Enterprise IT departments have long coveted the hybrid cloud as their ideal IT operating model. They consistently report aggressive plans to replace traditional data centers with hybrid private-public clouds, hoping to gain the flexibility to dynamically run workloads in the optimal place across infrastructures. And many rank the hybrid cloud as the most secure cloud option.
Despite the broad enthusiasm for hybrid clouds, though, actual adoption has fallen short of enterprises’ stated plans. Current active deployments could be described as anywhere from “small” to “respectable,” depending on which research report you consult. The disparities likely have more to do with the increasingly complex cloud services landscape, which is blurring hybrid and multicloud distinctions, than with differences in research methodologies.
Still Early Days
IDC, for example, reports fairly substantial worldwide hybrid cloud adoption, up from 36% in 2018 to 52% in 2019. Yet Deepak Mohan, IDC’s research director for infrastructure systems, platforms, and technologies, says that “these are still early days for hybrid cloud.”
He notes that the company size affects hybrid cloud uptake, with larger companies generally reporting greater adoption than smaller ones.
The Enterprise Cloud Index – global annual research conducted by UK-based researcher Vanson Bourne for Nutanix – indicates lower adoption levels than IDC’s. It also suggests that enterprise plans for increased hybrid cloud usage each year for the past few years turned into slight decreases instead.
Figure 1. Hybrid Cloud Plans Versus Deployments
|Research Year||% with Hybrid Cloud
within One Year
Source: Nutanix 2018, 2019, and 2020 Enterprise Cloud Index Reports, conducted by Vanson Bourne. Survey base: 2300, 2650, and 3400 global IT professionals, respectively, across different industries
In the Vanson Bourne-Nutanix studies, enterprises consistently express intentions to largely replace traditional, non-cloud-enabled datacenters with hybrid clouds within a few years’ time. While they reported about 53% global penetration of traditional data centers and about 13% hybrid cloud penetration in 2019, for example, they see those numbers flipping to about 16% datacenter and 52% hybrid cloud distribution by 2024.
Many Variables at Play
Getting a true handle on worldwide hybrid cloud adoption is tricky. One reason is that cloud computing options are increasing, bringing with them new and varied definitions for private, public, hybrid and multiclouds. This situation has left some companies unsure exactly what it is they’re running.
There are other factors, too, that have caused a few false starts:
- Enterprises continue to report a general shortage of tools and skills that would enable them to successfully manage their hybrid environments. But the situation is improving, experts say. “Until two years ago, lack of [hybrid] tools was a real strain,” said IDC’s Mohan. “But the supply side of things is unfolding in 2020.”
- Unforeseen developments, including the global pandemic and changing privacy laws, have refocused IT attention elsewhere. While stricter privacy legislation has caused a number of enterprises to return, or “repatriate” some public cloud applications to on-premises infrastructure, COVID-19 has turned IT’s attention to fortifying remote access infrastructure. In doing so, the pandemic is also serving indirectly as a catalyst to hybrid cloud, in that enterprises report investing more heavily in all cloud types as part of their remote buildout efforts.
- Shadow IT has resulted in some enterprise cloud “islands.” Efforts are underway to unite them to ensure consistent operations, best practices, and governance across cloud locations.
Growing Cloud Options
Inconsistent cloud definitions are circulating in part because more cloud options are coming to market. Enterprises no longer make a simple binary decision about whether to run workloads in their private datacenter or “in the cloud,” meaning a public cloud infrastructure service.
Now, public cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform can run in enterprise data centers as a managed service option. In addition, some private cloud infrastructure providers are expanding their cloud-enabled data center environments into purpose-built public cloud options that they manage. They also offer private cloud interoperability with public cloud services, such as those mentioned from AWS, Microsoft, and Google.