Business is fast-paced and unpredictable, with constant pressure to respond to market changes; business growth, geographical expansion, seasonal fluctuations and rolling-out new services or products all bringing challenges.
Companies require flexible IT to move at the speed of the business and there is a growing consensus that hybrid clouds should provide exactly this. The offer of being able to move IT resources seamlessly from the private to public cloud and back again as needed is beckoning organisations who want greater agility but without risk and the additional capex. But it seems many hybrid solutions are not all they promise to be. This is where the power of ‘and’, not ‘or’, should be the guiding light.
In theory, by blending the best of private and public solutions to form a hybrid cloud, enterprises can ensure they have the security, continuity and control they require for sensitive data; whilst being able to scale out quickly and cost-effectively when there’s a last minute service launch or marketing campaign.
What I consider to be a ‘true’ hybrid solution means the market no longer has to choose between traditional apps or cloud native apps, IT or developers, on-premise or off premise, safety, security and compliance or instantaneous access, elasticity and self-service coming to the detriment of their everyday working life, bottom line or agility.
It is possible to have it all, replacing the ‘or’ dilemma with a simple ‘and’ experience. Hybrid cloud should enable the seamless transfer of workloads between public clouds and on-premise environments with the click of a mouse, giving complete freedom and control.
The success of many of the world’s fastest and most innovative organisations hangs upon hybrid cloud delivering what it should. Even many of the companies known for their cloud-native core business applications have needs around traditional applications and sensitive data that do not fit the pure public cloud services they are known for. They often keep back-end databases, where all code is written and users’ data stored, within their on-premise network to keep everything cost-effectively secure, as well as needing to run more traditional back office applications to run and administer their business.
However, the front-end apps, the bits and pieces that end-users interact with on-screen, are probably stored in the public cloud; giving them the ability to scale capacity up and down to meet the traffic spikes that come with the variable needs demanded by their cloud consumer customer base, and to take advantage of other cloud services like Mobile Back-End-as-a-Service. Being able to run and manage these as one platform is the best of all cloud worlds.
Today two thirds of global IT decision makers say their current cloud solution is hybrid and IDC estimates hybrid cloud architectures will dominate beyond 2020. However the same research suggests that all not might be as it should – revealing that many users are still struggling against the very issues hybrid was created to solve: security and confidentiality (35%), complexity (32%) and expense (25%). I’ve personally spoken to companies who’ve bought into something labelled as a hybrid solution but have then found they’ve been trapped by the or dilemma. Applications have to be one platform or another; once they’ve migrated a set of apps into the public cloud, they can’t move them back without incurring extreme expenses, if at all. When they want to migrate applications which were developed on one cloud provider’s infrastructure to another, they are told they can’t do it. Migration becomes a one-time, one-way decision which limits their flexibility and actually increases their costs as they have to maintain modern siloes and a whole new set of integration tools. They’re also unable to use existing software licenses and lose any seamless third party integrations deployed through existing software. The combined effect being that automation and orchestration across all environments is impossible, as is enforcing policy governance.
I’d argue that these issues are because the original public cloud platforms are fundamentally different – you have to change everything about the way they work, which rules out seamless integration. This is why we see a whole new marketplace of immature solutions claiming to solve a part of the problem – like import tools claiming to be hybrid cloud management. How could a ‘portal’ claiming to allow migration of applications and workloads between many different clouds possibly keep up with platforms changing their features every few weeks?
What then should IT decision makers be pushing vendors for before making investments to ensure they really are getting a legitimate hybrid solution? The three key things to keep in mind when looking beneath the surface of any product’s promise are: consistent management, third party integration and a common API which spans all hybrid cloud scenarios. A simple initial checklist to confirm that you are talking about hybrid would be:
- Do my existing management, security and automation tools extend to manage the public cloud?
- Can I move (not migrate) my existing applications (with the same OS’s, configuration, and network configurations) to the public cloud and back again, when I want?
- Do I always know exactly where my data and application services are running, and can they be on the same local wire speed physical and logical network as my traditional infrastructure?
Without these qualities the variation in your infrastructure will be huge – which will cause communication and compatibility issues, and ultimately drive up expenses and remove all chance of operating with agility. Thinking strategically about business and IT objectives is also vital. What might fit today’s immediate IT need may not be right for the business later down the line and it could prove expensive to change course. A truly hybrid solution and a good provider should allow for flexibility.
By asking the right questions of vendors and planning ahead, enterprises can avoid being taken in by cloud washing and ensure they’re committing to a truly hybrid solution.
After all, it’s only a genuinely seamless, flexible, multi-platform environment that will give them the agility and choice that they need to compete in today’s business race: giving them the power of and.