As cloud-first has become a common strategy for many companies, the question of which cloud becomes more prevalent. Consistently, hybrid cloud is the chosen fit, but is the only way forward?
And what areas should you be looking at before you even start to devise your cloud strategy?
In this feature, we speak to Evros Chief Enterprise Architect, Martin Carry, to find out more about how hybrid has evolved in recent years and what the focus points need to be for businesses going forwards.
Hybrid cloud can mean many things to many people – what was the original concept meant to be?
Generally speaking, hybrid cloud originally referred to having some workloads on-prem and some in a cloud environment – and to a certain extent this may be still relevant. However, that meaning has now broadened and it’s morphed into what we would normally consider as multi-cloud.
So, in the modern sense, the term ‘hybrid cloud’ could mean several things. You could have a hybrid cloud setup where you use for example, an IS provider or a datacentre to provide infrastructure, which in our terms would be Digital Planet, and then you would also be leveraging public cloud targets such as Azure, and that’s where you start to see the term hybrid cloud being used.
Why would you use a multi-cloud strategy?
There has to be a certain reason. When you use a cloud platform, there’s a barrier to entry and you also need to understand how to manipulate and secure the cloud platform. Customers want to learn how to run the cloud fabric, the portal, how to configure it etc. and if you do that for multiple clouds, you’re multiplying the barriers to entry. So, you would need a specific reason to warrant building a multi-cloud strategy.
Often, this would be related to your key business applications and how you want to deliver them.
That’s where using different cloud targets becomes useful – because there is a particular advantage that allows the customer to differentiate their offering, how they deal with customers and how they serve them.
The point is, it has to be worthwhile, so you have to go in with a strategy and foresight that makes sense.
Is a hybrid cloud approach more secure?
Firstly, we would answer the question: why would you keep some of your workloads on-premises? Data sovereignty comes into it – businesses want to know exactly where their data is, but also, they often want to manage their own security and they believe on-prem is a more secure approach.
However, if you asses the primary cloud targets, they are very mature from a security perspective.
Another reason to have your data on-prem is because you have legacy applications. These are applications that just won’t go to cloud or it’s too much effort to move them to cloud.
Finally, sometimes it’s just about the integration with other applications with potential latency so that’s why you might want to keep your on-premises infrastructure in place.
In these scenarios, hybrid cloud is good because consuming cloud doesn’t have to be an all-in decision. Use cloud for the benefits that cloud gives you such as agile development and scalability.
What if you have legacy applications – is hybrid cloud a good approach?
Cloud allows you to evolve your applications and you can even put a modern edge on a legacy application by using hybrid cloud. For example, you could put an interface on a legacy application that’s running on public cloud, using smart AI running on cognitive services, maybe add some analytics in there, but it can be pinned back to the heart of the application which may be legacy and remains on-prem, so you don’t have to have all that toil of moving it all to cloud to consume that modern edge.
There are technologies available on cloud now which are no longer available on-premises so that is definitely a move in the market particularly for application providers. And this is a really beneficial to customers because from their perspective, they don’t have to put up the VMs, or the operating system, load up the software and manage it, patch it etc. They just consume it.
Some applications can have a very long lifecycle so for very good reason, lots of financial institutions still use mainframe platforms because they are bullet proof from a resilience, availability and a processing certainty perspective.
Is hybrid the first choice for many customers?
Generally it’s hybrid. If we want to look at someone’s infrastructure and do an assessment, it comes down to their applications and what sits under their applications to support them. And then it’s about having a simple conversation that covers what you want to retire, and the ones do you want to replace, retain and refactor.
The simple principle is do the right thing – which is never the same for every business.
You have to base your decision on fact, on a strategy, on a TCO.
What about in a post-pandemic world?
Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve seen all sorts of verticals come out of the woodwork to talk to us about cloud – companies that had dismissed it previously. So then we had to quickly work out how to do this. The key thing to establish is how cloud can help you digitise and address your customer needs in a better way.
Nowadays, instead of digital transformation, we’ve moved towards a digital imperative. Businesses have to transform – that’s what Covid brought. You have to get there now, not just to help you as a business but because your customers expect to interact with you digitally. They want email, chat, click and collect etc and if you have a paper-based process that’s just not going to work anymore.
Essentially, as we move forwards and go back to a mixed working environment, businesses will need to rethink how they work and how they interact with their customers.