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Hybrid cloud adoption trends and strategies explained

Hybrid cloud deployments are gaining traction because they enable private cloud security and public cloud flexibility, and orchestration between the two cloud models has improved.

Trends such as improvements to orchestration and a demand for both flexibility and security spur hybrid cloud adoption, but they also affect how organizations deploy hybrid environments

The exact definition of the hybrid cloud has been somewhat fluid over the years, but it has generally come to mean a mix of private and public cloud platforms with orchestration between the two.

The orchestration component is important because it defines a hybrid cloud as something more than just disparate systems managing their own resources. In fact, the definition's emphasis on orchestration represents an important trend in hybrid cloud computing, one that underlies other key developments.

For example, a related trend is the movement toward a more workload-centric deployment model in which the organization determines where to locate its workloads, which resources to share across platforms and when to move workloads from one environment to another. Because orchestration is being incorporated into the hybrid model, IT teams have greater flexibility to prioritize workloads and host them where it makes the most sense without being locked into an either-or choice between on premises or the public cloud.

Another trend in hybrid cloud adoption is the growing demand for flexibility, agility and control. Organizations want to be able to respond to changing business demands and course correct whenever necessary while avoiding vendor lock-in or other rigid limitations. The hybrid model can also help offset the high subscription costs that come with public cloud services, providing the flexibility to run workloads in the most affordable environment.

Vendors are also embracing the hybrid model in a number of ways. For example, Amazon has teamed up with VMware to offer a full hybrid platform on Amazon Web Services. At the same time, some vendors offer on-premises platforms that extend their public cloud offerings, such as Microsoft's Azure Stack.

Hybrid integration and management are also gaining traction. For example, Cisco and Google Cloud have partnered to provide organizations with the ability to manage their on-premises environments and to link to Google's public infrastructure as a service. VMware has also come out with a suite of orchestration tools for managing hybrid environments.

Another trend in hybrid cloud adoption is the importance of security and privacy. Although many organizations are willing to put more trust in the public cloud -- within limits -- they also have a growing concern regarding privacy and compliance. For many organizations, a hybrid environment is an attractive alternative to trusting public cloud services with all of their data.

Deploying hybrid clouds

Many of these trends affect how organizations deploy their hybrid environments, especially when it comes to a workload-centric model. For example, a financial institution might implement sensitive workloads on premises, but provide other services through the public cloud.

On the other hand, a manufacturer might implement mission-critical workloads on premises and deploy business-critical workloads in the public cloud. In both cases, the organizations have more control over operations, security and privacy by implementing applications on premises, but can still take advantage of the flexibility of the public cloud to deliver less critical applications to a wider user base.

But issues of security and privacy aren't always as straightforward as keeping all the sensitive workloads on premises. For example, an organization might turn to the public cloud if doing business in a region where privacy laws require data to be stored locally. In such cases, setting up a local on-premises environment might be impractical or cost-prohibitive, in which case the public cloud option could be the best alternative.

2018  IT Priorities Survey deployment models question
TechTarget's 2018 IT Priorities Survey shows that 40% of respondents plan to use a hybrid cloud this year.

In fact, compliance and privacy can play fundamental roles in hybrid cloud adoption, but they're certainly not the only factors. For example, an organization might run all its production workloads on premises but use the public cloud for development and testing only, or it might locate its workloads based simply on cost, performance or user experience.

Organizations might also employ more traditional deployment strategies, such as using the public cloud to back up or archive data or to implement a disaster recovery strategy, or they might use public cloud services for seasonal scalability or cloud bursting. Even in these scenarios, the primary focus is on the workloads and where it is best to deploy them.

The new age of cloud computing

The hybrid cloud has come to represent a flexible and cost-effective alternative to relying solely on the public cloud, but the hybrid cloud isn't without its challenges.

For example, despite the advancements that have been made in system integration, IT teams still face challenges, especially when employing a multi-cloud strategy. Not only do organizations need to ensure that their on-premises systems can properly communicate with the public cloud services, but they're also at the mercy of service providers that modify APIs or make other structural changes.

Organizations must also contend with the complexities the come with implementing a private cloud, while taking into account issues related to security, privacy and compliance. Hybrid cloud adoption can also end up being costlier than anticipated when factoring in all the variables that go into deploying applications and maintaining multiple systems.

The hybrid cloud has come to represent a flexible and cost-effective alternative to relying solely on the public cloud, but the hybrid cloud isn't without its challenges.

Although these are all valid concerns, many of the challenges that come with a hybrid environment are often the result of not having a clear hybrid strategy. Organizations should understand what they're trying to achieve with a hybrid environment before they start building one. As part of this understanding, they should analyze and prioritize business functions and workloads and, from their analysis, determine which ones can and should be moved to a cloud environment.

Another reason organizations run into problems is because they fail to properly plan their hybrid projects. Before taking any steps, IT teams should know exactly what will be migrated to the cloud, when it will be migrated and where it will be deployed. They should also fully assess potential cloud services and platforms so they understand their options and the limitations, particularly when it comes to integrating systems. In addition, they need to know how they'll manage components, what tools they'll be using and how data and privacy will be protected.

The planning process should also include a thorough cost analysis to determine the total cost of ownership, taking into account public cloud subscriptions, setting up the on-premises environment, migrating workloads, managing components and carrying out a variety of other tasks.

With a clear hybrid strategy and careful planning, an IT team can avoid many of the pitfalls that come with hybrid cloud adoption and take advantage of the flexibility it offers.

Many of today's trends in cloud computing suggest that the hybrid cloud will continue to grow more robust and become better integrated, with tools to support organizations of all sizes and types. With a carefully planned hybrid cloud, IT teams can deploy their workloads in a way that best suits their needs now and in the foreseeable future.

This was last published in June 2018

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