Writer Drew Robb contributed to this article.
Some businesses have held back and been hesitant to adopt cloud technology for any use cases. But as the COVID-19 pandemic reached its height and businesses were stalled with employees working remotely, many felt the need to quickly move some or all of their workspaces into a flexible cloud environment.
For organizations that still weren’t sure how they could both maintain business operations and meet new challenges with the cloud, hybrid cloud solutions arose to meet their multifaceted needs and help them to manage legacy systems.
As more companies move into the hybrid space, watch for more emphasis on finding the right mix of cloud and on-premises technology, figuring out when to use which cloud, and building up a more unified security front:
10 Hybrid Trends
- Open-source clouds for specific use cases
- Finding unified solutions for security and compliance
- Recognizing vendor vs. customer data responsibilities
- The rise of cloud bursting
- Scaling or migrating back after cloud
- Cloud retooling
- Cloud-native applications need a hybrid approach
- Talent crunch influences hybrid cloud
- Vendors adjust to hybrid cloud
- Storage backbone enabler
Many organizations were reluctant to move to the cloud because of the apparent learning curve to get started, but others feared they would suffer from vendor lock-in and limitations as soon as they made their decision.
Open-source hybrid clouds have risen in popularity to combat this problem, making it possible to choose the right cloud or on-premises setups for each use case. Most cloud vendors offer hybrid cloud platforms that connect best with their public clouds, but some solutions, such as IBM Cloud Satellite, are working to architect solutions among any public cloud, on-premises, or edge computing setup.
Hillery Hunter, IBM fellow, VP, and CTO of IBM Cloud, one of the largest cloud computing providers, explained some of the additional benefits of adopting an open-source solution:
“Open, hybrid cloud platforms are driving the market conversation,” Hunter said. “An open, hybrid cloud architecture can connect and standardize development, operations, and security across any infrastructure, from private data centers to public clouds – and all the way to the edges of the network.”
Kris Sharma, financial services lead at Canonical, publisher of Ubuntu, explained how open-source solutions are quickly democratizing cloud application development and giving customers more growth potential in their infrastructure:
“Open hybrid cloud will allow firms to manage not only their current public and private clouds, but those they may add in the future,” Sharma said. “Open hybrid cloud will enable scaling and app deployment across public and private clouds for greater consistency and efficiency.
“Cloud agnostic services developed with open, common standards can push the standard of cloud proficiency and allow companies greater control over their enterprise cloud solutions. Reusing software stacks, libraries, and components will also create more common ground between applications for interoperability.”
While clouds can offer new security opportunities, they also introduce data and systems to new risks without the legacy security implemented on-premises.
As a hybrid cloud approach continues to grow more commonplace, users are looking for ways to get out of their security silos and unify security best practices across all cloud and on-premises environments. Some of the top solutions that organizations are pursuing include:
- Working with a managed services provider (MSP) for security needs
- Establishing zero-trust policies and solutions
- Merging DevOps best practices with on-premises strengths like network-based visibility
Arwa Kaddoura, VP of worldwide sales and go-to-market lead for HPE GreenLake Cloud Services, a cloud services provider, cited the advantages that automation brings in unifying security best practices:
“Companies are maturing in their cloud journey and focused on optimizing the operations of their public and on-premises cloud infrastructure,” Kaddoura said. “The key is to leverage automation wherever possible and create policies and processes that ensure both on-premises and off-premises are highly secured and protected. Companies cannot afford siloed governance between on-premises infrastructure and the cloud.
“For organizations invested in hybrid cloud, they’re now directing efforts toward ensuring hybrid governance across cloud, on-premises, and edge locations, with consistent security, financial governance, predictability of demand, and similar policies across the entire hybrid estate.”
Another growing solution for meeting security and compliance requirements is industry-specific clouds. Hunter, from IBM, explained the value of developing more specific cloud infrastructure:
“The regulatory landscape continues to become more complex, and companies are balancing strategic investments in hybrid cloud with the need to remain compliant,” Hunter said.
She specifically offered up IBM Cloud for Financial Services and IBM Cloud for Telecommunications as examples of how cloud providers are meeting compliance requirements by industry.
When enterprises move their applications and systems to the cloud, many make the costly mistake of assuming the cloud vendor will take care of all security needs.
Clouds are typically designed with several embedded security features but that doesn’t mean providers have all the industry-specific knowledge and security tools necessary to protect customer data.
Anthony Cusimano, solutions evangelist at Veritas Technologies, a top enterprise data protection solution, shared a study that sheds more light on this misconception: 69% of respondents were under the impression that cloud service providers can be held solely responsible for data protection, privacy, and compliance on the cloud.
“Read any EULA from a cloud provider and you’ll discover that simply isn’t true,” said Cusimano. “This highlights the need for solutions to protect and manage your data no matter where it resides within your hybrid IT infrastructure.”
Isaac Roybal, head of product, cloud, and solutions marketing at Qumulo, a data storage company, encourages cloud users to ask these questions to take ownership of their data and protect it across their hybrid cloud infrastructure:
“In order to ensure that your hybrid cloud model is secure, you need to understand the security aspects you’re responsible for and those your cloud provider is responsible for,” Roybal said.
“For example: Does your cloud provider offer threat detection tools? What tools are in place for access management (MFA, provisioned access, etc.)? How do your application’s built-in security features integrate with your cloud provider’s security tools and services?”
