Ever since businesses started speaking about the cloud, the received wisdom has been that a hybrid cloud strategy is best. Companies going down this path would get the best of both worlds - the flexibility and agility of public cloud coupled with the security of the private set-up. That’s been the case for about a decade now and it’s generally accepted without question.
But things have changed since those early days and although we talk about hybrid cloud, we’re not necessarily talking about the same thing. Definitions shift and the notion of hybrid cloud now is a very different beast.
For example, in the early days of cloud, companies would turn to one cloud provider to supply all their needs, these days they could well have several - partly for reasons of redundancy and partly because certain enterprise hosting providers have particular strengths. A company may, for example, opt for Microsoft Azure as they want the consistency of approach within an enterprise that uses Microsoft extensively in-house. But the change goes further than that: in the beginning, there were only a few cloud services from each provider, now there are dozens.
The use of multi-cloud platforms is not the only change that organisations are facing. The last ten years has also seen a move from the well-established software providers with more emphasis on cloud-native software. It wasn’t that long ago that containers were big metal boxes that were transported by ship, now they’re part of every CIO’s vocabulary.
There’s been a shift in security too. One of the biggest buzzwords in recent years has been SASE (secure access service edge), a drive to shift security away from its traditional place - a firewall at the heart of the data centre - to a more distributed approach. That in itself has changed the nature of a hybrid cloud strategy and it’s a change that could require a new set of cybersecurity skills too.
Perhaps the biggest change of all is the way that cloud has been accepted. Many organisations now have a cloud-first approach where on-premise is accepted only as a last resort. This is an inversion of the early days of hybrid where the set-up would have been mainly private cloud with some experimental moves towards cloud. Start-ups, for example, will opt for a cloud-based approach almost as a matter of course - it would be very rare to see a green-shoots business look to equip a data centre.
But that’s not to say that everything is said and done. There are still lots of grey areas for any business. Any company still has to decide how much of its infrastructure is going to sit in the cloud and how much on-premise. Any company still has to decide how to move applications to the cloud - in one fell swoop or piecemeal? Is it going to go down the container route? How does it manage the systems - particularly if there multiple cloud providers? What about costs? How can a company ensure that it’s not paying too much?
These are all complex questions to answer and many organisations won’t necessarily have the right credentials to make the right decisions. This is where it’s important to have an understanding of what the main aims of a hybrid cloud strategy are. Choosing that path because it’s the trendy thing to do is not going to be the right approach.
This is where it’s important to work with the right partner, one that will have an understanding of all cloud technologies and enterprise hosting requirements and how they can be best applied. The issues are getting more and more complex and there’s a need to have a guiding hand to help assess all the different issues.
This is particularly true if the company is going through a process of business transformation, changing a whole set of operations and a way of working at the same time as going down a new technological path. In particular, it’s important to future proof all changes so that there’s no need for another transformation two years down the line - again, the right partner will help with this.
And don’t forget the people. There’s a need to bring the staff on board with a new way of thinking and, most importantly of all, they need to have the right skillset. There’s a general shortage of cloud professionals so an enterprise hosting provider should be the first port of call.
Making the call to go with a hybrid cloud strategy is just the first step, it’s also important to ensure that the right provider is chosen. Does that provider have all the requisite skills? Can that provider handle both the in-house and cloud element? And it doesn’t just mean technical chops, it means ensuring that the right business processes are in place and that staff are fully trained. Big doesn’t necessarily mean better here: it’s more important to have the skills and mindset to be flexible - some of the larger providers may want to stick to a particular way of working, one that may not be appropriate.
hybrid cloud is still very much a way forward but businesses need to be aware of all the implications. By choosing the partner with deep technical knowledge and awareness of the way that the business landscape has shifted, any business can be assured that it’s made the right choice in sticking with the hybrid path.
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