Hybrid Cloud: the key to digital transformation?
With industry insights provided by Eran Brown, CTO of Infinidat EMEA, Technology Magazine explores the utility and rising popularity of hybrid cloud
It can sometimes be easy to understate the importance of cloud computing and its role in changing the tech landscape. Whilst other aspects of the digital transformation triumvirate (cloud, IoT and AI & analytics) are arguably more tangible in their effect, the scale for connectivity and optimisation across an enterprise is severely restricted without an integrated infrastructure wherein data can be stored and accessed. Hybrid cloud takes this revolutionary technology one step further by allowing companies to synthesize aspects of multiple cloud offerings (both private and public) and create a bespoke solution which addresses their specific needs.
With fewer companies choosing to maintain their own expensive data centres, the wide availability of public cloud offerings – such as Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and AWS, amongst others – means that most businesses will be able to secure a package that meets their basic storage needs. Although the lists of features for each provider can stretch into the hundreds, corporations are able to select a cloud which has specialised industry applications (IBM Cloud’s Watson for IoT) or a general spread of functions. However, if a company’s data requirements necessitate more than what one provider can accommodate, hybrid cloud becomes a very attractive possibility. Investing in the on-premises development of a private cloud can be advantageous for those with the resources to make it happen. If this is a possibility, companies need only have a sufficient WAN (wide area network) connection in order to join their selected private and public clouds.
Eran Brown, CTO of Infinidat EMEA, believes that businesses looking to pursue hybrid cloud should do so via careful evaluation of the agility, flexibility, speed-to-market and cost efficiency offered by each option. “Companies will need to draw a strategic line between how and when they use public and private cloud for data storage. It will be impacted by the quantity of ‘legacy’ data to be stored, as well as what data companies want to ‘own’ or store locally; not all data is suitable for storage in public clouds.” What is required, then, is a frank technological assessment of what benefits they are hoping to extract from hybrid cloud, a defined plan for where and why certain data will be stored and an understanding of the financial ramifications. “Choosing between on-premises and public clouds should not be driven by hype,” Brown enthuses, “but rather what will enable units at a cost that is acceptable for the long-term viability of the business.”
The economics of data storage, particularly public cloud offerings, can be complicated and it’s imperative that consumers educate themselves on the short-term and long-term benefits of each cloud’s payment plan. Storage company Wasabi’s survey of Azure, Google Cloud and AWS found that customers would pay approximately $0.46, $0.26 and $0.23 per GB per month respectively (note: these prices don’t take into account regional variances or added costs).
Whilst no reliable data on the average consumption of businesses generally, industries utilising high-quality video, photographs, long-form documents or other caches of extensive records could soon run up high costs. “As data growth continues unabated, larger organisations will be under increased pressure to more clearly understand the ‘cost vs benefit’ for different storage models as the volume of data expands exponentially,” explains Brown. If the solution is combining public cloud with a company’s own private infrastructure, what are the costs of doing so? Cloudian has compiled a report estimating that its on-premises data storage hardware will cost 65% less than public cloud. Assuming that such savings can be broadly achieved, companies may be drawn to private cloud as an alternative to public cloud storage which is too expensive to maintain. “The cloud has proven not to be as cheap as businesses were, perhaps, expecting it to be, but what’s the trade-off?” Brown asks. “Is converting ‘time-to-market’ faster more of a business focus than bottom-line operating costs are?”
Hybrid Cloud: the key to digital transformation?
The balance of flexibility, accessibility and cost-efficiency offered by hybrid cloud might account for recent widespread interest in it. Although public cloud offers a convenient ‘off-the-peg’ solution for those wanting to consolidate their data, private cloud allows for transformational control of the entire framework. However, for the sake of efficiency, businesses should save themselves reinventing the wheel and simply augment a public cloud with the added features necessary to make it representative for their operations. The compatibility of the resulting hybrid will be determined by careful selection of the private cloud’s basepoint and the public package chosen.
In addition to hybrid is a growing trend towards ‘multi-cloud’, a strategic and often complex layering of public, private and hybrid clouds, distributing data across multiple platforms and ensuring that no one cloud asset is overly relied on. “Data gravity issues and digitalisation may result in increased interest in multi-cloud solutions which are better able to compete on price, availability and resiliency,” says Brown. Presenting far lower risk of DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack, a much more personalised infrastructure, greater reliability and optimised cost efficiency, multi-cloud is the logical next step for those who have already begun exploring the possibilities of hybrid. “Hybrid cloud models will continue to provide the most commercially resilient solution, especially for those companies that want to take a ‘cloud-first’ approach,” Brown concludes. “A subset of defining a cloud strategy is also to consider that, inadvertently, you are defining what doesn’t go across to the cloud.”