Recent studies and use cases have shown that many organizations around the world are moving to a hybrid cloud strategy, especially over the last 12 months. In a recent conversation with CXOToday, Karan Kirpalani, Cloud evangelist, NTT Ltd. in India, explains what is driving the growth of hybrid cloud in the enterprise. He also sheds light on some of the key challenges businesses are facing while implementing hybrid cloud and how CIOs can plan for a successful hybrid cloud strategy to gain a competitive edge.
What is driving the growth of hybrid cloud in the enterprise?
We’re seeing this large-scale adoption of a hybrid cloud approach regardless of whether they’re a start-up or a Fortune 50 company in recent times. Needless to say, organizations’ business imperatives have changed over the last couple of months – something that has created a paradigm shift in evaluating how IT needs to evolve to meet these changing business dynamics. CIOs today need their infrastructure and applications to be agile, secure, and cost efficient in order to support dynamic business requirements, and a hybrid cloud strategy is possibly the only strategy that allows organizations to achieve that. All these factors are driving the growth of hybrid cloud in the enterprise.
Most organizations recognize the benefits of business agility but are struggling to become agile. Do you think a hybrid cloud strategy can solve this problem? If so, then how?
The need for greater agility and performance was already on the minds of CXOs, but the pressure to achieve the same has been tremendous. That said, the pandemic made enterprises realize that they need to be able to swiftly respond to changing conditions, and they require resiliency across not only their own organization but their supply chains too. About two-thirds of organizations (63.8%) surveyed in India have said that improving their business agility and ability to respond to change will be important over the next 12 months.
Hybrid cloud offers business and IT leaders the chance to meet changing business demands head-on. While continuity and business resilience are fundamental, improving customer experiences and growing revenues still feature highly on the list of business objectives. As such, leaders need to be accelerators of technology, from strategy to deployment. Hybrid cloud provides a way to achieve this goal by speeding up processes, encouraging collaboration, and providing cost-effective solutions to free up IT budget for growth, transformation, and innovation.
Of course, it is complex to implement, but hybrid cloud ultimately simplifies internal operations through automation, as well as streamlines the management of IT resources. This increases overall efficiency by reducing the time spent by IT teams on managing supporting infrastructure.
What is the role of security and compliance in hybrid cloud planning?
The biggest problem CIOs are dealing with today is the ‘unknown threat’. Malicious actors have evolved their tools and techniques to a level where they’re easily able to circumvent traditional, control-based security, which is why threat detection ranks number one in the initiatives for which organizations are looking for specialized help in 2021. Organizations that are undergoing a digital transformation exercise are especially vulnerable as they refactor legacy applications for a move to the cloud because they often have insufficient tools, processes, and skills to be able to deal with a complex and ever-changing threat landscape, and often lack an inadequate response plan for the attack that inevitably gets through. Given this continuously evolving threat landscape, security is possibly the biggest consideration when implementing a hybrid cloud strategy, and the one most challenging to implement well. Strategic security planning is a waste of time unless it’s aligned with the business strategy and it accommodates technology and risk environment trends and mature I&O leaders are aware that while striving for agility and flexibility, the entire IT landscape needs to be secure by design.
What are some of the other barriers to hybrid cloud adoption?
One well known challenge in hybrid cloud adoption is refactoring legacy applications to be able to move them to the cloud. It’s an unenviable task, trying to decide whether a particular application can be rehosted, or whether it needs to be replatformed, or worse – refactored. While replatforming or refactoring applications can sometimes yield the best results from a performance and agility perspective, it’s not always feasible given the costs and complexity involved in doing so.
Also, often organizations find it most challenging to break down the barriers between the various infrastructure and application silos. A hybrid cloud, by definition, involves the use of more than one cloud platform – and often involves both private cloud and public services. This leads to disparate virtualization environments, different cloud management platforms, complex connectivity solutions to connect disparate geographic deployments, and almost always different SLAs. It’s not all doom and gloom though – choosing the right hybrid cloud provider can easily help overcome these barriers.
With so many cloud vendors in the market today, how does one pick the right partner for a successful hybrid cloud implementation?
The most important thing when it comes to choosing a hybrid cloud partner is for an organization to first assess its business imperatives and then assess the challenges it faces in trying to achieve those imperatives. This may sound like generic advice, but it’s the best approach and will go a long way in identifying the right partner to undertake this journey with. A hybrid cloud is a many-faceted thing and a lot of the elements involved – the datacenter, the network, the cloud platforms, managed services and finally security and compliance – all play a critical role in ensuring that the hybrid cloud can actually meet the organizational objectives in an agile, secure and cost-effective manner. This is why it’s critical for organizations to assess a potential provider across all of these parameters, and not just some of them. For example, At NTT, we take a four-step approach in working with our clients on hybrid cloud initiatives. We begin with a consultative approach where we do discovery and analysis to understand the client’s existing landscape and what their existing challenges are. We then create a comprehensive migration plan for the various workloads to move to the cloud platform that suits them best. It is then followed by continuous operations, innovation and optimization. Not only do we invest significantly in our own datacenter, network cloud, managed services and security offerings, but we also have strategic tie-ups with all the leading cloud service providers so that we’re able to provide the entire range of ‘best execution venues’ for organizations who might need to re-host or re-platform their applications.
What are some of the recommendations for a successful hybrid cloud planning?
Organizations must begin with utmost clarity on their business needs and IT capabilities to successfully plan an enterprise-wide, hybrid cloud transformation. The 2021 hybrid cloud report recommends several key imperatives for organizations embarking upon this journey, here are five quick points to consider:
- Organizations must always begin with a consultative-led approach, evaluate their current ‘as-is’ operating state and then identify your target ‘to-be’ state. They should begin by modernizing applications using bestpractice methodologies to support the organization’s cloud-native development and transformation. This will help them realize the full potential of data.
- To provide people with the best possible user experience, irrespective of where they’re connecting from, enterprises must optimize networking in, to, and across hybrid cloud environments. This will also support the organization’s application performance, IoT, data, mobile workforce, and global expansion plans.
- Organizations should also focus on network services that deliver predictable and acceptable application performance no matter where the application resides, or where users connect from, in a cost-effective and secure manner.
- Infrastructure is a critical consideration in a cloud journey.It ensures that applications and data located on-premises and in colocation facilities perform well, as part of an end-to-end hybrid approach. Utilizing next-generation data centers, for example, gives users the best possible experience through increased performance of applications
- Organizations must view security as a transformation enabler to better improve application experiences for both customers and employees. Security is a critical element of hybrid cloud strategy, and poorly designed, insecure applications will impact experience, brand reputation, and revenue.