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Hybrid IT: avoiding 'cloud cliff' by finding the right mix

Why Hewlett Packard Enterprise is banking on a shift towards hybrid IT adoption.

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"You only need to look at offerings like Azure Stack and recent partnerships between AWS and Google with hardware manufacturers to see that the public cloud giants realise that hybrid cloud is the future." - Hewlett Packard Enterprise's Paola Doebel.

WITH cloud computing now firmly in the mainstream, the question facing enterprises is no longer one of whether or not to move to the cloud. Rather, the challenge ahead is finding the right blend of IT environments - private and public cloud solutions, even traditional IT infrastructure - to meet business needs.

Amid a rush into the public cloud over the past decade, some companies have found themselves running up against a "cloud cliff": an over-reliance on the public cloud led to performance, cost or control issues and in some instances, costly migrations back out of the public cloud.

The reasons for choosing public cloud services are many. An Inovis report commissioned by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) last year, based on in-depth interviews with 20 IT leaders in organisations from the retail, social media, healthcare, banking and public sectors, found that the potential to save money on licensing, support, hardware and management was a huge draw. Others saw opportunities for innovation without the burden of on-premises infrastructure, and were drawn to promises of IT power and it being flexible, scalable and simple.

Analysts certainly believe demand for public cloud services - such as those offered by giants like Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft - will continue to grow. Gartner forecasts that worldwide public cloud services market revenue will reach US$411.4 billion, up from US$219.6 billion in 2016.

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After all, the public cloud has delivered in some areas, says the Inovis report titled Master the Cloud Cliff. "Startups, app test and dev environment, and websites with highly variable web traffic can all benefit from the public cloud. But, just as e-reader devices haven't signalled the death of paper books, the reality is that there are trade-offs," the report says.

"It became clear the cloud was better for more traditional business operations - mainly SaaS (software as a service), CRM (customer relationship management), database, backup, and the like - not mission critical functions that affected business flow," one executive was quoted as saying.

"There will always be applications that work better in a physical environment, especially applications with data-intensive and, or, latency sensitive requirements (applications that require speed and no delays)," the report said.

Hybrid cloud, the future

Many thus see hybrid IT as a key strategy going forward. Gartner research found that 70 per cent of enterprises will implement a multi-cloud strategy by 2019. "Born-in-the-cloud companies have started to move to own their data centre, with Dropbox being a prime example," says Paola Doebel, vice-president and general manager, APAC hybrid IT sales, enterprise group global sales at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE).

"You only need to look at offerings like Azure Stack and recent partnerships between AWS and Google with hardware manufacturers to see that the public cloud giants realise that hybrid cloud is the future," she adds.

One estimate from Synergy Research Group puts the growth in private and hybrid cloud infrastructure services spending at 4.5 per cent in 2015. Another forecast from the International Data Corporation (IDC) expects worldwide data services for hybrid cloud revenues to reach US$68.8 billion by 2021. That is a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20 per cent - 15 percentage points faster than the worldwide software market.

Levelling the playing field

A big driver of that is the fact that data centre innovation has not stagnated over the past decade - in various ways, new technology is fast levelling the playing field with public cloud. Take the advances in virtualisation and hyperconvergence for instance - software allowing companies to create environments compatible with the public cloud within their own data centres.

"Both public and private clouds are continuing to mature, adding new services and tools from their cloud providers," says Ms Doebel.

One example of industry-specific services emerging on the private side is HPE's Cloud 28+ ecosystem, which links customers with a global cloud service providers. Of the more than 400 partners on the programme, 40 are from the Asia-Pacific region and many deliver unique services, such as medical insurance billing services specific to a country.

"The challenge for IT is delivering new capabilities while operating in an environment of continuing budget cuts," says Ms Doebel. HPE aims to simplify that process with multi-cloud management tools like HPE OneSphere, which can provide executives with insights on costs and utilisation, so that they can optimise the use of on- and off-premises environments and move workloads back and forth to meet changing goals. "Simplicity will drive adoption," she adds.

Determining the right mix

How then should an enterprise find that right balance? "No two businesses are the same, and no two workloads have the same characteristics," says Ms Doebel.

The right mix of hybrid infrastructure is one that would optimise performance, security, compliance and cost, typically by enabling fast, convenient access to IT services within a public cloud, delivering secure, compliant services in a private cloud, and still keep easy access to traditional IT, for legacy applications, she says.

She suggests a few factors enterprises can consider, when attempting to distill that right mix:

  • The cost of migration weighed against the potential gains. "The expense to migrate and rewrite apps for the public clouds is cost prohibitive. Companies have neither the money nor time it takes to do this, and so are choosing to fund new apps first in the public cloud, on-premises private cloud, or the edge," she says. It is thus worth asking whether the promised benefits of the public cloud can be achieved with an enhanced private infrastructure solution.
  • Potential costs of moving large, and growing, amounts of data for workloads that are critical to the business. For instance, if a company chooses to rewrite an app for the public cloud, it may run into challenges moving between public clouds due to different APIs. Most providers also levy charges for moving data out of the cloud. "So, as business-critical app data continues to grow, the cost to move it grows too," says Ms Doebel.
  • Risks of changing data and compliance rules. "Companies own their business policies, but are not currently equipped to deal with changing data regulations," she says. This includes compliance with new rules on where customer data, for instance, is stored. Then, there is also the matter of supporting developers, for instance, by providing proper governance on the usage of and ability to update new tools over the life-cycle of an app.
  • Staying informed of changes on the cloud services scene. "Significant advancements, with infrastructure like HPE Synergy composable infrastructure, are providing a business-critical platform at the same or lower cost than public clouds, and without the worries," says Ms Doebel.

Overall, the costs will vary based on workload, usage and other factors - public cloud will be less expensive in some situations and private cloud in others. Hence, she says, "companies who adopt the right mix of public and on-premises will have the long-term advantage".

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