As enterprises look to improve operations, many are turning to a hybrid cloud strategy, which blends on-prem and hosted services.
Business have been moving to a cloud operating model for the better part of two decades, but the term “cloud” has been continuously evolving. Early cloud deployments were akin to hosted services where a business would “lift and shift” a workload to an offsite location. For the past decade or so, cloud has been defined by public clouds, where businesses would deploy data and/or workloads in a hyper-scaler such as AWS, Azure, or GCP.
Based on my conversations with IT leaders, it’s been my thesis that we are in the midst of the next evolutionary step in cloud and that’s hybrid cloud, which is defined as a combination of two more clouds that are centrally managed. This can include on-premises private, hosted private, or public infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud.
One good anecdotal proof point that the hybrid cloud is real is that all “big three” cloud providers (Amazon, Google, and Microsoft) all have their own hybrid cloud offerings. I recall the Re:Invent 2019 event when AWS released Outposts. In the analysts’ Q&A session, I asked then-head of AWS Andy Jassey why the company chose to come to market with its own private cloud stack, and he gave a very simple answer of “because our enterprise customers want it.”
Cisco recently released its “2022 Global Hybrid Cloud Trends Report,” which examines the promise of hybrid cloud and offers guidance to businesses making the transition to a hybrid cloud model. The report is based on data collected from a survey of 2,500 global IT decision-makers and professionals in cloud operations (CloudOps), development and IT operations (DevOps), and enterprise networking roles. The survey was conducted between April 11 and May 6, 2022, in 13 countries across North America, Latin America, Western Europe, and Asia-Pacific.
In the report, Cisco recommends moving to an infrastructure strategy that is cloud-ready and uses a cloud-smart operations model.
Business agility and access to cloud-based services are some of the key reasons why organizations are moving to hybrid cloud. According to the report, 82% of organizations have adopted hybrid cloud, while 47% use two to three public infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) clouds. However, more than a third of organizations said deploying multiple clouds comes with security challenges (37 %) and increased operational complexity (35%). This is consistent with my research that found that 95% of enterprise class companies have adopted hybrid model. Cisco’s survey is broader than just enterprise, and I believe many small companies will go “all in” with public cloud, many with a single so that explains the gap between Cisco’s 82% and my 95%. In both cases, the majority of businesses will eventually be hybrid.
As organizations look to boost the performance and security of their apps, they are shifting to cloud-native architectures. Most (91%) of the respondents are actively moving/planning to move or refactor their production workloads and apps using cloud-native technologies. According to those in DevOps and CloudOps roles, the top drivers for using cloud-native tech are requirements around performance (45%), security (44%), speed (39%), workload mobility (36%), cost (33%), agility (30%), scalability (29%), and resiliency (29%).
Nearly half (48%) of organizations with cloud-native tech use containers, while 45% use service mesh, 40% use serverless, and 37% have Kubernetes deployed. Only a small percentage (less than 5%) don’t currently use or plan to use any of these technologies. Interestingly, CloudOps and DevOps professionals also believe that cloud-native tech positively impacts networking, making networks more automated (24%) and more secure (25%).
Despite feeling optimistic about the benefits of cloud-native tech, the respondents expressed several concerns about effectively implementing them. According to 66% of those in DevOps and CloudOps roles, security is the biggest concern. The other challenges named by the respondents are process/tools integration (57%) and budget constraints (52%). The challenges organizations face in these areas are likely due to the lack of skilled employees and tight budgets.
To address the challenges of leveraging cloud-native tech, Cisco’s report recommends that DevOps and CloudOps professionals build out their organization’s automation and security capabilities using infrastructure as code (IaC). This would allow organizations to replace manual processes by managing infrastructure using code. 68% of the respondents in cloud operations roles said security improvements are a key driver of IaC, compared with 48% of DevOps respondents.
Furthermore, IaC is essential in managing complex apps, according to 61% of organizations. This is especially true for 72% of organizations that use over 10 public clouds. Those in DevOps and CloudOps also believe IaC is necessary for more efficient development (52%) and improved infrastructure consistency (52%).
The survey data shows high deployment of emerging technologies that benefit from hybrid architectures, including artificial intelligence for IT operations or AIOps (45%), infrastructure automation (41%), composable infrastructure (37%), and edge computing (41%). More than half (57%) of the respondents in networking roles strongly agree that their DevOps team should be involved in developing their organization’s network strategy.
Although hybrid cloud benefits organizations in many ways, adding new elements to an existing infrastructure increases operational complexity. According to 79% of organizations, approximately half of their workloads will run on different hardware across environments, which means organizations need to have a comprehensive toolset for managing workloads regardless of their location.
Lastly, the report highlights the importance of collaboration between CloudOps, DevOps, and networking teams to achieve successful hybrid cloud operations. The respondents are open-minded about collaborating outside of their core team. In fact, 55 % of organizations have created cross-functional teams, while 50 % have a centralized CloudOps and NetOps function to ensure their organization’s hybrid cloud strategy meets business objectives.
Cisco’s research and report confirms much of the anecdotal data points on cloud evolution. The existing cloud model of discrete, centralized clouds has run its course and now it’s time for the computing industry to take the next step. Hybrid clouds are coming and will enable businesses to put data and workloads in the place it makes the most sense versus having everything in one centralized location.