Many enterprises are moving into a hybrid world — whether it’s the emerging workplace model or cloud environment. With the latter, a mix of private and public cloud services offers the flexibility organisations are looking for in a business environment that seems to be constantly shifting.
An August 2021 report by research firm Gartner notes that hybrid, multi-cloud, and edge environments “are growing and setting the stage for new distributed cloud models.”
The firm forecasts end-user spending on public cloud services will reach US$396 billion in 2021 and grow 22 per cent to reach US$482 billion in 2022. By 2026, it predicts, public cloud spending will exceed 45 per cent of all enterprise IT spending, up from less than 17 per cent in 2021.
Meanwhile, adoption of private clouds is also on the rise. Research firm Global Industry Analysts predicts the global market for private cloud services will rise from US$4.9 billion in 2020 to US$13.2 billion by 2026, expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 18 per cent over the period.
While some companies might opt to use only private or only public clouds, a mix seems to be particularly attractive to many.
“Hybrid cloud is increasingly one of the most predominant architectures we are seeing across enterprises today,” says Nicholas Merizzi, a principal at consulting firm Deloitte Consulting. “It provides organisations with flexibility to carve their own transformation path to cloud that aligns with their priorities.”
It’s clear that organisations see the potential benefits of the hybrid cloud approach. But they’d better be prepared for some hurdles as well. Here are some of the challenges they might face, and how they can address them.
Hybrid cloud essentially requires maintaining and managing two tightly integrated but separate ecosystems, which can create a complex operating environment, Merizzi says.
“Running parallel environments with multiple different technology platforms introduces ongoing operational complexities across areas such as monitoring, security, and production support,” Merizzi says. Ensuring that operational processes and tools are applicable across both public cloud and on-premises private clouds becomes increasingly challenging.
“For instance, there may be a different suite of tools leveraged for cloud security versus that used for [on-premises] systems,” Merizzi says. Similarly, the underlying infrastructure ranging from storage to computing capacity has many differences when going from one environment to another.
In addition, he says, up-skilling staff to work across these different tools and environments introduces risks and efficiency challenges.
To minimise the complexity hurdle, organisations should look to drive commonality across the technologies for private and public cloud platforms, Merizzi says. This includes having tools that can extend from on-premises environments to the public cloud while maintaining the same operational experience.
Deloitte clients are “seeking software solutions to enable observability and end-to-end application tracing that can function across a hybrid cloud environment,” Merizzi says. “Organisations need to drive greater operational visibility and measurement of the internal states of their systems through strong instrumentation.”
The City of Wichita, Kansas, in the United States, is implementing software that allows it to better monitor its various IT environments, including cloud services.
“While the complexity of hybrid networks has increased dramatically, the software and applications available to support these have become more sophisticated as well,” says Michael Mayta, CIO for the city. “When implemented from a global perspective and [by] applying various technologies such as automation, managing these networks” is possible.
Maintaining both on-premises private cloud and public cloud environments can result in significant cost overruns, if an organisation is not disciplined in managing the underlying assets.
“Many organisations develop two sets of books when living in hybrid,” including onsite private cloud and off-premises public cloud financials, Merizzi says. “In some cases, the teams even use different tools to assess their financials,” he says. “This is leading to CIOs struggling to get an integrated view and projection of their finances.”
This exposure is being amplified by the inability to turn off or decommission on-premises assets after having modernised and operationalised systems to the public cloud, Merizzi says. “We see these cost overruns surface at multiple junctions, including network circuits and software licensing,” he says.
To minimise this problem, Deloitte recommends establishing an enterprise-wide cloud modernisation office that focuses on multiple areas, including financial integration and asset decommissioning. Integrating the financial books for multiple environments provides an enterprise-wide financial picture, Merizzi says. Likewise, establishing a decommissioning process can help free up unused assets to reduce overall spending, he says.
Resource management tools can help keep costs under control. “Without a unified, centralised multi-cloud management platform, groups did not feel sure of their cost analyses and related decisions,” says Arthur Hu, senior vice president and CIO at computer hardware provide Lenovo.
“To remedy this, we provided users with cost-planning tools that offered clear visibility into resource usage, billing, and expenditure forecasts,” Hu says. “We supplemented these tools with intelligent resource optimisation and right-sizing suggestions to help them achieve optimal cost efficiency.”
Lack of coherent strategy
The cloud model is enticing, and many organisations might be tempted to deploy public and private clouds without really giving enough thought to what they hope to achieve and exactly how they plan on meeting their goals. This can lead to confusion, frustration, and cost overruns.
“A good cloud strategy that clearly outlines the value/business case of an expensive, complicated hybrid cloud solution is definitely a start,” says Jeremy Roberts, analyst and research director for cloud and core infrastructure at IT research and advisory firm Info-Tech Research Group.
“Review your expected gain,” Roberts says. “Why hybrid? Look at your environment. What workloads do you expect will benefit from the hybrid architecture? How? Don’t just do it for the sake of doing it.”
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