The future of many businesses is growing in the cloud. Gartner reports that by 2025, 85% of organizations will operate with cloud-first principles, and a staggering 95% of new digital workloads will be deployed on cloud-native platforms. But as companies become more innovative, agile, and adaptive to stay ahead in competitive and dynamic markets, the way they’re using cloud computing capabilities is evolving and maturing.
“Cloud-first” strategies and “migrating to the cloud” hasn’t been so easy and affordable for many, and the idea of being locked into one or a few providers can be limiting and costly for IT teams over time. All of this is driving the need to manage resources across public, private and edge systems to meet business needs. This increases complexity but also provides flexibility, resilience and control over how applications and data are managed.
“A lot of our organizations are doing economic analysis of the cost to own and maintain the equipment versus the cost of software as a service and paying by the meter,” said Will Fulmer, Principal at the IT consultancy Helient Systems. “That’s where the hybrid cloud model really took off.”
The majority (60%) of IT teams surveyed in the 2023 Enterprise Cloud Index (ECI) said they use more than one IT infrastructure, whether it is a mix of private and public clouds, multiple public clouds, or an on-premises datacenter along with a hosted data center. That number is expected to grow to nearly three quarters (74%) in the near future. Managing mixed infrastructures is challenging, so 94% of respondents say they'd benefit from having a single, unified place to manage applications and data across their diverse environments.
“Organizations are grappling with current application and data management across the edge, different clouds and in the core,” said Lee Caswell, SVP, Product and Solutions Marketing at Nutanix when the 2023 ECI survey was published.
“There’s a need in the market for a cloud operating model to help build, operate, use and govern a hybrid multicloud to support all types of applications – starting today and planning for tomorrow.”
As IT leaders create and evolve their hybrid multicloud strategies, they’re facing enormous difficulties and unknowns as they begin prioritizing artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities for their organization. The 2023 Nutanix State of Enterprise AI Report, based on input from over 650 IT, DevOps and platform engineering decision makers, revealed the immense impact AI is having on IT strategies and resources.
To meet expanding data requirements, 91% of respondents said they need to make long-term investments in IT infrastructure modernization to support and scale AI workloads. Notably, 85% of respondents say their organization plans to increase investments in IT infrastructure modernization over the next 1-3 years to support AI workloads. Data security (53%), infrastructure resilience and uptime (52%), infrastructure management at scale (51%), and infrastructure automation (50%) were some of the areas in need of investment to support AI goals.
“It's probably simultaneously exciting and terrifying to be a data center manager right now,” Greg Diamos, a machine learning systems builder and AI expert, told The Forecast.
“You don't have enough compute in your data center, no matter who you are.”
But those who are investing in hybrid multicloud IT operations are able to onboard these new capabilities, according to Induprakas Keri, senior vice president and general manager of hybrid multicloud at Nutanix.
“AI-based services and applications are absolutely made for hybrid multicloud architectures,” Keri said.
“Steps in the AI workflow will happen across various infrastructure environments, with training happening in the cloud, enrichment, refinement, and training in core data centers, and inferencing at the edge. Successfully delivering a cohesive, scale-out infrastructure that can span across this entire AI workflow will be a key to success.”
Innovation in hybrid multicloud management software is making it easier for IT teams to use a variety of IT infrastructures and services by bringing better observability, automation, redundancy and replication capabilities. It’s empowering teams to embrace complexity by helping them manage a widely dispersed, scalable set to technologies.
Hybrid Multicloud Explained
By definition, hybrid multicloud is an approach to enterprise cloud computing in which an organization uses a mix of on-premises data centers, private cloud, public cloud services providers, and edge environments.
This model combines the control and security of the private cloud with the flexibility and scalability of the public cloud environment, while also integrating edge computing for enhanced performance and data processing capabilities.
Key components of hybrid multicloud architecture include:
Seamless Integration of Environments – One of the foundational aspects of hybrid multicloud is the seamless integration of different cloud environments. This integration allows for the movement of applications, data, and workloads between private and public clouds, as well as edge computing locations, providing businesses with greater flexibility and resource optimization.
Cloud Control Planes – Central to managing a hybrid multicloud setup is the cloud control plane. It offers a unified management interface that oversees all cloud services, regardless of their location. This control plane facilitates the orchestration and automation of various cloud processes to ensure consistent operations across different cloud environments.
Application Mobility – Analysts predict that more than 750 million new applications will exist by 2026. In order to continually adopt and leverage new applications to enhance business performance, companies need an effective way to deploy and manage them. In a hybrid multicloud architecture, applications are designed to be portable and thus can be deployed across multiple cloud environments without significant modifications. This easy mobility is crucial for optimizing application performance, meeting compliance requirements, and ensuring cost efficiency.
