Technology strategists frequently wax poetic about the benefits of the cloud. The promise of outsourcing infrastructure and freeing up staff from daily systems maintenance is a lure that many enterprises cannot ignore.
But the cloud is sometimes too good to be true. Companies budget technology investments several years in advance, and moving to the cloud is something that is on the horizon but is not always an immediate goal.
The transition to the cloud, however, does not have to be completely delayed. Budget constraints and compliance concerns have created an environment where companies move little by little to the cloud, a gradual transition rather than rapid adoption.
This slow shift has led to the rise of the hybrid cloud. Now, many service providers are going all in on hybrid offerings to ensure customers can host infrastructures as they see fit.
The term hybrid stems from the combination of on premise and cloud storage. In other instances, it refers to when companies work with cloud service providers on setting up dedicated hardware equipment and public cloud offerings.
"This is not a transition. We believe it's kind of a destination ... we see that hybrid is the new norm."
General manager of resiliency services at IBM
"Hybrid cloud, for the foreseeable future, is here to stay," said David Mayer, VP of product management for software and cloud at Insight Enterprises. With many companies looking to move the the cloud, a hybrid approach is a soft entrance to the market. The lure of a solid, workable and manageable infrastructure will eventually bring even the most skeptical of companies to the cloud.
IBM sees clients roll out hybrid environments while still maintaining physical and legacy dedicated systems, according to Laurence Guihard-Joly, general manager of resiliency services at IBM. "This is not a transition. We believe it's kind of a destination.
"We shift our investment, development, capabilities and skills to help clients to manage hybrid cloud environments because this is apparently where the world is going," Guihard-Joly said. "We see that hybrid is the new norm."
Though it takes time, the cloud transition is almost certain and is occurring at a quicker pace than ever before. Companies will move to the cloud. Now, it’s just a matter of deciding what their strategy will look like.
Lessening infrastructure costs
Part of the lure of the cloud is the cost. With the cloud, there is no up front cost, just the hourly charge for cloud use, which companies can scale up and down. It also has the added benefit of freeing up staff time from routine maintenance.
"The biggest factor you're seeing that are holding companies back is older generations of IT staff trying to be relevant and worried that the cloud itself is going to cut their staff, which in some cases it will," said Jacob Murbach, lead cloud services engineer at Pandera Systems. "You're empowering companies to do more with less."
But companies have to be willing to invest in updating legacy infrastructures, which is often easier said than done.
"A problem that a lot of companies have, is they have investments in licensing and infrastructure," Murbach said. "One of the main things that companies hate to invest in is IT. They don't see the need for it until something bad happens."
With on prem storage, companies have to budget for what they will need in four years, requiring huge up front cost. Through the cloud, however, the only up front cost is hiring an IT staff to help with the migration.
This has led to the mantra, "build for what you need right now, not for what you're going to need," Murbach said.
"If you have the knowledge of how to incrementally transition to the cloud, there is always benefit to going to the cloud ... there is not always benefit with wholesale replacement of things in the cloud."
CEO of Tectonic
With hybrid in particular, the cloud has accelerated speed to value. Companies no longer have to have a three-year tech road map and can instead start small, test and evolve as they see fit.
Those companies that are doing the best in cloud-based environments take almost an agile, iterative approach to things, according to Blair Linville, CEO at Tectonic. "They fail quickly." This allows them to start smaller and work more innovative ways than they were able to in the past.
One of the most efficient ways for adopting cloud services is not to execute a "like for like" replacement of on prem solutions.
"If you have the knowledge of how to incrementally transition to the cloud, there is always benefit to going to the cloud," Linville said. "There is not always benefit with wholesale replacement of things in the cloud."
For enterprises to truly be successful in the cloud, they need to begin with a "business outcome driven migration strategy," Linville said. That will impact decisions around platforms, architecture and how they fit together for an enterprise.
The cloud allows for new capabilities and the potential for different technology integration points, such as creating an environment for data correlations or a place to analyze customer buying behaviors.
Reasons to be skeptical?
As companies move to update infrastructure, many are looking toward the public cloud, moving away from on prem and colocation. The downside, however, for the public cloud is that resources, speed and performance are not always guaranteed.
In response, some organizations adopt dedicated storage from service providers to ensure performance. Other companies will use public storage if they don’t require the speed, particularly because it is easy to setup and works well with development and test servers.
For companies hesitant to transition, data sovereignty, security, reporting and compliance concerns remain constant. In some cases, it is just easier if companies have the data on premise and physically keep the data available.
"There is still something to be said for proximity relative to performance, especially in those highly transactional scenarios."
VP of product management for software and cloud at Insight Enterprises
Data sovereignty is a particularly reasonable concern, as enterprises need to ensure performance and accessibility. If highly transactional applications have most of the processing occur in a distant location, there is some cause for concern. "There is still something to be said for proximity relative to performance, especially in those highly transactional scenarios," Mayer said.
As for security? It is more than likely that enterprises will actually boost their security posture when they move to the cloud. "There is no way you could invest in security like you would if you were a cloud service provider," Linville said.
With a bevy of concerns to take into consideration, there are multiple entrances to the cloud for companies to consider. "There's always going to be a secret sauce, whether that be data, whether that be core business processes that people need to keep within their control," Linville said.
With a hybrid strategy, the decision about what services to put in the cloud remains with the company. Companies, then, move to the cloud in parts rather than embarking on large-scale shifts of entire corporate infrastructures.