Hybrid cloud: Cloud technology on your terms
The public cloud may get most of the attention, but it's not the most popular form of cloud. That honour goes to hybrid cloud – according to Cisco's 2022 Global Hybrid Cloud Trends research, 82% of organisations have adopted hybrid cloud or are planning to do so.
But it's not a contest. Hybrid represents the best of the cloud market, blending public cloud and private cloud elements into an environment suited to specific business ambitions.
"Hybrid cloud allows customers to make use of the cloud on their terms," says Farhana Safedien, Nexio's Practice Lead for Digital Services. "It's allowing our customers to make use of any type of cloud, be it a combination of private cloud, public cloud, on-premises, bare metal, etc. It really gives customers a lot of choice."
Modern technology relies on cloud systems. At its heart, cloud is about on-demand scale, high-speed location-agnostic access and considerable modularity. Almost all technology today relies on cloud, even traditional and legacy systems that integrate into more modern IT environments. Once we add smartphones, IOT devices and edge computing at branch or remote sites, cloud's dominance becomes indisputable. Add in everything as a service, analytics and platform operating systems, and it's inevitable.
"If you're a modern company, you're pretty much running on the cloud as a basis for your digital technology enablement," says Safedien.
Too much choice?
Hybrid cloud is the place where it all comes together. Few companies run entirely on public clouds, particularly medium and large ones. Fewer still run without any cloud services in their mix. But while hybrid is the de facto home for effective IT, it's not easy to build an effective, value-generating hybrid cloud system.
"Hybrid cloud offers choice but that means there are also bad choices," Safedien explains. "IT leaders discover it can be tricky and expensive to go through the whole process, and there are many potential problems. And since most companies can't start with a clean slate, they often develop a hybrid environment with an eclectic mix of existing services and technical debt."
Hybrid cloud is almost destined to be a messy affair. It can lead to overspending on budgets, poor change management and reinforcing business silos rather than opening them up. Subsequent problems include management and visibility issues, unilateral appliances, application reengineering, the dreaded cloud bill shock and the need for disparate skills and capability.
Though hybrid cloud provides choice, it also creates more complexity. How can one avoid such problems?
Building hybrid cloud right
Safedien and her team help customers design and build their hybrid cloud ambitions with less complexity and more transparency and efficiency. She notes several things that companies often overlook:
- Data requirements: Data can elevate or sink a hybrid cloud strategy. Some sectors need to keep specific data close at hand for legal reasons, and others do so for competitive reasons. But all data is not alike. Hybrid cloud environments often fail to support users' needs because they underestimated data needs. Can it all sit in a public cloud (and what about egress costs)? Should some data be pre-processed at branch locations? Must critical data live on a private cloud for real-time access? Data is the thread that ties all clouds together, so give it thorough attention.
- Change management: If you build it, they will not come. They will sit unfocused during training, begrudgingly poke at the new tools and revert to tried-and-tested older methods when under pressure. Too many hybrid cloud projects underdeliver on value because their users are not converted. Change management is crucial: it's a culture, not an event. Use stakeholders, system owners and office champions to form the change backbone. Poll users and make improvements. If hybrid cloud is about choice, the final choice sits with the people who need those systems.
- Visibility: Older monolithic systems were relatively simple. Everything sat in one location, and all software, drivers and hardware responded to a singular system. Yet that stability also meant little choice, scale or flexibility. Hybrid cloud turns the tables but also creates much more complexity. Many hybrid cloud sites fail to deliver because administrators lose control of costs or struggle to generate accurate and timely reports. Security, in particular, suffers. But it affects all services and their efficiencies. So, ensure the hybrid environment uses multilateral and agnostic management tools that allow consolidation of information.
- Skills: A hybrid environment's possibilities and complexity requires a more comprehensive range of abilities. It also creates more work, especially if the environment hasn't yet established extensive automation. And don't forget about IT support functions. Take note of required skills beforehand, and prepare for new skill demands as the hybrid cloud matures.
- Talk to the board: Somewhere, someone stuck their neck out to get a hybrid cloud strategy going for their company. And several more are subsequently on the hook to manage costs and orchestrate business strategy through these systems. They are accountable, especially to the executive committee and the board – groups often unenlightened about cloud technology challenges. Getting these communication channels to work well is crucial, talking technology in business terms instead of the other way around.
Managing hybrid cloud
Cloud management is a key component to ensuring that cloud delivers against what businesses are expecting. There are a lot of customers who have not considered the challenges around this and Nexio has a solution that can assist customers to manage their complex hybrid cloud environments to get the best out of their investments.
Safedien says: “Our solution, Nexio Evolve, is built on the Morpheus platform, which, as a solution, sits in the top right-hand magic quadrant as a leader, according to Gartner.”
What differentiates this solution from a number of others is that it is vendor/OEM agnostic. This means that it is not aligned to a particular vendor/OEM, which all have their own management tools that lean towards their own technologies more. It also allows for automation, ease of migration and self-service.
“Nexio Evolve enables businesses to understand what almost all hyper-scalers would cost for solutions running in the cloud based on agreed pricing structures, allowing them to make an informed choice for their cloud solutions.
“Cost optimisation and management of cost is one of the most common challenges that most customers face. Nexio Evolve has native cost management, analytics and workload adjustment recommendations (or optimisation) built in. This allows organisations that have, or are in the process of adopting, a cloud-first strategy across multiple clouds, to effectively manage cloud expenditure and compliance across complex technology and environment landscapes.”
The value proposition of Nexio Evolve is to provide unified automation, orchestration and operational capabilities across any cloud, platform, cluster, application or service natively via easy-to-use UI, API or CLI.
While cloud remains daunting, it is still an option that most customers are considering and therefore should not be built independently. Hybrid cloud amplifies the roles of service providers with extensive experience and access to skills. Nexio has a wide range of integrated IT capabilities, from architecting for business to technical skills to change management, which all complement its hybrid cloud value proposition.