While most organisations are certain that the cloud has a vital role to play in the future of business, the various strategies, from a public or private cloud first approach to the hybrid or multicloud routes, can be confusing to some.
At Red Hat, we’re constantly receiving useful industry insights from our customers when speaking to them about their current priorities and issues. Our recent Global Customer Tech Outlook study revealed that many organisations don’t know what cloud strategy to put in place, with 17% stating that this was something they were still working on. A further 12% had not yet developed any plans at all for their cloud.
So what do organisations unsure of their strategy need to know?
Shaping your cloud strategy
Our survey found that a hybrid cloud strategy is the most common, with 31% describing their company’s approach in this way. Meanwhile, only 12% described themselves as having either a public cloud first strategy or a plan to standardise on a single public cloud.
A public cloud is well suited for those with high volume workloads, or fluctuating demands. But organisations also need to consider the impact of potential disadvantages, ranging from data sovereignty and latency for data access, to public cloud sprawl and cost control.
We found that around one fifth of organisations, 21%, have a private cloud first strategy, which is typically selected by those with existing investments on premise, or a deliberate need to keep workloads on premise.
It’s interesting to note that more respondents in EMEA described themselves as having a private cloud first strategy, 33%, rather than a hybrid one, 25%. In both North America and Asia Pacific, hybrid cloud is the clear first choice with 34% and 35% of responses respectively.
In our survey, a multicloud strategy based on multiple public clouds was the least common response, with just 6% of respondents stating that this was the approach they would be taking. It’s a strategy that can enable an organisation to choose cloud services from several providers in order to meet specific workload or application requirements.
A multicloud approach allows enterprises to pursue best-of-breed tactics to create cloud environments to suit their specific business needs. It can also lower risks associated with relying on just one provider by delivering an available, highly-scalable backup in case the primary cloud goes dark. In this sense a multicloud approach offers flexibility and avoids the issue of getting locked into using one vendor.
Why hybrid cloud is the most popular
A hybrid cloud strategy combines the best of both worlds of public cloud and the non-cloud-ready aspects of existing IT infrastructure. And often, even if hybrid cloud isn’t the organisation’s plan in the first place, it will end up being the preferred approach once established.
The reasons for having a hybrid cloud strategy were diverse according to our report, but overall data security, cost benefits, and data integration topped the list.
How to build a hybrid cloud infrastructure
Hybrid cloud shouldn’t be an afterthought, it should instead be viewed as a fundamental design principle upon which vital infrastructure building blocks are built. We recommend beginning with a hybrid cloud infrastructure built from the ground up to ensure flexibility and choice.
Companies need to consider developer enablement and productivity, allowing them to build and deploy apps to a hybrid cloud. After all, the needs of an app might change, from on premise today to public cloud tomorrow. In line with this, management tools that orchestrate workloads and automation tools to simplify day-to-day operations are essential to delivering the complete value of a hybrid cloud.
Making a conscious decision to retain on-premise data centres and continuing to invest where it makes sense, for specific workloads, is often an important part of a hybrid cloud strategy. It’s not about having on-premise data centres, adopting a bit of public cloud, ending up with two and calling that hybrid cloud. It’s about recognising that modern IT and diverse workloads require the benefits that both approaches can offer. There is no one size fits all when it comes to a hybrid cloud strategy.
The importance of an open approach
An open approach matters more than ever before. Although some cloud providers use open source technologies and industry-standard interfaces to build public cloud platforms, it doesn’t mean they always live up to the promise of a truly open platform.
Lock-in is always a day two concern because the initially alluring factors of public cloud, such as cost savings and reduced operations costs, persuade organisations to sign up. However, whilst the cost of entry is low, the exit costs can be extremely high.
Lock-in only matters when you want to move or do something new but, in today’s business world, who knows when your apps or workloads will have new requirements or need to change? An open approach can shield against this, offering flexibility and a platform to innovate.
Ultimately, on any journey to develop a hybrid cloud infrastructure, it is vital to remember that every cloud is unique. While it is important to understand the basic principles of building an interconnected and agile cloud environment, it is equally important to understand that private clouds are one of a kind and there are thousands of public cloud providers.
Businesses today value agility, to adapt and move workloads, create new workloads, to exit or enter new clouds. More than ever before, organisations can’t afford to put all their eggs in one basket. A public-cloud-only-and-first approach is likely to hamper agility. Instead, small steps led by business needs, and the ability to pivot quickly, will be crucial to navigating this complex landscape.
By James Read, EMEA Principal Solution Architect, Cloud and Service Providers, Red Hat.