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A hybrid future

In the last ten years cloud computing has gone from being a buzz word which described a type of internet-based computing, to a model which delivers the infrastructure, software and platforms to meet the requirements of all types of businesses. But, there is some debate about who coined the term in the first place. The earliest print reference to the ‘cloud’ is from a 1996 Compaq Business Plan which refers to an ‘internet cloud’ as a way for network service providers to deliver value-added services to their customers. Move forward twenty years and although the premise remains the same, the model has changed to encompass a mix of capabilities and resources which are an essential investment for any business. What businesses now have to ask themselves is which cloud model is best — public or private.

Hybrid cloud is the answer for many organisations as it combines both private and public cloud in a manner which can be adapted to the needs of the business and users alike. As there is no definitive definition for hybrid, the ratio of public to private deployment remains specific to each individual organisation. It could include combining heritage on-premise hosting and colocation but equally could apply to those business leveraging services from within public cloud.  

While companies may have initially been hesitant to adopt hybrid cloud, many of the earlier concerns involving security, compliance and resilience have now been addressed. So, with cloud technology constantly evolving, what is likely to happen in the future?

Why hybrid cloud

Hybrid cloud provides many benefits including high availability, ease of use and lower costs when compared to other more traditional models. It can even be used to address compliance or regulatory issues. The financial services industry is one of the most tightly regulated, but the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) doesn’t see any reasons why cloud services cannot be implemented in a manner which complies with their rules.

Indeed, in the RightScale 2018 State of the Cloud Report, 84 per cent of enterprises are already using a multi-cloud strategy. Additionally, the top priority for these same organisations is to optimise their existing cloud use to enable cost savings.  Therefore, before jumping straight in, businesses need to formulate a cloud adoption transformation program. Performing a cloud readiness assessment and understanding what the different vendors are offering is a good place to start.

Public cloud vendors

With Amazon Web services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud dominating the public cloud market, what are they doing to address the needs of users in a hybrid future?

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure is a growing collection of cloud services that enables developers and IT professionals to develop, build, deploy and manage applications on a globally available cloud network, supporting the tools, applications and frameworks of their choice.

Microsoft Azure Stack is an extension of Azure, bringing the agility and fast-paced innovation of cloud computing to on-premises or third-party infrastructure. Organisations can deploy applications across hybrid cloud environments, balancing the right amount of flexibility and control. The benefits include pay-as-you-go pricing and the ability to develop applications in-house in an Azure environment that’s the same as public Azure.

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

In 2006, Amazon Web Services (AWS) began offering IT infrastructure services to businesses as web services. In 2016 it partnered with VMware to offer a highly scalable, secure and innovative service. It allows organisations to seamlessly migrate and extend their on-premises VMware vSphere-based environments to the AWS Cloud running on next-generation Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) bare metal infrastructure.  

In 2018, Amazon announced AWS Outposts which brings AWS services, infrastructure and operating models to virtually any datacentre, colocation or on-premise facility. The same APIs, tools, hardware and functionality can be used across all premises to deliver a consistent hybrid experience.

Google Cloud Platform

Google Cloud Platform, offered by Google, is a suite of cloud computing services that runs on the same infrastructure which Google uses internally for its end-user products, such as Google Search and YouTube. Google Cloud started addressing the hybrid space earlier this year. The company has extended its container and microservices technologies (like Kubernetes) from being used on the Google Cloud Platform, to being used on in-house servers or edge devices.

More recently, Google has announced Anthos, a hybrid cloud management product allowing enterprises to use a single dashboard to manage all applications, regardless of whether they are in a private data centre, Google Cloud, AWS or Azure.

Going forward

While the term hybrid has taken on a life of its own and means different things to different businesses, the core of the concept remains the same – a computing environment  incorporating a mix of on-premises, private and public cloud services, and third-party hosting. Gartner suggests that by 2020, 90 per cent of businesses will have adopted a hybrid infrastructure. But each business will need to decide what hybrid means for them and how they can make the best use of the model.

Hybrid cloud will also continue to evolve, and technology will be a key factor. The incorporation of automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence into cloud platforms will influence not only the deployment of new technologies and services, but also the way in which the environment is managed and maintained.

Vendor collaboration will also feature strongly in the hybrid future and we’re already seeing this with cloud vendor partner programmes such as the Cloud Solution Provider program from Microsoft or the AWS Partner Network.

Whichever model an organisation chooses to adopt, it will first need to answer key questions around the reasons for moving to a hybrid model, the impact on the business and how it will carry out the transformation.

Importantly, cloud is more than a technology upgrade. It requires a mindset shift and impacts the entire business, from technology and processes, to employees and skills. This is where the support of the right cloud provider will be critical. Only with the support of the right partner, can businesses optimise their cloud investment and achieve their objectives in an efficient, cost-effective and timely manner.

Javid Khan,  Chief Cloud Officer, PulsantImage Credit: TZIDO SUN / Shutterstock

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