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Building a successful hybrid cloud strategy

Cloud was once the answer to every IT problem that an organisation faced. Now, it’s more likely to be the source of questions and confusion, as marketing hype around “hybrid cloud” obscures the benefits that cloud should be bringing to the enterprise.

Sometimes it seems like the true meaning of hybrid cloud has got lost in the marketing hype; the once-clear concept of cloud computing being replaced by an alphabet soup of acronyms and initialisms, such as PaaS, IaaS, SaaS.

Today, new challenges, workloads and regulatory requirements are forcing enterprises to take a fresh look at their IT infrastructure, and making them realise that their IT environments are much less “hybrid” than they once believed. When overworked IT managers are spending all their time just “keeping the lights on”, they need clear guidance that enables them to cut through the jargon and understand how to start unlocking the benefits of truly “hybrid” cloud.

Hybrid cloud – what it isn’t

There’s a widespread belief that hybrid cloud is merely a mix between on-premises computing while moving some workloads to a public cloud provider.

But a company server room is not the same as a private cloud, and it can never be part of a hybrid cloud estate. Private cloud is something very specific: based, like public cloud, on scalable, self-service resources that can be spun up or down very quickly, but which is based on a proprietary (rather than shared) architecture.

Nor is successful hybrid cloud adoption a matter of having both private and public options. It is a question of strategy, and the ability of an organisation to move workloads to the most appropriate part of their hybrid infrastructure, based on requirements for security, access, cost, ease of collaboration, workflows and processes, and regulatory requirements.

Costs of cloud confusion

Failing to understand hybrid cloud leads to extra expense, greater inefficiencies, and an overall less coherent IT strategy – precisely the opposite of what cloud is supposed to achieve.

An un-strategic, uninformed approach to hybrid cloud puts the organisation at risk of data breaches and means that it is unlikely to unlock the benefits of new technologies which depend on cloud – such as developments in automation, Internet of Things, Big Data and analytics that are powering digital transformation across a range of enterprises.

It is also very costly in terms of time. The hard-pressed IT manager, struggling to resource line-of-business applications, must somehow find time to manage their sprawling IT estate, while the organisation will suffer from the delays and inefficiencies in provisioning the services and applications they need to do their job.

Towards a truly hybrid strategy

Cloud is not a one-size-fits-all solution to business challenges, and any hybrid strategy must clearly set out what the most urgent priorities that a business wants to achieve. Typically, this will include controlled costs; access to more resources, such as applications, compute and storage; enhanced security; greater flexibility; and self-service provisioning.

So aside from the important question of developing the private and public cloud infrastructure that will form the hybrid environment, enterprises must give careful thought to their strategic needs. For example, they must plan for the precise applications they want their hybrid cloud to support, such as analytics or AI programmes, and then work out which cloud – public or private – is best suited for the specific tasks involved.

Private cloud, for example, gives much greater control and security, and is therefore the best place for storing sensitive information, while the lower costs and economies of scale provided by public cloud make it better suited for intensive but less business-critical workloads, such as test and development.

Too often an enterprise will rush into hybrid cloud deployments without having a proper understanding of how it will support their strategic objectives. What’s more, it threatens to create many problems down the line, not least with the complex migration and integration process between the public and private spheres.

Businesses shouldn’t be fearful of implementing hybrid cloud, but they should be led by a clear idea of what they want to achieve – rather than access to new cloud products and services, they should be thinking about the long-term strategic value that their hybrid cloud will deliver.