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With the rapid embrace of the public cloud across organizations, different strategies for migration and adoption have emerged. While the usage of a single public cloud provider remains a common approach, large enterprises with complex workload requirements and a wide range of use cases tend to prefer a multicloud or hybrid cloud strategy.
In this article, we will cover what a hybrid cloud management strategy is all about and what you should consider during the first cloud adoption steps. In addition, we will explore why the hybrid cloud strategy is so important and relevant to consider in companies with complex business and technical requirements.
Jump down to a specific topic in this article:
- What Is a Hybrid Cloud Strategy?
- Hybrid Cloud Strategy: First Steps Into Cloud
- Why Will a Hybrid Cloud Strategy Always Be A Popular Option?
- How Hybrid Cloud Solutions Outperform Public Cloud Providers
What Is a Hybrid Cloud Strategy?
A hybrid cloud strategy enables organizations to leverage both on-premises data centers and public cloud services. The use of both of these systems joins the best of both worlds by allowing businesses to maximize existing hardware investments and unlock new capabilities such as access to specific geographic locations and to advanced services.
A hybrid cloud strategy doesn’t necessarily imply that workloads are engineered to work seamlessly across both environments. Still, there are multiple scenarios where a hybrid cloud architecture is an optimal solution to fulfill certain business requirements.
Hybrid Cloud Strategy: First Steps Into Cloud
When organizations adopt a cloud strategy, there are a few well-known and proven methods that can be used to transition and migrate workloads from existing environments to the cloud efficiently.
Two popular methods that companies use to give their first steps into the cloud are the cloud-only and cloud-first strategies. In simple terms, the cloud-only method aims to shift all existing workloads toward the cloud in the shortest possible time. By contrast, the cloud-first method suggests that new workloads should go to the cloud, but existing ones stay on-premises until the end of their lifecycle. While both strategies have their pros and cons, there is a common expectation that the end result of that journey will be that only the public cloud is used across an organization.
Enterprises in highly-regulated industries such as healthcare, energy, and banking, or large enterprises often struggle with the idea of adopting the public cloud because of their unique requirements. They have to contend with strict privacy and compliance concerns, geographical data residency, and performance constraints among many others, meaning a cloud-first or cloud-only approach may not be the right strategy for these types of companies. This is where a hybrid cloud strategy that is capable of enabling on-premises and edge environments to co-exist with the public cloud comes into play.
Regardless of the chosen strategy, cloud adoption should always start with understanding your organization’s maturity level, current status, and business requirements. The first steps into the cloud always involve a certain degree of experimentation and an organizational learning curve, but in every cloud adoption, there are common pitfalls that can be easily avoided. The most important thing is to start by understanding the proper technology concepts and the varying tradeoffs between cloud strategies.
Why Will a Hybrid Cloud Strategy Always Be a Popular Option?
To really understand why hybrid cloud is a popular strategy that’s here to stay, we need to step outside the context of a single application or workload.
Single vs Multicloud Environments
A large portion of the applications companies build and operate are best for a single environment, cloud or otherwise. Spanning an application across multiple environments creates additional engineering complexity and operational overhead, and therefore isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly. Single cloud is a very attractive and valid strategy that many companies seek for the simplicity and consistency it brings. However, in today's complex world, savvy IT leaders need to be capable of understanding the benefits and challenges that hybrid and multicloud strategies pose from both a technical and business standpoint.
There are several use cases where business or technical requirements lead to designing a multicloud or hybrid cloud architecture. From an enterprise standpoint, solely relying on a single cloud provider is not a feasible long-term solution because of the lack of flexibility to cope with business transformations such as mergers and acquisitions. At best, companies that commit to a single cloud strategy will find themselves forever stuck in on-premises to cloud migrations and unable to transition away from a legacy IT infrastructure and mindset.
How Hybrid Cloud Solutions Unlock New Possibilities
As we know, public cloud services already provide a wide range of potential applications and solution designs. To understand why a hybrid cloud solution will always remain a popular option, look at use cases where public cloud providers and their infrastructure aren’t able to fulfill the requirements. Below are a few well-known examples.
Compliance and Regulations
Major public cloud services have a very comprehensive compliance offering that helps businesses comply with popular programs such as GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS. However, both industry-specific regulations and national legislation often restrict certain types of resources and data to be placed in public cloud infrastructure. Moreover, since the top public cloud providers have both North American and Chinese roots, this might place further restrictions on organizations that operate outside those countries.
The country where your company operates plays a key role in which regions your infrastructure should be provisioned. One aspect is that regulations might dictate that data processing and storage needs to be in a specific location, but another reason is to ensure that your customers or system users have a great experience. While public cloud providers' global footprint has been expanding over time with new regions and data centers, we’re still bound to what they have to offer, which may or may not contain the geographic regions your organization requires.
One of the biggest challenges that managing on-premises systems creates is the need to plan and prepare well in advance for compute and storage capacity. IT hardware typically has a life cycle of three to five years and a data center’s physical infrastructure itself runs for even longer periods. For enterprises that have large pre-existing investments in data centers and capacity commitments that span years, it's hard to justify a full transition to the public cloud.
The selection of cloud resources and hardware types has expanded over the years. What started as standard virtual instances has now grown to support bare metal, multi-CPU architecture and even GPU compute types as a service.
While we can continue to expect innovation and new cloud capabilities coming into this space, it’s unlikely that we’ll get to a point where enterprises can bring their own highly customized hardware to the physical data centers of the cloud providers. Machines built for specialized applications, such as the ones in industrial or medical fields, will always sit on-premises or in edge locations. Moreover, a lot of those need to be directly connected to specific devices such as sensors or custom equipment, making it impossible to have them in a cloud environment.
Performance and Latency Considerations
The performance of a system is highly influenced by its architecture and the type of resources chosen. Some obvious aspects to consider in performance are latency, the location and connectivity of a system’s infrastructure resources, and the people who interact with it. In the rapidly growing areas of machine learning and IoT, hybrid architectures play an important role to address performance and latency constraints.
A good use case example is artificial intelligence. To address certain business cases, it’s common to leverage the public cloud to store and transform data and train machine learning models. It can be further combined with an on-premises or edge location where the actual machine learning model is deployed and can be used for inference closer to the customers. This local decision-making, where latency is shortened to a few milliseconds, makes a huge difference to the customer experience.
None of the above examples were really core to public cloud providers' earlier business models. However, the services and capabilities that major cloud providers offer nowadays have clearly expanded beyond supporting traditional and standard web hosting use cases. Moreover, these capabilities have now grown past the vendor's own regions and physical infrastructure.
Today, public cloud services such as Google Anthos, AWS EKS Anywhere, or Azure Arc are able to provide a similar development experience and operational management across both on-premises and cloud systems. This convergence of tooling and practices enabling modern cloud engineering across any environment was the game-changer that consolidated the hybrid cloud strategy as a popular option to tackle complex cases where the public cloud wouldn't work on its own.
All organizations today have a data estate that spans a myriad of different business functions, multiple products, and services, and often involves external partners. NetApp Cloud Manager platform is a premier enterprise-grade choice that enables companies to build their data fabric architecture across their data estate and provide consistent data capabilities in hybrid and multicloud environments.
Getting that seamless experience right across any type of environment - on-premises, edge, and public cloud isn’t an easy task. When it comes to data, Cloud Volumes ONTAP, NetApp’s data management platform, is a great solution to enable hybrid deployments on AWS, Azure, GCP, or in your existing on-premises infrastructure.