What is the point of hybrid cloud – or, is it time to re-evaluate hybrid?
Opinion There used to be a buzz around hybrid cloud. The idea was simple, host your mission critical applications in-house where they were more secure and manageable and then burst into the cloud for additional capacity.
Sounds great; but in reality, it didn't really work. Many organisations tried and while some succeeded most failed. Why? The primary issue was network latency between stacks but there was also a huge degree of complexity in orchestrating different technology platforms successfully.
As we enter a more mature DevOps focused world, is it time to re-evaluate hybrid? Particularly as containers make abstraction between environments less of an issue, perhaps we are at the point where the problems are easier to solve? While that is probably true, I believe there are a number of reasons why hybrid's days are numbered.
Hybrid cloud was invented by companies who wanted to keep selling you servers, network devices and storage: Most organisations have come to the conclusion that cloud benefits (ROI, flexibility and commodity billing) far outweigh the investment required to run your own hardware estate. IT infrastructure is a commodity, why would you tie up capital in assets? Almost no amount of spin from manufacturers will change the view.
Let's not forget one of the key promises of using the cloud – simplicity: Reducing complexity and improving management is one of the big wins cloud delivers. By adopting a hybrid approach, you are making things more complex. You have to test in multiple environments, often using different tools (not to mention separate costs) and build teams with a wider range of skills.
As businesses go on their cloud adoption journey and they migrate workloads, they will continue to sweat the remaining hardware assets as part of a legacy estate: While you might call this a hybrid approach, it's actually a stepping stone to a cloud only environment. It is not a long-term strategy for infrastructure. Hybrid is now a mid-point to an ultimate goal.
As cloud consumption increases, so does overall market maturity: Barriers to entry are lowered and there are fewer risks. For example, the biggest concern used to be security, but an increasing number of enterprise products and a better understanding of solutions have proved you can be just as secure in the cloud. For every problem, there are more and more success stories which disprove the doubters.
The risk of not transforming your IT environments is now greater than the risk of doing nothing: In the past, your CTO was able to postpone a potentially risky migration project. However, the increased demands of the business to be more flexible and the governance required to prevent shadow IT means that IT departments who don't own the cloud journey are at risk themselves.
The days of owning and operating servers are over. Even large enterprises who have traditionally run their own DC footprints are building migration processes and teams. While saving money plays an important part in this paradigm shift, the primary reason is business modernisation.
The executives who are transforming their organisations have realised that being agile and able to respond to threats from disruptors quickly, means flexible and scalable IT platforms. Why invest in building and running these if someone else has already done it? When you look at the investment in features, products and infrastructure which the top cloud services are making, only a small number of companies can match their budgets. What is more, infrastructure is rarely part of the core business.
But what about Azure stack and VMware on AWS, I hear you cry? Well, neither of those are currently available and while they might sound appealing in theory, I still believe owning hardware is an outdated investment. Unlike property, IT infrastructure assets don't appreciate in value and the scale offered by a cloud service means we are past the tipping point.
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