Hybrid cloud: The foundation of the living enterprise

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There’s more to cloud than cost-optimization. Combine hybrid cloud with cutting-edge services, and you have a platform for growth and innovation.

Every CIO aspires to create the perfect IT environment to support their business and drive its future growth. For decades this followed the traditional server-based, on-premise model, but this approach is no longer fit for purpose. Not only is it less cost-effective than cloud-based infrastructure, but it lacks the flexibility and scalability of cloud. Yet, public cloud isn’t right for every need and workload, particularly in industries where organizations need to prioritize compliance and control. Every enterprise’s needs are different, therefore true digital transformation requires a hybrid cloud model, blending on-premise systems with cutting-edge platforms and hyperscale cloud services that can, together, meet the fast-changing requirements of modern business.

The advantage of this approach is that it enables enterprises to gain the transformative benefits of public cloud, while using on-premise and private cloud infrastructure where the focus has to be on more immediate control. It also gives them scope to harness new compute, storage, analytics, and AI capabilities without huge investments in hardware and software. It empowers businesses to take advantage of an abundance of data sources, spanning from corporate systems to customer-facing applications and IoT devices at the edge. And it means that businesses can innovate and roll out new products and services, and respond rapidly to change.

The cloud is no longer just about cost

Cloud adoption has grown massively. IDG’s 2020 Cloud Computing Survey found that 59% of the IT leaders surveyed said they would be mostly or all in the cloud in 18 months, compared to the 38% who said they were already mostly or all in the cloud. When respondents were asked how much they planned to spend on cloud computing in the next 12 months, the average investment was $73.8 million, up 59% from the same figure in 2018. The average cloud portion of IT spend now stands at 32%, and this is likely, if anything, to increase with the COVID-19 crisis. IDC believes that while spending on traditional infrastructure will contract by 16.4% year on year, investments in cloud computing and cloud software will go up by 10% to 12%.

IDG’s Editor in Chief, Eric Knorr, explains that what’s driving this is “not necessarily cost savings, because that assumes you can make meaningful comparisons between the cost to run workloads in the cloud versus on-prem – a maddeningly complex, apples-to-oranges endeavor. The real benefits of cloud computing are in agility, scalability, and future potential.”

Other research backs this up. Flexera’s 2020 State of the Cloud report still places cost efficiency and savings as the top metric enterprises use to measure cloud success, but it’s followed closely by the delivery speed of products and services, the value delivered to business units, and increased speed of innovation. Shifting to the cloud is no longer about migrating your existing services to run them cheaper, but about how you enable your organization to imagine, develop, and release new products and services faster, and in a cost-efficient way. And while the cloud can mean cost-optimization for existing operations, its larger impact lies in empowering businesses to transform their workflows and processes to help them compete.

The hybrid cloud advantage

This is where the hybrid cloud is particularly strong, giving organizations a choice of public cloud services and private cloud platforms, with the ability to mix and match. IDG’s 2020 Cloud Computing Survey shows that the number one goal for enterprises making use of multiple public clouds is the ability to use best of breed platform and service options, or select the most appropriate cloud for each and every workload. What’s more, the hybrid cloud model bridges gaps for organizations that want to run some core applications on on-premise or private cloud infrastructure, yet still take advantage of new cloud-based services related to machine learning, serverless computing, or the IoT. Virtualization, containerization, and data orchestration mesh in with the whole approach.

Firms are already experiencing the benefits. BP has used Microsoft Azure technologies to build a more, consistent unified network that still works within its regulatory and compliance needs, using Azure Stack to deliver corporate apps and data to remote regions without their own data centers, while moving some key workloads to the cloud. The International Hotels Group has used Azure technologies to build global storage, security, and management services that enable IT operations to run more effectively, making the most of analytics and automation. Insurers, the RSA Group, have moved to a hybrid environment combining SaaS products with private and public cloud, to bring in AI and robotic process automation. The hybrid cloud gives these organizations the tools to balance optimization and future innovation.

The hybrid cloud gives these organizations the tools to balance optimization and future innovation.

Meanwhile, other organizations are using hybrid cloud to innovate around data, the customer experience and productivity for employees. The close relationship between Microsoft and Adobe brings together the latter’s Adobe Experience Platform with Azure technologies such as Azure Data Factory and Data Lake. Enterprises can move data from the widest possible range of sources to, and between, the Adobe Experience Platform, Microsoft Dynamics, Office 365, and Power BI. They can incorporate Azure Data Lake, Data Factory, and Cosmos DB to store and manage data, and work between private cloud and public cloud using Azure and Azure Stack.

This approach enables these enterprises to build a real-time unified customer profile, and analyze and personalize the customer journey at every stage, building seamless interactions that benefit both the customer and the brand. As a result, sports organizations like the Miami Heat can use fan-related data to boost season ticket sales, engage the fans, and bring them closer to their favorite team. The combination of Adobe and Microsoft technologies ensures a fantastic customer experience, all powered by a single source of truth. U.S. fitness brand, 24 Hour Fitness, uses its cloud solution to feed customer data into the Adobe Experience Cloud to deliver customized content and communications at scale.

This is just the beginning. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation present huge opportunities for innovation, while containerized and serverless environments provide new ways to optimize and scale. The hybrid cloud is the perfect platform – and perhaps the only platform – to support this, giving enterprises the launchpad they need to meet new challenges and drive future growth.