ascension-sponsoredHybrid cloud represents a logical step for many businesses, with demand for agility and flexibility increasing as both enterprise organisations and consumers come to expect more from their IT products and services

With so many services on offer, and with an increasingly complex set of requirements for businesses to fulfil, it is now a rare occasion that a business relies entirely on on-premises, public or private cloud environments.

Gartner analysts have argued that the decline of traditional data centre outsourcing (DCO) indicates a massive shift toward hybrid infrastructure services and that organisations which adopt hybrid solutions are saving money and improving efficiency.

However, by bringing in a number of different products, services and vendors into the mix, and having control over some aspects of IT but not others, adds a level of complexity to operations that can entirely outweigh any cost and efficiency savings.

The move towards hybrid cloud

Infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals must balance cloud mobility and on-premises governance with hybrid cloud storage strategies

According to recent analysis, the traditional DCO market is shrinking, with spending expected to decline from $55.1 billion (approx. £40.71 billion) in 2016 to $45.2 billion in 2020. Meanwhile, cloud compute services are expected to grow from $23.3 billion in 2016 to reach $68.4 billion in 2020.

A Forrester report further reinforces the necessity of cloud adoption in business: ‘Infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals must balance cloud mobility and on-premises governance with hybrid cloud storage strategies that are optimal for their business technology agenda, not just convenient to implement.’

While cloud computing has been lauded for the last five to seven years in terms of its capacity to save costs, improve agility and deliver application services, the reality is that data centre professionals have been largely waiting for cloud to move from perceived adolescence to maturity.

Challenges in hybrid environments

As a result of digitalisation, in both corporate and societal settings, we are seeing a dramatic rise in rich content delivered via mobile devices, and an increasing number of connected people, devices, and ‘things’.

This demand has lead to the emergence of the edge data centre. However, analysts suggest that only the largest businesses are likely to have the physically-distributed, communications-enabled locations to build their own edge sites. Instead, edge-located colocation centres or edge access provided by cloud vendors are likely to be used.

Organisations need to be acutely aware of the responsibilities that both they and their cloud providers have

This movement marks a further change in the distribution and use of both data centre and cloud technologies and will prompt a more evident adoption of hybrid cloud structures and complex IT strategies.

Security is also a critical consideration in a hybrid approach. Simon Aspinall of Virtustream spoke to The Stack on how hybrid solutions can open up complicated compliance issues: “Organisations need to be acutely aware of the responsibilities that both they and their cloud providers have if they are to cover themselves effectively.

“The assumption is often made that cloud vendors will assume complete responsibility, but when dealing with critical data and workloads, assumptions become very dangerous.”

Speaking to The Stack, Red Hat principal solutions architect, Martin Percival, concurred, noting the problem of data locality which arises “whenever there is a need to prove the storage location of a given set of data. Financial services and government bodies need to be particularly careful in this regard.”

The impact of automation

The complexity and compliance issues that result from having a hybrid mix means that any cost and efficiency savings that are achieved can be reversed by the time spent managing them. A competitive market of hybrid cloud management services has since emerged through which applications and services can be managed and migrated to achieve maximum utilisation of resources and increase return on investment.

Hybrid cloud solutions which automate the management of applications across different infrastructures can thus become simple, automated and scalable.

As hybrid IT becomes increasingly ingrained within an organisation, the role of the IT department will shift from simply keeping workloads up and running, to knowing where they are, what they are doing, and whether there are associated security, privacy and compliance risks for each.

The cited Forrester research states that the true value of the hybrid cloud lies in being able to access content as part of a global enterprise namespace, allowing transparent business technology processes and access to content in the optimal location without artificial barriers.

Companies that are able to orchestrate and automate this service, therefore, are able to claw back the savings that the move to hybrid cloud first promised.