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While the value and flexibility of cloud computing is now widely accepted by enterprise leaders, there is still decisions to be made on what kind of cloud computing enterprises need. If, until recently, IT managers had to decide on whether they were going to adopt cloud or on-premises computing models, technology developments in the cloud space mean that organizations no longer have to look at cloud as an adopt, or not-adopt, decision. Rather, managers now need to decide what parts of enterprise tech will be accessed through the cloud, and what will stay on-premises. In a word — what part of their tech infrastructure will be on "hybrid" clouds?

Hybrid Cloud Use

In its introduction to hybrid cloud computing,  Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft describes hybrid as a computing environment that combines a public cloud and a private cloud by allowing data and applications to be shared between them. When computing and processing demand fluctuates, hybrid cloud computing gives businesses the ability to seamlessly scale their on-premises infrastructure up to the public cloud to handle any overflow — without giving third-party data centers access to the entirety of their data.

San Jose, Calif.-based Nutanix’s recently release second global Enterprise Cloud Index confirms that many enterprises are now looking at hybrid as an option. The survey of 2,650 IT decision-makers in 24 countries found that enterprises plan to "aggressively" shift investment to hybrid cloud, with plans for steady and substantial hybrid deployment in the next five years. In fact, a majority (85%) of respondents indicated that hybrid cloud is their ideal IT operating model.

The research, which was conducted by Vanson Bourne also found that 73% of respondents reported they are moving some applications off the public cloud and back on premises. There are a number of reasons for the move:

  • 60% say that security would have the biggest influence on their cloud plans
  • 26% say data security and compliance is the main driver
  • 28% said the hybrid model is the most secure, followed by fully private cloud/on-prem

One of the most surprising statistics was that 23.5% are not currently using cloud technology today, although responses indicated this would fall to 6.5% within 12 months and then drop to 3% the following year.

Related Article: SaaS vs. Cloud: Comparing Apples and Oranges

Developing Hybrid Cloud

The findings are echoed in other reports that have emerged over the past few months. According to research from Downers Grove, Ill.-based Ensono, commissioned by Forrester, 89% of organizations have plans to develop a comprehensive hybrid cloud strategy in the next 12 months. Tim Beerman, CTO explained that the figure can be understood in the context of enterprise hesitancy to move to the public cloud and the difficulty they have in choosing a platform.

Some of the biggest challenges facing cloud adoption include security, talent and costs, according to the report's respondents. Olly Presland, VP of global product management, pointed out that hybrid computing fills whatever vacuums have developed as organizations moved from on-premises to the cloud. “Organizations don’t modernize in a vacuum. The research supports what we see in our work with clients where many larger organizations are settling on a hybrid best-of-breed approach, allowing their IT decision makers to use the infrastructure that best suits their project,” he said.

“Companies are embracing a hybrid IT infrastructure by moving partial or entire workloads to the cloud as cloud adoption outpaces mainframe growth. While not all workloads will move to the cloud, the research also found that one in four are facing internal pressure from the business to explore options and leverage newer platforms with the cloud.”

Hybrid Investment

So how does hybrid stack up against on-premises software in terms of investment? Flexera 2020’s State of Tech Spend Survey indicates that cloud spend has not outstripped spending on on-premises technology. According to this research 22% of enterprises are going for on-premises software and 25 percent for cloud, including software as a service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS).

As they migrate to cloud, 65 percent of respondents plan to reduce the number of data centers next year. With the shift to cloud, AWS was cited as the largest vendor by 10 percent of participants — behind only Microsoft and SAP, with top IT initiatives being digital transformation, cybersecurity and the shift to cloud.

Hunter Willis is product marketing manager of Jersey City, NJ-based AvePoint. While he agrees that cloud is outstripping on-premises investments, he pointed out that there really is no “norm” for hybrid data arrangements in enterprises. There are many surveys that are showing that a majority of enterprise organizations are still managing data in on-premises servers and data in the cloud at the same time, but the reasons and the methods for this vary widely from organization to organization,” he said. “This also means that the structure and management of the data vary widely. Increasingly, organizations are moving as much data and as many processes as possible to the cloud. This push is largely to enable a more mobile workforce, to increase user productivity, and to achieve an ROI from reducing the burden of managing IT resources.”

That said, the benefits of hybrid cloud models vary from organization to organization. Either for security concerns or lack of a justifiable need, they are trying to get the best of both worlds until the ROI for a shift to the cloud presents itself. For others, they simply cannot see the ROI due to the effort it will take to make the move to the cloud, and will continue to operate server-based systems as needed for the foreseeable future. In any case, a hybrid model allows organizations to pick and choose what will benefit them the most. “I like to use the analogy of a farmer with an old pickup truck. Even though there are shiny new trucks with tons of features that can haul bigger loads more efficiently, ultimately, the old reliable truck that farmer has may be able to handle any foreseeable load just fine,” he said.

Related Article: Open Data Initiative, Meet Cloud Information Model: Do We Really Need Both?

Hybrid Replaces Public Cloud

Not long ago, it seemed like the public cloud was the future and everything would eventually move there, but enterprises are realizing the benefits of hybrid models that utilize the best qualities of public and private clouds.

The advantages of the public cloud are well known, so why private? For some, like Carlos Soto, senior director of product management at Fort Mill, SC.-based managed services provider CompuCom, it’s simply a matter of control and security. Organizations with significant regulatory considerations like HIPAA or PCI compliance must have the surety of a private cloud. For others, it's about cost. The public cloud was supposed to bring huge cost savings and efficiency, but that's not always the case when ongoing fees are factored in. With the rise of edge computing, data gravity is also a factor. It's not cheap to move massive databases off-premises to the cloud or it takes too long. “Generally, the closer applications are to where data is stored, network latency and network bandwidth is reduced — which is critical for many edge solutions. A hybrid cloud lets enterprises house data and apps where it makes the most sense to drive the best customer experiences,” Soto said.

CIOs are under tremendous pressure to make digital transformation a top business priority. According to the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Index, 72 percent of IT decision-makers said digital transformation was driving cloud implementations. Compounding that, Hari Candadai, GVP of global product marketing at Las Vegas-based Rimini Street.

He pointed even more, technology vendors, like SAP, have drawn a hard line in the sand to force businesses into monolithic cloud models that “rip and replace” core on-premises systems, but this could cost companies millions and take many years to achieve. Others, like IBM, are betting on hybrid cloud as the future. “When thinking about moving to any cloud model, it’s important for CIOs to consider the business goals of the enterprise before doing so,” he said. Many on-premises applications have plenty of life left and can continue to be effective for years to come.”

In the near future, hybrid cloud models will focus on keeping core systems in place while using cloud applications to ‘innovate around the edges’. Being selective in choosing the right technology cloud players is key. Used properly, Hybrid models can modernize and future-proof existing technology.