How Hybrid IT Can Lend Business the Flexibility It Needs

Implementing Hybrid IT and cloud services leads to improvements in business processes and operational productivity.

By Dipti Parmar

By Dipti Parmar October 31 2019

Now that cloud-based IT is here to stay in the enterprise, it might be a good idea to build on the advantages and look a little closer at better ways to set up and operate systems.

Hybrid IT acknowledges the sheer muscle that public cloud environments bring and the unique advantages of private cloud or on-premises IT solutions. Many businesses already leverage or are considering hybrid cloud; in fact, the RightScale 2019 State of the Cloud survey reported that 69% of companies surveyed have a hybrid cloud setup in place.

Hyperconverged Infrastructure Adoption Chart

Source: Flexera

Nutanix’s 2018 Enterprise Cloud Index showed that 91% of companies say that hybrid cloud is the ideal IT model for organizations. The 2019 version that will be released soon also found that hybrid cloud continues to be the most desired IT model.

What Is Hybrid IT?

The word "hybrid" conjures the notion of two opposite states of being. While the hybrid cloud does include the obvious combination of public or private cloud services, its definition is broader than just that.

[Related story: Moving to True Hybrid Cloud]

Hybrid cloud environments could be any combination of public and private cloud services and can be delivered from an off or on-premises infrastructure. Many companies rely on just public cloud services and in-house servers and IT setup, and some use a variety of public cloud services in conjunction with private ones. In fact, according to the RightScale survey, companies use around five cloud services at the same time, on average.

Nutanix’s Cloud Usage Report found that organizations are increasingly adopting more cloud services – 10 or more on average. Enterprises have the highest level of cloud maturity, with most of them consuming more than 30 different cloud services. Users typically start with IaaS service consumption (including compute, networking and storage) in the cloud and broaden their usage to PaaS services as they mature in terms of cloud usage.

A hybrid cloud solution brings together all these disparate cloud setups through a single layer of software that helps oversee, control, and update each of the component clouds directly. Xi Cloud Services from Nutanix even allow different cloud models to communicate and exchange data with each other, while unifying their storage, computational and other related capabilities through a "single pane of glass" – leveraging a single console to manage and automate heterogeneous information systems, including cloud-based as well as traditional platforms.

Source: GigaOm Whitepaper on Hybrid and Multi-Cloud Complexity

“With more companies moving to hybrid cloud, I expect a lot of new stuff to happen in enterprises that's never happened before,” said Rajiv Mirani, CTO of Cloud Platforms for Nutanix, in an article that explains what moving to the true hybrid cloud really involves.

Hybrid clouds help multi-locational companies manage their IT systems across all offices without compromising any system capabilities. Research shows that 66% of companies preferred to keep collaboration-based applications such as email and project management tools on premises or in a private cloud.

Source: Dimension Data

Processes that are more computational can be run on the public cloud, which offers almost endless computational and storage resources. Those processes include data analytics and web services.

How Hybrid Cloud Offers Flexibility

One of the most popular reasons that organizations give for embracing the cloud is the flexibility it brings to their IT operations. While flexibility can be looked at in many different ways, the most fundamental translation of a flexible cloud solution is one that can be tweaked and transformed to suit organizational requirements.

This flexibility can result in:

Scalability

The Unique Selling Proposition (USP) of hybrid cloud is the availability of a fixed set of resources internally, with the option of upgrading to a completely new level of computing and storage capabilities at the flick of a switch, by moving those requirements to the public cloud.

Flexibility to cherry-pick hardware, software or services when needed helps companies grow rapidly rather than wait to develop needed capabilities in-house. The flexibility of the hybrid cloud supports company growth and makes this growth more efficient, as teams can use best-in-class tools from each type of cloud, making the best of all the varied resources they have on hand.

Better Security

Companies that have to abide by strict regulatory requirements for their data and applications are typically wary of public clouds, thanks to their perception of being not as secure as a private cloud or controlled environments.

