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Stakes raised for hybrid cloud as complexity challenges continue

Hybrid cloud may be with us for some time, so what does that mean for cloud provision in 2022?

Cloud providers should be looking to support larger leaps into cloud that ensure organisations can respond to growing complexity, industry players have suggested.

Felicity March, security and resiliency practice leader at Kyndryl UK and Ireland (UK&I), tells Computer Weekly that the IT industry has reached “an inflection point” on data’s importance with ramifications for hybrid cloud.

“It’s about data insights, reliability, resiliency and security – to ensure that companies can disrupt faster, maintain their brand and their integrity and maximise revenue,” she says.

At the same time, a “one cloud approach” can concentrate risk and doesn’t provide companies with sufficient functionality and availability, especially at the bleeding edge of their industry.

“And in truth, not many companies have all their environments in the cloud and in one cloud only. On-premise, legacy, private cloud and edge are all part of the architecture,” March adds.

Digital transformation, including the journey to cloud, can be about organisations solving the increasing complexity of the IT environment. Yet there’s a rising tide of legacy IT assets to deal with.

This all underlines that getting hybrid cloud right will be key, with users and organisations more aware of the challenges than ever as a result of the pandemic-related business disruptions of 2020-2021.

“To increase reliability and resiliency and create the right technology environment for a disruptive digital transformation, a hybrid platform approach is key,” March says.

Ideally, infrastructure should be supplier-agnostic and enable the whole IT estate to be managed as a single entity. This should facilitate the development of insights pulled from all data sources as well as diluting risk – and that’s what she is seeing in the market.

“It’s about designing data flows and resiliency and security to support an inevitably complex and modern cloud architecture,” March adds.

Cloud providers should be looking to unify hybrid architectures to support not only cohesiveness but security and resilience for both public and private sector organisations. This is a notion with which Paul Stapley, cloud practice director at Logicalis UK&I, agrees, identifying hybrid cloud as a staple that could be with us for five to 10 more years.

“That whole initial surge of cloud and fury has, I suppose, largely died down,” Stapley says. “People are more circumspect now about what to move. What does it actually mean to move to cloud and how sensible is that?”

This tallies with Flexera’s 2021 State of the cloud report, which in 2020 found that 82% of organisations had some flavour of hybrid cloud, with 90% of all 750 respondents also saying their total cloud usage looked to be higher than expected due to the pandemic. On average, 39% predicted increased cloud spend in the next 12 months, with 24% already over budget.

Customer organisations are becoming much more strategic about their investments in people skills, rewriting applications, building environments and so on – and sometimes looking to get out of cloud investments they have already made, Stapley says.

Taking comfort from cloud

While perhaps some workloads might be moving back on-premise, Stapley doubts that’s as prevalent as some commentators have suggested. What’s more, a flight from the cloud back to on-premise is likely to be about poor governance, he says.

“The maturity of cloud means that people are more comfortable; the old security concerns or three or four years ago don’t really exist in the same way,” Stapley continues. “There’s so much innovation in cloud, and that’s the draw.”

Stapley adds that the internet of things (IoT) and edge alone will create massive volumes of data. Organisations might intuitively think of public cloud as a solution for coping with that, but there are still myriad applications and workloads that remain on-premise in datacentres.

While more organisations will move to public cloud, many will prefer to be more circumspect. Knock-on requirements will emphasise networking as well as modernisation in the datacentre.

Customers often prefer to modernise project by project, instead of taking a best approach would be “a true hybrid solution” such as Azure Stack hyperconverged infrastructure, especially if they’ve evolved as a collection of acquisitions rather than a single entity, Stapley says.

No one wants to simply junk their datacentre investment to cope with new business models, but there will be more review and revision of the datacentre infrastructure capabilities, which will also increasingly need to be in line with sustainability drivers and environmental impacts, he explains.

“Then, of course, all the things that have been talked about previously around the ability to control services, the ability to monitor, observe what’s going on, to manage the security, all of those tools being able to work across both environments still stay true,” Stapley says.

That said, some organisations are still sort of standing back from the brink a little bit, and there continues to be “a fragmentation of thinking” about the best routes forward.

Also, trends such as edge, IoT and 5G are being built into companies’ sales propositions, driving complexity and scale in multiple areas, from services management to data transportation and analysis. IT departments will continue to struggle – and need assistance from the right skilled teams, Stapley says. 

Should cloud providers push organisations further?

Martin Percival, senior solutions architect at Red Hat, agrees that edge and automation will drive cloud complexity and hybrid deployment, noting that organisations will often default to the thing they originally picked as a corporate standard, or jump into a specific cloud simply because that’s where their software as a service (SaaS) is hosted.

“As a result, you can end up with an awful problem even if you didn’t start out thinking about it that way,” Percival says. “A lot of people are starting to talk about that.”

A leap of faith might be required to unstick some organisations from their tried-and-true providers or locked-in offerings and migrate them to cloud offerings that deliver greater benefits, which means encouraging customers to act more strategically instead of just reacting to issues.

Percival says that he expects an expansion of multicloud with “a bit of on-premise” this year, with more organisations through the pandemic have been exploring public cloud as well.

“Customers themselves can have a kind of confusion and just need a trustee to help guide them through. As an industry we need to get better at explaining what individual steps can be taken,” Percival warns.

“The challenge you’ve got now is as soon as you make one thing easy, you then add six different other things next to it and say, well, how do I make it all work together?”

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