Cloud bursting is a strategic design move in which a private cloud can “burst” into a public cloud during peak operational hours when it requires additional resources. The concept has been around for many years, but as recently as this spring IBM used cloud bursting to optimize electronic design automation (EDA).
But it’s not just large tech companies that are experimenting with cloud bursting. Many retailers have adopted this technique to provide a better customer experience during peak business hours.
Stephen Light, co-owner of Nolah Mattress, explained how cloud bursting has helped his business:
“Hybrid cloud technology allowed us to use cloud bursting, [which was] particularly useful during peak hours,” Light said. “Cloud bursting gave our employees and customers a smoother experience by renting public cloud systems whenever our system can’t handle the current demand.”
Several companies bought into the early hype of cloud migration and immediately migrated all their assets, without considering which clouds make the most sense and if the cloud is the right solution for all their data and systems.
As a result, a growing number of organizations are keeping their legacy systems on-premises or moving legacy systems back to their original on-premises location.
Roybal at Qumulo, the data storage company, explained why so many organizations are reversing previous cloud migrations:
“Organizations are realizing that not every application is designed to leave the enterprise data center,” Roybal said. “If a legacy application is dependent on a specific type of storage or throughput requirements, for example, it’s going to be costly to refactor the application to move it to the cloud.
“[According to Virtana‘s State of Hybrid Cloud survey report,] seventy-two percent of enterprises who moved applications to the cloud have moved at least one app back on-premise. However, ‘de-migration’ doesn’t mean leaving the cloud altogether. It often will look like moving from the public cloud to the private cloud or from one public cloud to another that can support specific application requirements – rather than leaving the cloud altogether.”
The pandemic changed digital transformation of the enterprise from a buzzword to a business imperative. IT managers raced to modernize and increasingly migrated workloads to the cloud. We now see the true cost.
The ad hoc rush to the cloud created disjointed approaches between IT organizations and internal lines of business. IT leaders found themselves grappling with the sheer complexity of managing the cloud, unable to give attention to optimization.
Now, we’re living in a complex world of distributed environments with multicloud and hybrid cloud. The question is how do you ensure your cloud is a lever for innovation?
“In 2022, IT leaders will rethink their approach to cloud and will retool to design, build, and optimize distributed, hybrid, and multi-cloud deployments for resiliency, adaptability, and cost,” said Samta Bansal, global consulting strategy leader, Hitachi Vantara.
Large companies are now making investments in modern cloud-native applications.
Most of them are empowering their developers to leverage and use cloud infrastructure and are starting with small projects by building modern applications using public cloud infrastructure.
“But these applications need to access resources, like databases and other legacy applications that are hosted on-premises,” said Ratan Tipirneni, president and CEO, Tigera.
“These databases may contain confidential or sensitive information and enterprises are unwilling to move them to the cloud. This requires a hybrid cloud architecture.”
Hanging over hybrid cloud is the question of skilled talent. Organizations must assess whether their talent pool has the skills to operate and manage complex distributed, hybrid cloud environments.
“Enterprises must make knowledgeable resources a priority and decide what can be done in-house and what’s better as a service,” said Bansal with Hitachi Vantara.
“Leaning into services can be the safest way for enterprise IT leaders to leap beyond cloud challenges and get back to focusing on data-driven innovation.”
For those with plenty of skilled in-house resources, the balance of workloads will be internal. But for those lacking talent, most workloads will migrate to the cloud and only a few will remain inside. The key at that point is skilled management of cloud costs and processes.
Vendors are no longer intent on moving everyone to the public cloud. Many are now happy to accommodate hybrid configurations where certain workloads remain on premises.
For example, Microsoft’s Azure Stack HCI allows organizations to run Windows and Linux virtual machines (VMs) in the data center or at the edge using existing tools, processes, and skill sets.
Azure Virtual Desktop for Azure Stack HCI, which is currently in public preview, lets users deploy AVD session hosts to their on-premises Azure Stack HCI infrastructure, and they can also use AVD for Azure Stack HCI to manage session hosts from the Azure portal.
“Many organizations are seeing the benefits of public cloud virtual desktop solutions, such as Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), but need to maintain some of their desktops and infrastructure on-premises or in a private cloud,” said Vadim Vladimirskiy, co-founder and CEO, Nerdio.
“Common reasons are compliance and security or vendor lock-in as a result of signing multi-year contracts in advance.”
As this solution emerges into the marketplace, it can offer several benefits, such as improving performance for Azure Virtual Desktop users in areas with poor connectivity to the Azure public cloud, by giving them session hosts closer to their location.
It can also meet data locality requirements by keeping user and application data on-premises. And it can improve access to legacy on-premises apps and data sources, by keeping virtual desktops and apps in the same location, as well as reduce costs and improve user experience with Windows 10 and Windows 11 Enterprise multi-session virtual desktops, according to Vladimirskiy.
Storage is an enabler of hybrid environments, said Bansal with Hitachi Vantara.
Storage must be capable of getting business initiatives up and running quickly, smoothly and with optimal performance characteristics, and mixing it between a company’s cloud enabled on-premises and off-premises storage resources — be it co-loco or hyperscaler cloud.
“This is the only way to power innovation and reap the benefits of distributed, hybrid, and multi-cloud environments in terms of reliability, scalability, and accessibility for any organization of today,” Bansal said.
Read next: Data Analytics Market Trends 2021