With a flexible hybrid cloud solution, companies can choose which applications to move out on the public cloud and which ones to keep in-house in a manner that keeps the overarching security requirements front and center. Mission-critical processes and data can be kept in-house, while less sensitive apps can live on the public cloud.

Automation

The platform that combines private, on-premises and public clouds typically allows companies to automate many of their processes. This results in efficiency and improved quality of work. Things like tracking, notifying the right teams in case of down-time, and other routine tasks can easily be automated.

“Automation is important because it helps reduce the operating costs, as well as the pain caused by the growing complexity of business processes and management tasks,” said Jason Goodall, CEO of Dimension Data, in a press release. “It is simply no longer appropriate or cost-effective for these tasks to be done manually.”

Cost Savings

Flexibility and cost savings go hand in hand in the case of hybrid cloud setups. A unique feature of the hybrid cloud is the system of being able to pre-pay for reserved instances on the public cloud, which can help in lowering the total cost of operations.

Computational needs of the typical organization are not static. There's usually the business-as-usual piece that's predictable and probably can run on a private cloud or an on-premises infrastructure. However, there are also seasonal or transient spikes in computational needs that don't last too long but demand an exponentially higher capacity when they do arise. Such spikes in capacity requirements can be easily handled with already purchased reserved instances.

Innovation On Demand

The hybrid cloud's shared resources allow companies to develop new products and services without being limited by system capabilities, storage limits or even computational capacity. To a great extent, developers can pick and choose the best features of each cloud service and leverage them to create custom products or services.

Minimal Risks

The hybrid cloud allows companies to spread their risks by offering them all the permutations and combinations of computing features with appropriate security capabilities. This opens up options from a development and maintenance perspective. It also reduces dependence on any single cloud service provider over the course of the company's hybrid journey.

This allows for more consistent uptime, as processes and data can be moved around between clouds. The execution isn’t always perfect though, and obstacles do exist. While there is flexibility in moving resources within the same provider, moving from one provider to another isn’t that simple.

In an ideal (or well-planned) scenario, when one cloud goes down or has an interruption in service, the slack can be picked up by another one on the hybrid cloud network, thus ensuring that mission-critical processes are never interrupted.

What's Stopping Companies from Going Hybrid?

Despite all the benefits that hybrid clouds offer, many companies, including ones that already have hybrid cloud systems, shy away from fully leveraging its potential. One reason could be that moving things off the public cloud and bringing them back on premises is a challenge. “It requires massive amounts of investment, re-architecture and refactoring applications to move them back into there,” opines Mirani.

For many, making sure the hybrid IT complies with their industry's regulatory framework becomes a challenge. Others struggle to figure out how to get the public and private components of their cloud environments to play nice with each other and transfer data and apps between themselves.

What Brings Them Back?

“Applications evolve,” explained Mirani in an article about the myths surrounding the hybrid cloud. “Today, it may be cheaper to run something in the public cloud. As utilization grows, in two years it may make more sense to run that same application in your private data center. If you can't move things back and forth, that's a decision you're locked into very early in the process of deploying an application.”

Bringing applications and workloads hosted off-premises back into the fold has been a practice as old as cloud service delivery itself. This is called cloud repatriation – in a high-profile case, file storage and sharing provider Dropbox moved hundreds of petabytes of customer data off AWS and back into its datacenters a couple of years ago, resulting in savings of $75 million in infrastructure costs over two years.

It’s very important to find the right balance without being locked into one cloud provider – for Nutanix, keeping the option open to pull data and applications back on premises matters the most. Whatever the reason du jour may be for not hopping onboard yet, its time enterprises and even SMBs take a new look at hybrid IT and cloud. It'd be a pity to waste the opportunity to save costs and improve productivity with the same solution.

Featured Image: Adapted and used under CC license from SystemwareWiki

Dipti Parmar is a contributing writer. She has written for CIO.com, Entrepreneur, CMO.com and Inc. Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @dipTparmar.

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