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The future of hybrid cloud

Vikram Balakrishna

Consider the transport infrastructure of any major city in the world today. It is invariably a mix of public transport (train, metro, bus, etc.), personal transport (commuter taxis, auto-rickshaws, personal vehicles), as well as walking and cycling. In other words, these options are all very hybrid, but share the single aim of getting people from point A to point B in the fastest, most cost-effective, and risk-free manner.

If we apply this analogy to the world of enterprise IT, we see that the infrastructure requirements for applications and workloads have evolved while increasing capabilities in cloud continue to influence the way traditional and next-gen applications are hosted. Despite the momentum gained on the public-cloud front, there still is a need to host some applications and data in a more “private” environment – hence, the need for a hybrid cloud. A hybrid cloud is a cloud-computing environment that uses a mix of public and private cloud (e.g. on-prem) cloud services with orchestration between platforms. It is essentially an integrated cloud service where private and public services are used together to create maximum value.

We are all (mostly) aware that, as we shift towards next-gen, cloud-native applications developed in agile and DevOps approaches, many enterprises are still using a number of traditional applications, including systems of record (ERP, CRM, etc.). Here, some applications are suited for public cloud and others are better on prem. Moreover, the emergence of containers and serverless methods can result in higher degrees of portability and abstraction. These requirements mean that from an infrastructure perspective, a hybrid model is necessary.

Yet several pain points exist. These include changes in business processes, increased complexity of multi-vendor management, data movement/migration limitations, data governance across a multi-cloud environment, and above all, additional security and data sovereignty. If enterprise IT is to support digital business in the longer run, these challenges must be overcome and a robust hybrid-cloud strategy must be developed. Only then will it be possible to efficiently deliver the applications and services and meet business needs.

From conversations with Gartner analysts at the IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference 2019, it is evident that the majority (around 90%) of enterprise IT firms will adopt a hybrid approach to their infrastructure landscape in the next two years. Needless to say, every IT environment will certainly be a hybrid mix of public IaaS, private IaaS (on-prem), value-added PaaS from co-lo vendors, and SaaS.

Using these separately has its own pros and cons, but when combined, they are a force to be reckoned with. Now, all these assume that organizations are primed to be more data-driven, security-focused, and most definitely, look at business growth with IT as an accelerator. Furthermore, hybrid-cloud options are ideally suited to meet these needs as compliance regulations such as the GDPR and other data sovereignty norms become more stringent. There certainly could be various combinations to deliver a hybrid strategy. Some of the key must-haves include:

  • A clear, multi-public cloud enablement platform
  • Modernized on-premises and private cloud environments to meet the operational capabilities similar to those on the public cloud
  • Strong monitoring and orchestration capabilities that are heavily automated and have real-time operational visibility while providing consistency across different environments
  • Strong integration capabilities across multiple environments and a multi-tool ecosystem
  • A next-gen operating model that allows for extensibility into the growing trends around DevSecOps, insights-oriented, AI-driven, Edge and IoT disruptions that will also mandate the need for new set of infrastructure KPIs and metrics
  • All-new development that takes advantage of the portability of containers and microservices, and leverages serverless architecture where possible
  • Stringent security models that adhere to all network and data compliance requirements.

For businesses looking at transformation, driving innovation or future-proofing themselves, hybrid cloud is certainly the route to take. The industry is in a state of maturity today, as challenges involving designing, architecting, building, and operating a hybrid setup have already been addressed. This implies that when it comes to the right mix of solutions and tool providers, it’s much easier to customize – often at lower cost – and simplify management while ensuring high availability, resiliency, and scalability.

To adopt and derive the maximum value from a hybrid-cloud strategy, organizations should take control of the current landscape. A maturity assessment across multiple dimensions spanning business, functional, technological, and financial areas will help bring out the futurist in everyone. The hybrid vision should look at the next three to five years, which implies close alignment with future business and technology initiatives. Current business models will be continuously subject to disruptions, primarily influenced by real-time data analytics and AI-influenced decision making. This journey must include making watchful investments and careful planning with respect to initiatives. To test whether a hybrid-cloud strategy will be successful, organizations must ask the following questions:

  1. Will operational costs be reduced by more than 20%, with rationalization of traditional workloads, mostly hosted on legacy infrastructure?
  2. Will this strategy facilitate on-demand provisioning and capacity increases in less than 60 minutes?
  3. Will it provide for scalable cloud back-ups for more than 90%of the landscape?
  4. Will new application development be supported by agile cloud environments, decreasing time to market by 50%?
  5. Will at least 60% of the workload migrations be container-based?
  6. Will 90% of seasonal transaction systems with surges leverage public cloud for unforeseen bursts?

Such objectives will provide a clear view of a well-formed hybrid-cloud strategy and help take the necessary measures to adapt for success.

In conclusion
From cloud-first, mobility-first, automation-first to AI-first, we are living in an era of rapid technology acceleration – and it will only continue this way. Hybrid-cloud solutions are uniquely suited to provide the benefits of containers and public clouds (flexible and fast) with private cloud (secure and self-managed) without the need for massive capital expenditure. This is particularly valuable for dynamic workloads that experience transient data across multiple environments and security boundaries while meeting the goals of tight coupling of IT and business teams to provide greater visibility and alignment through the hybrid-cloud strategy. It is an absolute must to validate the various capabilities panning enhanced security, data related norms, performance, flexibility, and costs – all with a view to being customizable for future needs while embarking on this journey.

Thank you for reading. For more information and continuing evolving trends around this topic you can reach out to me.


Vikram Balakrishna

Expert in Cloud, DevOps