Multi-layered Security Framework – As cloud environments become more complex, they must be supported by a security strategy that can defend against increasingly sophisticated cyber adversaries and threats. Security in a hybrid multicloud setup is designed to do just this. It’s multi-layered, encompassing various aspects of each cloud environment. This includes maintaining compliance with different regulatory standards and implementing consistent security policies across all cloud platforms to protect data and applications. These features highlight why hybrid multicloud is not just a technical infrastructure but a strategic approach that enables businesses to position themselves for the future with greater agility, scalability, and resilience across every part of their operating environment.
Dennis Smith, Distinguished VP Analyst at Gartner, drove this point home at Gartner’s 2023 IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference.
“Cloud computing continues to evolve,” he said in his presentation on the implications of multicloud and and other technologies for I&O leaders.
“[It’s] progressing from being just a technology disruptor, to where, in 2028, it will be a necessity.”
Key Benefits of Hybrid Multicloud
Adopting a hybrid multicloud approach offers a multitude of benefits that align with the strategic objectives of modern businesses. These advantages help organizations not just keep pace with technological advancements but also harness them for future growth and success.
Agility and Flexibility – One of the most significant benefits of hybrid multicloud is the agility and flexibility it provides, enabling businesses to quickly adapt to market changes, customer demands, and technological advancements by leveraging the best attributes of various cloud environments. This flexibility allows for rapid deployment and scaling of applications so that businesses can respond swiftly to new opportunities and challenges.
Cost Efficiency and Scalability – Hybrid multicloud strategies can lead to more cost-effective use of IT resources. By distributing workloads across different cloud environments, organizations can optimize costs based on the computing needs and pricing models of each cloud service. This model also allows for scalable solutions that can grow with the business, ensuring that companies only pay for the resources they need, when they need them.
Enhanced Security and Compliance – Security is a paramount concern for any organization, and hybrid multicloud addresses this through a robust, multi-layered security approach. By leveraging the security strengths of both private and public clouds, businesses can protect sensitive data while complying with industry regulations and standards. This model facilitates the implementation of comprehensive security policies and the ability to adapt to evolving threats and compliance requirements.
Business Continuity and Resilience – Hybrid multicloud environments support robust disaster recovery and business continuity planning. The diversification of cloud resources ensures that businesses can maintain operations even in the event of a localized failure in one part of the cloud infrastructure. This resiliency is critical for minimizing downtime and ensuring uninterrupted service to customers.
Innovation and Competitive Advantage – By adopting a hybrid multicloud approach, businesses position themselves at the forefront of innovation. This model provides the flexibility to experiment with new technologies and cloud services, enabling organizations to develop and deploy cutting-edge solutions. The ability to leverage diverse cloud resources fosters a culture of innovation, giving businesses a competitive edge in their respective markets.
Optimized Performance – Hybrid multicloud allows organizations to place workloads in the most appropriate cloud environment, optimizing performance based on specific requirements. This leads to improved user experiences and operational efficiency, as applications can run in environments that are best suited to their needs.
How Hybrid Multicloud Powers DevOps and FinOps
The integration of hybrid multicloud environments has revolutionized two critical areas in modern IT operations: DevOps and FinOps.
By aligning cloud technology with these operational strategies, organizations can achieve greater efficiency, innovation, and financial management. Here’s how hybrid multicloud powers these two domains:
Enhancing DevOps with Agility and Flexibility – In a business landscape that requires the largest enterprises in the world to operate with levels of agility once reserved for startups, DevOps is becoming a central principle by which IT teams operate, collaborate, and innovate on a daily basis. Its impact is only expected to grow in the coming years – by 2028, the DevOps market will more than double from its 2023 value of $10.4 billion to reach $25.5 billion (a CAGR of 19.7%). This means companies will be investing in services and technologies that enable and enhance DevOps capabilities, and hybrid multicloud will be a main player in the mix. Its impact can be felt by companies who use it effectively in a number of ways, including:
Rapid Deployment and Innovation: Hybrid multicloud environments facilitate rapid deployment and continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) practices, which are at the heart of DevOps. This enables teams to innovate and deliver applications swiftly, and iterate as needed to meet changing needs and demands.
Environment Standardization: With hybrid multicloud, DevOps teams can standardize environments across various cloud platforms. This consistency reduces complexities associated with deployment, testing, and management of applications.
