of respondents said COVID-19 has caused IT to be viewed more strategically in their organizations
of respondents consider hybrid their ideal operating model
of respondents who currently run on-premises infrastructure have deployed or plan to deploy hyperconverged infrastructure
For the third consecutive year, Nutanix has commissioned research to learn about the state of global enterprise cloud deployments and adoption plans. In mid-2020, U.K. researcher Vanson Bourne surveyed 3,400 IT decision-makers around the world about where they’re running their business applications today, where they plan to run them in the future, what their cloud challenges are, and how their cloud initiatives stack up against other IT projects and priorities. This year, survey respondents were also asked about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on current and future IT infrastructure decisions and how IT strategy and priorities might be changing because of it.
The Third Annual ECI respondent base spanned multiple industries, business sizes, and the following geographies: the Americas; Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA); and the Asia-Pacific (APJ) region.
For three years running, the majority of global IT pros surveyed for the Enterprise Cloud Index (ECI) have ranked integrated private and public clouds—referred to as hybrid cloud—as their preferred IT operating model. This year, 86% of the ECI’s 3,400 respondents agreed that hybrid cloud is the “ideal IT operating model for my organization.” Concurrence with this statement has ranged from 85% to 91% of all global respondents for the three years that ECI research has been conducted.
Enterprise enthusiasm for the hybrid IT model has been strong for all three research years, though most businesses still struggle to fully adopt it. Among the reasons, discussed below, are still-maturing cloud management tools, scarcity of talent skilled in disparate cloud platforms, economic and regulatory trends, and the need to depreciate or transition legacy infrastructure. These issues have conspired to keep hybrid cloud deployments fairly flat to date (Figure 1).
It should be noted that in the Third Annual ECI survey, the question was asked whether respondents were running hybrid-only environments (to the exclusion of all other types of clouds and datacenters). It’s possible that in addition to the approximately 12% shown to be running only hybrid cloud infrastructures, some other respondents may also be operating integrated hybrid cloud infrastructures alongside other infrastructure types.
Most enterprises indicate that they’re in the process of transitioning to hybrid cloud infrastructure. Hybrid clouds require enterprises to invest in both private and public clouds, which ultimately become integrated with common management and security policies and allow for application portability among them. Third Annual ECI respondents indicated significant progress in establishing private clouds, decommissioning non-cloud-enabled datacenters, and overall upping their cloud investments.
Yet for older, established businesses, transitions don’t happen overnight. “If you have 20+ years of history at your business, cloud migration gets expensive, because you invest in new resources, then discover that you can’t turn off some legacy things,” says Dominic Maidment, Technology Architect at Total Gas and Power Ltd in Red Hill, Surrey, England. “Not everything translates into the new environment. And whether you’re re-platforming, lifting and shifting, or repurchasing [using SaaS], you still have to customize, move data, and integrate old and new worlds until you’re ready to let go. It’s a big deal, so you have to be very clear on the value of running in the new environment. I think these are some of the reasons many are foundering with deploying hybrid cloud.”
In addition, a few other issues continue to temporarily slow the pace of hybrid cloud deployments:
Tools for managing mixed cloud environments to date have been immature or scarce. However, experts say that the supply side of hybrid cloud management tools is “coming of age” in 2020, so significant improvements are likely to come. “The toolsets for our private cloud are very good. I don’t think the mixed cloud tools are as mature, but they’re catching up quickly,” says Drew Plaster, Senior Network Systems Administrator, IT Infrastructure, at Moda Health, an insurance carrier based in Portland, Oregon.
IT teams are short on in-house skills that bridge on-prem and public cloud tech. More than a third of respondents (37%) say their organizations lack the skills to manage hybrid cloud infrastructure, in part because different cloud technologies work differently. “Standards are lacking,” says Joe Kaplovitz, CTO at Kaplan Companies, a construction and real estate company based in Highland Park, New Jersey “The actual differences between public clouds are minute, but getting there is not. If I spend the time to figure out how to get up on, say, Azure, I’m going to stay there, because it’s too time-consuming to learn multiple proprietary cloud platforms.” That said, 85% of Third Annual ECI respondents said they’re investing in reskilling their IT teams to keep pace with emerging technologies.
New cloud options complicate decision-making. From public clouds extending into a customer’s IT environment to private clouds running in different locations, the widening array of offerings is causing IT pros to reevaluate their overall cloud strategies.
Changing privacy laws. Stricter laws about where customer data can be stored have forced IT leaders to rethink where their existing workloads are allowed to run. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of respondents to the Second Annual ECI study in 2019, for example, brought some applications and data back from public clouds to on-prem environments as a result.
The remainder of this report takes a closer look at global enterprises’ cloud plans, motivators, challenges, and related phenomena affecting their IT infrastructure journeys.
Standards are lacking. If I spend the time to figure out how to get up on, say, Azure, I’m going to stay there, because it’s too time-consuming to learn multiple proprietary cloud platforms.Joe Kaplovitz, CTO, Kaplan Companies, Highland Park, New Jersey, USA
Why does the hybrid cloud infrastructure option continue to rank so high with enterprise IT departments? Third Annual ECI responses indicate that the appeal is about more than cost-cutting, which was the initial draw to cloud computing a dozen years ago.
Respondents said they are moving away from their current IT deployment models, first and foremost, to achieve better business outcomes. Specifically, they feel they’ll gain the flexibility to:
better deliver on business requirements (55%)
improve support for customers (46%) and remote workers (46%)
achieve stronger data security (40%)
Cost savings are now less of a driver: just 27% of respondents cited it as a reason for changing their IT operating models.
Why do enterprises associate these business benefits with hybrid cloud infrastructure? The answer might lie in defining what a true hybrid cloud is and does.
Global enterprises have long been bullish on cloud and consistently indicate they want the freedom to run workloads in the cloud infrastructure best suited for them based on fluctuating criteria. The “best” location, then, could be dynamically determined by cost, compliance requirements, time-to-market pressures, bursts of compute activity that require on-demand capacity, and other business or technology variables.
The ideal cloud might be private or public, and enterprises want the agility to move workloads among them as requirements change. Together, private and public cloud infrastructures that are able to support this fluidity with common management and uniform security can deliver what is seen by most as the ideal operating model and provide the advantages of a hybrid cloud infrastructure. They make borders between cloud environments all but invisible to users and IT alike.
Currently, just under 12% of global enterprises say they run hybrid cloud and no other IT infrastructure. Not many more—just 18%—still exclusively run traditional, non-cloud-enabled datacenters. Greater numbers report running mixed infrastructure models and private clouds; this is consistent with companies being on a transitory journey to hybrid cloud, as they adopt hybrid cloud elements first with an eye toward ultimately integrating them.
While these are still early days for hybrid cloud deployments global enterprises remain ambitious: they say they intend to grow the exclusive use of hybrid cloud to 49% in three to five years. At that time, just 2% of global respondents intend to still be running traditional, non-cloud-enabled datacenters exclusively (Figure 2).