Hybrid-cloud and multi-cloud are quickly becoming the new norm for enterprises. While these approaches offer several advantages, de-risking business decisions and adopting best-of-breed services stand out as the overarching reasons enterprises are adopting these strategies. The space is still nascent with new standards and architectural patterns rapidly evolving. However, like any new advance, there are several challenges and speed-breakers to a successful adoption.
There is an ever-growing range of technological patterns. Today we live in an increasingly polyglot world. There are many sub-patterns to get things done, including virtualization, cloud, IaaS, PaaS, containerization and serverless computing, to name just a few. IT leaders face complex choices when it comes to their cloud options. Literally, thousands of services are available — and each business must decide what choice is best in terms of performance and price points. For the enterprise, a hybrid-cloud or multi-cloud environment offers several advantages, which increases the complexity even more.
Regulations such as HIPAA, PCI DSS and SOX protect the industrial environment in North America. GDPR similarly governs the European segment. The growing number of data breach and privacy breach episodes is leading to more stringent regulations, and these incidents are creating a need for hybrid-cloud and multi-cloud adoption, in part due to their security, compliance and data sovereignty.
Forrester recognizes (via IT Brief Austrailia) that 99% of cloud decision makers believe there are benefits to using consistent, hybrid-cloud platforms, services and tooling. According to recent market research, the global market size for hybrid-cloud is expected to grow from $44.60 billion in 2018 to $97.64 billion by 2023. Employees at large enterprises (over 1,000 employees) claim that 81% of these companies have multi-cloud strategies. And these companies are using almost five public and private clouds, on average, for running applications and experimentation.
Multi-cloud refers to leveraging two or more cloud computing platforms, often to meet specific workload needs but without necessarily connectivity or orchestration between them. Hybrid-cloud refers to the pairing of public and private clouds, which are bound or orchestrated by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability.
A hybrid-cloud is not a multi-cloud, though multi-cloud may include hybridization.
Benefits And Trends
Why are enterprises looking at hybrid-cloud or multi-cloud strategies? What advantages are businesses able to achieve with these methodologies, absent or difficult otherwise? Here are the key benefits and use-cases that are emerging in this space:
- Application and data portability
- Leveraging best-of breed services
- Avoiding vendor lock-in
- Realizing cost efficiencies
- Data sovereignty
- Security and privacy regulations
- Balancing flexibility and regulations
- Multi-year 100% uptime
Within the data platform industry, there are some specific trends that hybrid-cloud is able to solve:
Hybrid-cloud bursting is the ability to off-load and balance resources on demand from private or on-premise to a public cloud to manage peak periods.
Hybrid-cloud data lab offers a way to seamlessly transfer and experiment untested workloads from on-premise to a public cloud, allowing greater end-user self-service and experimentation.
Hybrid-cloud disaster recovery provides lower-cost and on-demand off-premise environments for disaster recovery.
Hybrid–cloud data brokering is the ability that IT Ops team can offer to its employees to abstract the deployment of data (or other) products or services to public, private or virtual environments.
Hybrid-cloud data sovereignty refers to achieving the flexibility of a public cloud while still meeting the data sovereignty regulation (which stipulates that data sets are subject to the laws and governance structures within the nation in which it is collected).
However, like any rapidly evolving space, hybrid-cloud and multi-cloud adoptions come with their own set of challenges. Enterprises that are early adopters need to carefully tread their strategy, taking into account the complexity, costs and pitfalls that these challenges might ultimately entail.
Costs can multiply in a multi-cloud world. While at the outset realizing cost efficiencies by leveraging more than one cloud provider might seem plausible, the lack of tools and standards and other inefficiencies to train and track usage and costs across cloud platforms might prove costly in the long run.
The lack of interface standards and portability between different cloud providers creates silos and makes for a challenging and inconsistent proposal when it comes to infrastructure management and developer experience. The good news, though, is that a lot of startups and larger vendors alike have made great progress removing this complexity, and the larger cloud providers have started to be open to interface standardization considerations (still nowhere close to ideal).
Vendor maturity disparity within multi-cloud or hybrid-cloud supportability is currently very high. While some vendors are early adopters and trailblazers, others are still very early, and then there is a full spectrum of variance between the two ends. For enterprises working with multiple vendors (which is the case with most large enterprises), this variance makes their own adoption journey very complex and inefficient.
Lack of integrated identity and access management stands out as a key adoption challenge from a security and compliance perspective. While cloud environments aren’t inherently insecure, the complexity involved in promising secure identities, uniform role-based access control and audit compliance across environments can easily keep most chief security officers up at night.
Hybrid-cloud and multi-cloud are becoming the new norm. There isn’t a “point solution” for these, and there will never be a single all-encompassing solution. Rather, it is a holistic and integrated approach in an enterprise’s overall cloud strategy. As the support and standards in this space evolve, the current challenges should wane rapidly, leading to progressively quicker adoption. Open-source and CNCF (cloud-native computing foundation) will play a key role in the technology patterns and implementations as this space matures. Enterprises should prioritize hybrid-cloud or multi-cloud strategies with strong automation, security and interface consistency.