By Simon Michie, CTO, Pulsant
Increasing numbers of businesses see hybrid cloud as a worthwhile destination for their data and workloads, allowing them to achieve the balance between the flexibility and security they need. For them, hybrid is no longer a mere stopping point on the journey towards full cloud deployment.
Instead of migrating almost every workload to the public cloud, many organisations see how hybrid infrastructure gives them continued control over certain types of data in their own data centre or private cloud. This is control they need for reasons of security, data sovereignty or because their most critical applications are not built for the public cloud. It is also cost-effective. Refactoring applications to work in the public cloud or with specific operating systems is a lengthy and expensive process, requiring advanced data skills.
One of the most cited advantages of such a hybrid strategy (rather than an adhoc approach concerning specific events) is that companies have the best of both worlds. They prioritise data and applications where they work best, whether on-premises, in private cloud, colocation data centres or with cloud providers, including hyperscalers. They can advance the implementation of newer, revenue-generating cloud-native applications with greater confidence, retaining business-critical applications on-premises. Hybrid cloud also allows businesses to use applications specific to individual vendors without fear of being locked-in and held to ransom or having to adapt to vendor-mandated changes in technology or operational practices.
These many advantages are why analysts at Gartner estimate three-quarters of medium-sized or large companies have already adopted a hybrid or multi-cloud strategy. Other market intelligence firms agree, that hybrid will continue to expand rapidly. MarketsandMarkets, for example, predicts demand for hybrid cloud will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 17% into next year (2023). The Flexera 2021 State of the Cloud Report also found that 82% of the 750 IT professionals surveyed now have a hybrid cloud strategy in place.
Difficulties managing increasingly complex hybrid infrastructure
Yet as organisations spread their data and workloads across different vendors and their own data centres, the difficulty of achieving effective management becomes more apparent. Companies can quickly lose sight of where data and workloads are and lose control of costs accumulated through complicated fee structures.
One often overlooked feature of cloud spending, for example, comprises the substantial charges the hyperscalers levy for data egress when businesses pull data back out of the cloud. Traditional direct connectivity can rack up the costs quickly due to long-term contracts and static bandwidth fees based on maximum throughput.
As they struggle to keep track of their data and applications, organisations find right-sizing cloud deployments for maximum efficiency becomes a major challenge, especially where IT teams lack experience. Once spun up to meet a specific need, it is all too easy for extra capacity to persist, unmanaged beyond the original purpose, ticking up unnecessary costs all the while.
It is understandable if organisations examining edge computing become fearful, these management problems associated with cloud could multiply their overall IT difficulties. Edge computing should remove the disadvantages of location, shifting data and workloads to regional data centres, closer to where businesses want to use them, delivering faster, low latency responses. This enables advanced analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT). But companies may fear that if they add edge to a hybrid cloud deployment it will exponentially complicate management and cost control. After all, many companies remain short of in-house skills and are inundated by approaches from different vendors.
New tools take the pain away from management
Now, however, enterprises can more easily optimise their hybrid cloud environments. They can avail themselves of tools that address the complications of hybrid cloud management and are built with edge in mind.
The hyperscale cloud providers already offer their own tools for hybrid cloud management, which is a significant development, given their intense competition. Yet it is questionable how truly vendor-agnostic such platforms are. And their involvement in edge computing is in its infancy, which limits their effectiveness.
Organisations should deploy a next-generation cloud platform that encompasses edge, ready for what is set to be the next major infrastructure development. In the meantime, companies can use such platforms to optimise their current cloud deployments and connectivity and to enable them the option of expanding use of IaaS, PaaS and SaaS applications.
What companies gain is a ‘single pane of glass’ across their entire infrastructure, enabling them to optimise costs and assets wherever they are. They can see their monthly expenditure and where it is going, breaking down invoices by resource-type. Tools can assess cloud workloads and provide comprehensive asset discovery, usage reporting and dependence-mapping. This allows cloud vendors’ engineers to provide cost optimisation reports, identifying the most suitable environment for each service.
The benefits are significant. Businesses obtain a consistent, holistic view of their deployments and the details of their cost, enabling them to shift and adapt workloads for maximum operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Each application is visible, as is real-time usage of cloud resources. Analytical capabilities give companies insight into their patterns of usage that enable them to improve efficiency on a continuing basis.
More control, better outcomes
With a single pane of glass management tool in front of them, companies gain complete control of hybrid and edge infrastructure on a day-to-day basis, resolving the inevitable challenges more rapidly. This gives them the flexibility in resource use to achieve high levels of organisational agility. They can spin workloads up and down in relation to demand, avoiding the dangers of over-spend without risk of being under-resourced when faced with new demand or business opportunities. And of course, it means they can implement the new high-powered, transformational technologies and applications made possible by edge computing.
Every business needs to extract as much value as possible from its hybrid strategy, including those that see how their future will encompass edge computing. The arrival of a new generation of cloud management platforms means every organisation with complex cloud architecture can operate close to its configured performance limit without endangering the performance of its applications. Costly loss of control and agility should no longer cause companies using hybrid cloud to feel excluded from major advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning provided by edge deployments. Hybrid cloud has become a much sought-after destination for ambitious organisations.