Shifting the mindset from cloud-first to cloud-best using hybrid IT

For several years now digital transformation has been a slow burn for many companies, but as a result of the current global pandemic, it has become a commercial imperative almost overnight. Business leaders are unsettled by a future that is in flux, as suggested by the Institute of Directors’ confidence tracker which identified concerns around the economy’s recovery and their own company’s ability to weather the storm. One of the few constants is the pressure to innovate quickly and invest in digital solutions to meet the growing need for agile, secure and accessible services.

One solution that has come into the spotlight like never before is the cloud. Before the pandemic struck, cloud adoption was growing in popularity with $222.8 billion in public cloud investment in 2019 according to Gartner, while IDC reported that public cloud represented more than 30% of the overall cloud IT infrastructure market this year and estimated growth of almost 40% by 2023. Therefore, even before the pandemic, it was clear how critical cloud was becoming in supporting application delivery and assisting developers with new projects.

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So what is the reason for its popularity? CTOs and CIOs are looking for agile, simple and scalable solutions. These characteristics continue to make the cloud model even more attractive when businesses are tasked with delivering projects quickly and have to manoeuvre the challenge of legacy IT equipment, as is the case for many companies operating in the current environment.

That being said, it’s important that leaders should refrain from rushing to adopt a ‘cloud-first’ strategy, and instead opt for a ‘cloud-best’ approach. This means aligning cloud to your business strategy, not the other way around. In doing so, it prevents over-spending for underwhelming returns, and keeps IT closely aligned to business needs.

Moving beyond the public and private cloud dilemma

Those who are approaching the cloud for the first time face the classic question around which type of service to choose, public or private. Both have different use-cases and can be critical for businesses in achieving their objectives. For instance, the public cloud is agile, scalable and simple to use, great for teams looking to get up and running quickly. However, the private cloud offers its own benefits, chiefly a greater degree of control over data and performance. As organisations hosting their data in a private cloud are in full control of that data, there’s typically a more consistent security posture and a greater degree of flexibility and control over how that data is used and managed. Moreover, the private cloud can typically deliver faster and higher through-put environments for those mission critical applications that cannot run in the public cloud without business impacting performance issues.

However, companies risk getting caught in the cloud divide, feeling as though public cloud is not appropriate for their enterprise applications, or that on-prem enterprise infrastructure isn’t as user-friendly, simple or scalable as the public cloud. Ultimately organisations should be able to make infrastructure choices based on what’s best for their business, not constrained by what the technology can do or where it lives.

That age-old dilemma of choosing between private or public cloud no longer needs to exist. An option to unite the best of both worlds, the hybrid cloud, has emerged. This has become a strategy that underpins this ‘cloud-best’ approach that companies are opting for. It allows them to simultaneously leverage the private cloud with its enterprise grade capabilities, and the public cloud, with all the agility, ease of use and dynamism that it offers.

Hybrid cloud is cloud-best

As part of this cloud-best approach, leaders need to understand that the technology is no longer part of an isolated delivery option, but should be folded into part of an all-encompassing strategy; including public and private cloud, on-premises enterprise systems, IoT edge, software-as-a-service and a variety of other solutions. They should also prioritise a robust data strategy, as the portability and mobility of data and applications is essential to efficient development.

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Most businesses that are more than 10 years old started with a traditional on-premise-only portfolio, but are now looking at adopting a hybrid environment where applications can migrate seamlessly between private and public clouds. To deliver on this, they need a solution that unifies cloud and delivers a common set of data services across on-premises and cloud, enabling consistent storage capabilities, APIs, and resiliency so that applications can be built once and run anywhere. It’s therefore best that companies work closely with their IT vendors to remove the complexity of legacy IT infrastructure and facilitate a cloud-best approach.

Hybrid IT models are continuing to gain traction with over 75% of midsize and large organisations having adopted or planning to roll out a hybrid or multi-cloud strategy by 2021. It is no surprise that these models are being adopted at such rates as they offer companies the best of both cloud worlds, and provide businesses with much needed agility. This is why hybrid is quickly becoming a core principle of digital businesses.

The rise of the flexible consumption model

In addition to the growing popularity of hybrid IT models, a select group of modern IT vendors have taken a very different approach to infrastructure consumption. It is thought about, implemented and consumed very much as a service, with a recognition that IT teams have organised themselves around the experience of public cloud. In tandem, organisations have shifted away from admins to engineers, to build infrastructure designed as a strategic tool and innovation driver rather than to simply keep the lights on. Modern IT professionals are not hired to turn screws and manage IT, they’re hired to focus on business critical innovations that help the organisation achieve its objectives. It’s very different from the traditional IT skill set. Infrastructure delivered as a cloud-like experience for developers empowers them to be more productive.

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Ultimately, some leaders might choose to adopt one type of cloud service or the other, but this typically lends itself to a cloud-first approach, as opposed to cloud-best. For those modern, far sighted CIOs and CTOs that need to innovate, hybrid cloud is no longer a question. Leaders need to ensure they are benefitting from the best of both worlds with hybrid IT. By combining the enterprise class capabilities of private cloud with the scalability and agility of the public cloud, businesses can continue to innovate and outperform competitors during these times of uncertainty.

Written by Patrick Smith, CTO EMEA at Pure Storage

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