Forrester: Tips for assessing hybrid cloud management

Cloud-native works for new workloads, but legacy IT needs a different approach, which is why IT leaders rely on hybrid cloud deployments

As more companies adopt public cloud, most choose a hybrid cloud strategy. This is because legacy workloads and applications aren’t always well suited for cloud without modernisation.

According to Forrester’s Private Cloud Market Insights, 2022, 87% of global cloud decision-makers say their organisations deploy enterprise IT workloads on public cloud, private cloud and in datacentre hosting facilities. The research found that a hybrid strategy is not easy to manage, because a static on-premise environment doesn’t align well with the dynamically changing cloud environment. This means companies can get lost in consistent management across on-premise and public cloud workloads.

Unifying workload management

As a result, most companies choose a cloud management platform, which offers them unified visibility and management across all their environments.

All the hyperscalers now offer hybrid cloud – and, to a limited extent, multicloud – management. For instance, Google enables Anthos cluster creation on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. AWS has also launched multicloud capabilities with its ECS Anywhere and EKS Anywhere services, which can manage competitor container solutions in AWS. Azure Cost Management can ingest AWS and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) billing data.

As these portfolios expand, native cloud management is slowly taking a portion of the cloud management space. The rise of cloud-native development that leverages microservices and containers means users now have suitable options for light and simple implementations. Container platforms not only accelerate software development, but also simplify container infrastructure management, act as orchestrators by automating container deployment and provisioning, and aid in scaling, monitoring and security.

Providers of container platforms, cost management tools and managed services are filling the gap to provide customers with tools that offer management across all cloud environments in a unified view.

Do you need the whole suite?

Cloud management can become big and expensive. Cloud leaders are no strangers to the sizeable software suites that plague IT teams – a single solution can take eight virtual machines (VMs) to run the software and require multimillion-dollar investment.

If you’re focusing on a specific function – cost management or security, for example – consider more targeted answers. For cost, consider cloud cost management and optimisation solutions. For security or compliance, consider solutions such as Spot by NetApp (formerly CloudCheckr), Turbot, or specialised cloud security offerings. These solutions tend to cost less and are quicker to implement – days versus months or years.

Will native management tooling do the job?

If you’re focusing mostly on one public cloud and have a light implementation, native tooling may be the best path.

Most native tools are free, such as AWS’s Trusted Advisor or Azure’s Cost Management, which offer light optimisation. Google’s Anthos, which combines Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) and GKE On-Prem, includes Istio service mesh and Config Management for network visibility and to create and enforce deployment policies.

Does your implementation focus on public cloud or private cloud?

There are hybrid solutions (with public and private capabilities), and there are multicloud solutions (public only).

If you want to build a private cloud environment, you’ll need a solution that includes cloud building capabilities (hybrid cloud management). For these scenarios, look for tools from BMC Software, Micro Focus and VMware that can build a private cloud and extend to a public cloud.

If you’re mostly focusing on public cloud, consider a lighter-weight solution such as Morpheus, Nutanix, or a standalone solution that focuses on cost or security. These solutions will be cheaper, easier to deploy and use, and include greater breadth in public cloud platform support.

Are you catering to IT leaders or developers?

There are two approaches to cloud management: “invisible cloud” – that is, having developers access all clouds through one platform and controlling what is viewable; or “invisible management” – that is, giving direct access to public clouds natively and using the management platform to manage and create policies for each integrated platform.

The invisible cloud caters to IT leaders and traditional shared services organisations that like being IT gatekeepers. It places strict limits on what cloud services developers can access and creates one experience across all cloud platforms.

The invisible management approach gives more autonomy to the developers. Policies and rules are in place, but hidden from view, and the developer gets to use the cloud platform natively along with its optimised developer experience.

Most hybrid cloud management suppliers make invisible cloud the default option, with the ability to bypass this option if invisible management is the preferred approach. The exceptions are Canonical and Morpheus.

Do you leverage third-party standards?

All-inclusive tools deliver a lot of functionality, which simplifies integration and allows one tool to solve many problems. Most cloud platform providers support these standards directly, so if your hybrid cloud management tool doesn’t, don’t fret.

Furthermore, seasoned management suppliers provide a “user’s choice” solution within the product, with the ability to swap out that functionality for alternatives. Because users commonly integrate with popular tools – such as Ansible, Chef, Helm, Kubernetes [K8s], Puppet, Splunk, or Terraform – hybrid cloud management providers often deliver pre-built integrations.

What licence model do you want?

BMC Software, Micro Focus and VMware offer a traditional perpetual model as well as subscription licensing. Built-for-purpose tools such as Densify and Flexera One exclusively offer subscription pricing models.

Keep in mind that subscription refers to the method of payment and doesn’t mean software as a service (SaaS). Software that’s SaaS-based means the solution is supplier hosted, supplier managed, microservices based and remote. Most suppliers provide both subscription and perpetual licence options for their products but don’t yet provide SaaS-based versions of all their offerings.

Cloud spend or resources managed?

Suppliers in the hybrid cloud management market typically price by cloud spend (either total spend or compute spend) or by resource unit (per core, VM, or container). Until you know your sample usage, it’s difficult to determine which supplier’s model will work best for your organisation.

Almost everyone prices by resources managed, except cloud cost management solutions, which are priced by cloud spend. Two examples of cloud cost management solutions that price by percentage of cloud spend are Apptio and VMware. Some suppliers go beyond cloud spend or resources managed by offering additional features such as pricing tiers, unlimited usage, or special non-profit terms.

A confusing picture

In the past few years, the hybrid cloud management space has evolved to include suppliers outside of the traditional management space, thus making the selection process for hybrid cloud management confusing.

Besides the common conflation of the terms “hybrid cloud” and “multicloud”, other factors are at play.

Public cloud providers are aggressively building out their management capabilities and offering these tools, mostly free of charge. And as cloud-native development and containers become the common route for app developers, container platforms are adding in their own management capabilities as well.

Many Forrester clients ask for a checklist of nuanced key questions to help them make the best decisions. Enterprise IT decision-makers should start by reviewing whether they own the software, as they may already have access to hybrid cloud management tools. It is also worth considering the fact that products you’re already paying for will give you easier integration and cost optimisation.

This article is an excerpt from The Forrester buying guide for hybrid cloud management, 2023, by Tracy Woo and Guannan Lu, with contributions from Lauren Nelson, Alexander Soley, Arthur Ross and Diane Lynch.

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