Scalable Infrastructure: DevOps teams can leverage the scalability of hybrid multicloud to adjust resources as per the demands of different stages of application development and deployment, ensuring optimal performance and efficiency.
Empowering FinOps through Cost Management and Optimization – One recent industry survey found that FinOps is becoming fairly ubiquitous – 98% of companies surveyed say they either currently have a dedicated FinOps team or are considering adding one. Still, time to value has proven slower than most teams want, and 75% of respondents said it will be 2-3 years before they see real ROI. Notably, the Nutanix ECI survey found that cloud cost control is a top challenge for companies, with 86% of respondents identifying it as a challenge and 34% saying it’s a “significant” challenge. Hybrid multicloud can help organizations address these challenges and accelerate FinOps time to value in powerful ways:
Resource Utilization and Optimization – Hybrid multicloud allows FinOps teams to optimize costs by choosing the most cost-effective cloud resources for different workloads. This includes leveraging spot instances, reserved instances, or scalable solutions based on the workload requirement.
Improved Cost Visibility and Accountability – The unified management of hybrid multicloud platforms provides FinOps teams with better visibility into cloud spending across different environments. This aids in more accurate budgeting, forecasting, and cost allocation.
Dynamic Financial Governance – With hybrid multicloud, FinOps can implement dynamic governance models that adapt to changing cloud usage patterns and business needs. This flexibility ensures that cloud spending aligns with business objectives and delivers maximum value.
Synergy between DevOps and FinOps – Perhaps most importantly, hybrid multicloud environments empower organizations to align and integrate their DevOps and FinOps operations for maximum performance results:
Collaborative Optimization: The intersection of DevOps and FinOps in a hybrid multicloud environment fosters collaboration between development, operations, and finance teams. This leads to a more holistic approach to IT management, where both operational efficiency and financial optimization are considered in decision-making.
Enhanced Decision Making: By combining the agility and innovation-driven approach of DevOps with the financial accountability and efficiency of FinOps, organizations can make more informed decisions that align technological investments with business outcomes.
Building a Hybrid Multicloud Strategy for the Future
While many see hybrid multicloud as a cornerstone of longstanding business innovation and resilience, these are still early days.
“Multicloud and hybrid cloud tools are in the early days of development, and this process is likely to unfold over the next 2-5 years,” wrote R. Scott Raynovich, Founder and Chief Analyst at Futuriom.com, in his recent article on the subject for Forbes.
As organizations plan their journeys towards a more agile, secure, and efficient IT infrastructure, there are several considerations to keep in mind:
Strategic Planning – Embracing hybrid multicloud requires thoughtful strategic planning. Organizations must assess their current IT infrastructure, understand their unique needs, and identify how different cloud environments can best support their goals. This involves a careful evaluation of workloads, data requirements, security needs, and compliance mandates.
Partner Selection – Choosing the right partners is crucial in building an effective hybrid multicloud strategy. Partners like cloud providers, cloud management platforms, and managed services providers should have the expertise and resources needed to help you successfully navigate the complexities of hybrid multicloud environments. Selecting partners that align with your business objectives and offer robust solutions is key to a successful transition.
Continuous Adaptation and Learning – The cloud landscape is continually evolving. Staying informed about the latest technologies and trends is essential. This means investing in ongoing training for IT teams and fostering a culture of continuous improvement and innovation.
Balancing Innovation with Practicality – While it's essential to be at the cutting edge of new technology, it's also critical that you ensure the solutions implemented are practical for your organization and deliver real business value. The focus should always be on how technology can enable better business outcomes.
Visibility and Centralized Management – One of the most important findings of Nutanix’s ECI survey was the need organizations currently have for greater visibility across their cloud environments—40% say they struggle with achieving it. Even more compelling, 94% say that they would benefit from having a single, unified place to manage applications and data across clouds.
With a strong plan in place and these key considerations in mind, businesses can leverage hybrid multicloud to build an ecosystem that’s not only robust and secure but also adaptable and agile, ready to meet new challenges and seize opportunities in the future.
This is an updated version of the original article published May 28, 2021.
Dipti Parmar is a marketing consultant and contributing writer to Nutanix. She writes columns on major tech and business publications such as IDG’s CIO.com, Adobe’s CMO.com, Entrepreneur Mag, and Inc. Follow her on Twitter @dipTparmar and connect with her on LinkedIn.
Michael Brenner updated this article. He is a keynote speaker, author and CEO of Marketing Insider Group. Michael has written hundreds of articles on sites such as Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and The Guardian and he speaks at dozens of leadership conferences each year covering topics such as marketing, leadership, technology, and business strategy.
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