The following is a guest article from Karun Sorout, lead, global hybrid cloud practice at Cognizant.
IT leaders are excited about the potential of cloud to supercharge the speed of digital transformation — it minimizes capex and opex, reduces cycle times and it’s scalable.
To support an innovative business model or completely reengineered process, it’s natural for organizations to consider a cloud-native approach. In the long term, cloud native may be the most effective and future-proof solution.
That said, most established companies must also operate legacy applications and systems even as they adopt modern, digital technology.
The legacy systems may be business-critical and must interact with newer systems. Others may be nearing their sunset dates and should be wound down with care.
Enter the hybrid-cloud approach.
Hybrid cloud is often defined as a mix of on-site, public cloud and private cloud systems and is considered the most pragmatic approach to cloud adoption.
A more useful definition of hybrid cloud, however, is a framework that enables an organization to make the best use of the technologies at hand to meet its business objectives.
It encompasses all the technology and support needed to deliver enterprise-grade cloud consumption.
With the proper management tools, hybrid cloud provides IT with the right infrastructure — virtual or otherwise — and the right platform for each use case.
That flexibility helps the IT organization be more agile and align more easily with digital business objectives.
For example, a British multinational energy and services company’s fragmented IT systems and outdated processes and tools meant it could not meet customer demands with speed and agility. That hurt its ability to compete as new technologies disrupted the utilities market.
After the company adopted a hybrid cloud environment, its IT service deployment time was cut from 12 weeks to one hour. That enabled it to better support DevOps and introduce customer-facing services more quickly.
Key to this process is for organizations to have a well-defined cloud strategy.
IT organizations must identify the business needs and evaluate the hybrid cloud options accordingly.
Some industries, such as banking or life sciences, have very stringent data privacy and security and/or performance requirements to meet. In those cases, "hybrid cloud" might mean cloud native applications hosted on a private cloud.
For others, a legacy application scheduled for sunset in two or three years could be ported to the cloud.
While that may provide some agility, but not true cloud-native flexibility, it’s important to consider how cloud migration will affect related databases, apps and system performance. And, while the decision to re-platform, transform or replace legacy systems is always cost-driven, such a move might generate substantial savings on licensing, maintenance and hardware expenses that could be invested in digital technologies.
Every group in a company will have different needs and it’s important to map from process to technology to understand cloud requirement.
Customized cloud environments optimized for specific industries are commercially available to help meet these needs quickly. For example, a life sciences R&D department now has access to a cloud-engineered platform to manage petabytes of data storage, high capacity analytics and highly controlled data access.
Hybrid cloud is very much about agile infrastructure and platform: storage, workloads, services and more interoperability options exist now because vendors that used to compete with cloud suppliers now run on them.
For example, VMware Cloud is now offered on Amazon Web Services. Many organizations tap infrastructure as a service (IaaS and PaaS) when doing a cloud-native development. These offerings are stateless, allowing IT organization to use containers and microservices and host on private or public cloud — whatever option best meets their business requirements.
In short, hybrid cloud in all its permutations supplies the capabilities, agility, standardization, scalability and enhanced control needed for an enterprise to quickly develop, deploy and support digital features and services.
Orchestration among the clouds
The old IT paradigm of heavy iron has given way to a flexible cloud that can support rapid development iterations and always-evolving products and services.
Yet business users don’t care about the infrastructure. They think about costs.
An insurer thinks of policy cost per member; an automaker about price per car; a healthcare plan price per member per month. Organizations want much more cost predictability.
That means IT organizations must consider adopting hybrid cloud to deliver digital transformation. Just as development has gone agile, so has cloud adoption, with IT organizations needing to shift workloads among multiple clouds from different vendors.
An economic deal that looks good now on one cloud might be less attractive in six months, when a different cloud introduces new features.
For a hybrid cloud framework to be this flexible, organizations must use an orchestration layer.
Businesses need a unified view of all their public and private cloud instances so they can manage them as one system to integrate workloads, manage capacity and even shift workloads across clouds when it makes financial sense to do so. Visibility through the orchestration layer helps standardize delivery across the organization.
Consumption-based pricing is merely table stakes now. In fact, it makes sense to have a financial analyst on a cloud team to ensure costs and savings are always optimal.
Success with hybrid cloud also requires a strong cloud operations strategy, tools and skills that encompass significant automation and self-service features. Change management, security and governance also are key.
Each major cloud platform has its operating nuances. Some IT organizations choose to partner with service providers with expertise in all of the major cloud vendors to help them deploy and manage hybrid cloud environments to minimize operating complexities.
With hybrid cloud, an IT organization has the building blocks it requires to swap around to meet the needs of the business. Hybrid cloud is a service and an environment and can be configured for the needs of a specific industry.
Services can ride on top of cloud more easily so companies get to market faster with new offerings. Hybrid cloud becomes the engine IT uses to help the business accelerate its transformation to digital.