much at all.

However, disruption comes to those who wait… and if you’’re feeling the heat in your industry, but your supplier(s) seem untroubled (or at least, under-troubled) then you’’ve outgrown them, and you’ll need to find a better fit for where you’re going.

A well-fitting, and forward-thinking content management, collaboration and/or workflow platform can not only grease your wheels to help you survive as business processes ‘go digital’. The advent of better-integrated content management and workflow engines, recommendation and intelligence capabilities that add context, and flexible solutions which effectively serve staff, customers, and partners across multiple channels; all drive the innovations which can help your business thrive. Your supplier(s) may hold you back in terms of missed top-line opportunities, and increasingly disproportionate bottom line costs (for the value they now represent).

In the coming months we’re going to be exploring these issues in significant depth and I look forward to sharing more with you.

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