There’s no shadow of a doubt that digitization is crucial to gaining a competitive edge in today’s business environment. The ability to navigate disruption is defined by the agility with which an organisation handles its data, and as such, the architecture within which it is processed. In many cases, a hybrid cloud strategy provides the greatest flexibility, economy and productivity gains.
Most professionals are already familiar with the concept; the hybrid cloud has been touted as the superior solution for almost a decade. As underlined by Salim Ismail in his acclaimed 2014 book Exponential Organizations, the hybrid cloud means that “both startups and established companies no longer need to invest heavily in depreciating hardware and the data centres that go with them.” Instead, they can turn to AWS, Google, and Azure to provide robust public cloud facilities.
Combined with some on-site capabilities for high security or low latency requirements, these tech-giant-provided cloud services offer the best of both worlds. This is especially the case as hyperplexed environments become more prevalent, where software runs across public clouds, private data centres, personal devices, and specialised hardware.
As we speed into this new era, it’s clear that a hybrid cloud strategy needs to be thoughtful, well-informed, and nuanced. This includes appreciating that not all applications are suitable for a hybrid cloud service, or at least that there’s no one-size-fits-all hybrid cloud model. Here, we’ll discuss this issue in a bit more depth.
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Why the hybrid cloud is gaining favour
In layman’s terms, the hybrid cloud connects the public and private cloud. This allows companies to manage their data either on the public cloud or on-premises, as appropriate. This ensures the protection of sensitive information while leveraging the scalability, low cost, and outsourced maintenance associated with the public cloud.
One of the most appealing features of a hybrid cloud strategy is that companies can use the service to modernise their own IT applications. For example, it is possible to integrate new artificial intelligence programs developed by public cloud providers without having to build a new network from scratch. Supported by the advanced capabilities of Google, AWS, Azure et al, a hybrid cloud system is likely to be compatible with any digital direction the company decides to take.
As touched on, this is likely to be the case as hyperplexed environments come to the fore. The term hyperplexed (“hyper”, meaning extremely, and “plex” meaning having many parts or units) describes the fact that the software architecture of tomorrow will have to support many distributed applications. A hyperplexed approach to development will ensure that software has the run-time support for multi-cloud, edge, and IoT hardware, as well as support for real-time user experiences like AR, VR, voice and touch-activated devices.
Without a doubt, a hybrid cloud strategy is emerging as the go-to choice for IT decision-makers. According to a survey by BCG, more than 90% of IT professionals said their organisation had implemented a hybrid cloud data centre in one form or another. But, all this said, it’s important to understand that there is no such thing as a drag-and-drop hybrid cloud strategy. That’s why it’s absolutely essential to get it right at the design stage.
Designing the hybrid cloud
There are numerous approaches to designing a hybrid cloud architecture. Many companies use the cloud for software that requires substantial computing power, such as AI programs or complex algorithms. Others might use the cloud as a massive data archive while keeping the most current or sensitive data in an on-site facility.
Equally, when a company has a lot of existing hardware, another strategy is to view the cloud as an additional layer to the on-premises system. In practice, this means steering users to the appropriate subsystem depending on their requirements, the business’s priorities, and whether or not the action will increase efficiency.
A facilitation method that’s garnered favour lately is a cloud propensity model. This approach analyses a business’s operations and systems holistically to identify which data could benefit from being relocated to the cloud and which are better off kept on-site. Indeed, in some scenarios, it might be more beneficial for the organisation to tend more towards an architecture that prioritises an on-site data centre.
Why is a data centre better than the cloud?
When it comes to cloud vs data centre, one scenario within which an on-site data centre may come out on top is for companies with extensive global operations. This is common in industries like automotive manufacturing, which might require low latency across distributed locations. As a result, the company might find it more efficient to situate most of its processing power locally rather than in the cloud.
Data centres might provide lower latency, but which is more secure, cloud or a data centre? This question is especially crucial for businesses that operate in highly regulated environments. In the pharmaceutical industry, for example, the ability to develop and shift workloads quickly is essential, while meeting the security standards to satisfy regulatory standards. Operating their own on-premises data centre could provide greater assurance to management and authorities alike.
A particularly important concern for businesses beholden to strict regulatory standards is a loss of control over data. This has become a more pertinent topic as cyberattacks become a greater threat; however, an issue that might arise with more frequency is a loss of control due to government investigations. Authorities have lately given law enforcement more power to retrieve data from on-site servers, and subsequently, many businesses worry that this legislation is the harbinger for more extensive searches outside of their purview. This means they’ll have to rely on the cloud provider to make sure that the search doesn’t exceed what the warrant allows.
That said, as cloud networks have advanced, so have their security protocols. Almost every major cloud vendor has implemented architectures that combine enterprise security and cloud-powered safeguards. If the company decides to execute a hybrid cloud strategy, security should be addressed early in the development cycle. Zero-trust security measures and data encryption should be implemented across the entire system, whether it be on or off-site. This means that any external access, whether it be by legal or illegal means, will be flagged up.
When might a pure cloud strategy be better?
There are other scenarios within which a company shouldn’t assume that a hybrid cloud strategy is the go-to. For example, in contrast to more distributed, globalised companies, organisations with centralised operations may find a pure cloud model more useful. This is because their data is generally already all in one place, so it’s fairly easy to transfer it to a single public cloud. This is a common scenario for media companies, which might have one central office that manages all their content.
Another situation where pure cloud might offer a superior solution is in an environment where workloads fluctuate. This could be due to changes in customer activity according to season or time of the month or day. For example, a clothing retailer may experience more traffic closer to payday. As a result, the company might find it more efficient to leverage the dynamic scaling capacity of an architecture that functions purely on the public cloud.
More than a system, but a way of thinking
For most organisations, the way they handle their data is a core operational concern. This is why ensuring the business selects the data centre solution that’s right for them is crucial. More often than not, the relevant expertise won’t be internal; instead, consulting an external data centre expert will be essential. With their specialised knowledge, the organisation can ensure its strategy is cost-effective, efficient, and secure.
Moreover, a change in approach is not just a change in a system, but a change in thinking. Consequently, whichever route the company decides to take, the maximum value can only be gained via the appropriate organisational transformation. This, simply put, means upskilling the team.
For example, when managing regulatory compliance, staff need to have the right skillset. This may extend beyond upskilling; in some cases, it may even require a recruitment drive. Often, recent graduates are an excellent resource when it comes to finding talent with the most up-to-date skills. Meanwhile, look to more experienced professionals to ensure audits and procedures are followed correctly. When it comes to regulatory compliance, an intimate knowledge of the environment and its inner workings is critical.
Whether you’re training existing team members or onboarding new hires, once again, consultancy is key. Digital transformation and change management experts will provide invaluable insights into how to make the transition as smooth as possible. As a result, you’ll be able to leverage the maximum value from your data strategy, whether it prioritises on-site hardware or cloud services, or combines both as a hybrid cloud strategy.
Get the consultancy you need
As this article has sought to emphasise, choosing the data strategy best suited to your business’s needs is a complex question that requires expertise. Then, implementing the plan requires further careful management. So where can businesses find the experienced consultancy this transformation demands?
Outvise provides a solution. With a specialised global network of over 35,000 business tech experts, the platform is a goldmine of knowledge. Whether you’re looking for a cloud specialist, data centre expert, change management consultant, or digital transformation expert, among other profiles, Outvise can connect you with a fully certified freelancer in a matter of days. Click here to explore the platform.