Analysing Forrester’s cloud focus: Why hybrid and multi-cloud are so vital

I read with interest the recently published Forrester report on hybrid multi-cloud strategy and noted how not everything has gone or will go cloud. Having sat on the boards of several industry cloud bodies, been asked to keynote at many events, provide commentary and cloud social influence and write for a range of large global vendors, from this perspective you would expect me to be a cloud advocate; someone who would profess that cloud is better, faster, cheaper, more secure. Indeed, I have come across many a story where a salesperson offering a ‘cloud’ solution promises the panacea to all woes.

There are assumptions to correct here at the outset:

Where a solution professes to be cloud, question what this means at the outset, as for many, the cloud moniker is too easy a label to ride on the back of
For any new or transformation-based project, cloud should be on the ‘to be considered’ list
Many a provider I have explored has in fact not been as ‘cloudy’ as first impressions may give. Are they simply hosting their old application for you to remove your need for local installation? Is this cloud or hosting? Have they re-architected to take benefit of cloud computes efficiencies and throughput? Have they re-developed to give you new functional benefits and an agile development path which continues to bring you enhancements of value? I have witnessed too often a legacy vendor’s solution simply being hosted and offered onto you as a ‘cloud’ version with no such benefits and in fact behind the scenes even more chunkiness going on and in fact not gaining you the generic benefits of cloud you had expected and perhaps been promised.

Cloud should be ‘considered’ from a point of pragmatism and diligence, not from a point of trying to get everything cloud for the sake of it. Cloud offers an option, a viable option to be considered depending on the compute power needed, the security model, the application and user needs. Just like any previous project, the needs now and for the future need to be weighed against the business upside, risk mitigation, cost and speed to deploy. Depending on the needs and solution fit the right choice can be made.

The hard work begins

We are now at the stage where the easy workloads have in the majority been shifted, representing an estimated 20% of compute having been moved across. We now enter the next phase where the harder workloads will be migrated – those that will likely bring the most advantage to the business and the customer in being cloudified. This shift represents more than a simple technology change and will lead to new ways of working, the time when we shall see the reaping of the optimal benefits of cloud compute.

However this will be the harder phase and remains the phase where many applications may be found to hard or inappropriate to port for the benefits to be gained. Also new applications do still get provisioned that do not fit cloud and will remain on premise.

Digital transformation projects are often seen to correlate with everything cloud and yet due to this according to an Everest Group survey, 73% of enterprises failed to provide any business value whatsoever from their digital transformation efforts.

A transformation is taking something from one state to another, to gain benefit and upside, a digital one purely aligns to it being a technical change and not purely a process change. However this does not mean it must move to a given form factor. Too many assume a digital transformation is a total correlation on moving legacy on premise to a cloud based solution. It should mean a review of processes and technical approaches today aligned to the ideal future state to gain maximum business advantage, including for users and customers and this may utilise cloud, hosted and on premise as appropriate.

Distressed assets

IDC stated that by 2020, half of organisations will be digitally determined or digitally distressed. We have seen a continued disruption of the traditional organisations with many large brand names struggling, restricting, being acquired or simply going out of business through digital distress. They simply have not adjusted to the persona needs of their customer in delivering an omni-channel digital experience. Those lacking effective digitisation with speed will risk their business legacy being marginalised or totally disrupted.

Technology and its affordability is no longer the barrier; the willingness, capability and effectiveness of the change journey will be the determining factors for future success. The challenge facing most businesses now, comes from selection of the right form factor or cloud type for the right compute need and reducing the risk that a selection now will provide a restrictive future lock in commitment.

This need is the driver of application level compute demands, application selections driving the underlying platform, much like we experienced in the good old days when organisations found themselves with mixed UNIX, Novell Netware, Lan Manager, NT, and VM environments, driven by the applications selected and the operating systems required to run them. Mixed hybrid and multi-cloud environments have become the norm, not by design, but by osmosis. We must accept that it is a multi-cloud world that we will exist in and that the luxury to select one singular public cloud platform now and for the future is an assumed expectation, that perhaps we do not need to or can contend with.

The right cloud for a specific application is determined by individual discrete metrics for that app with different app vendors offering varying integration levels for different platforms with different capabilities. This makes it near impossible to utilise one cloud platform across applications and not be restricted in the app choice available to you not to predict which platform will be most appropriate down the line.

Multi-cloud must be the new norm

Multi-cloud is a must as we progress forwards in a world where digital and first to market will increasingly distance the have and have nots. The digital customer is demanding more of all providers and the consumer will expect agility from their provider or simply have freedom of choice of those who deliver. Multi-clouds have the ability to offer great flexibility however challenges of compliance, skill sets, development specifics, monitoring and security still remain as factors to overcome. The cloud, the network and IT services are converging, hybrid and multi-cloud is becoming the norm and a high percentage of workloads are still on premise. With these in mind it is critical that any cloud transformation accommodates co-existence, flexibility and portability.

The right platform for the right need, the ability to co-exist these easily and to deliver competitive business advantage is key in today’s economy, however based on the recent Forrester study 39% have achieved a loss of competitive edge as an IT organisation, not a gain! What is also clear from the study and from my engagement with leading business clients is that delaying decisions and investment in refreshes and upgrades is not a saving, but a hindrance and has far greater cost and negative impact on the business performance.

The Forrester survey from IBM cited that key drivers behind the multi-cloud strategy of clients included; higher performance; flexibility; improved customer experience and ability to support change. In today’s pressured world of a customer who demands more, an employee who expects more and a business likely built in the past, the ability to transform, adjust and become agile and open to more rapid change is critical. Achieving this is not a one size fits all fix and is certainly not an easy task that is solved by a single platform or vendor. Hybrid cloud strategies have developed to fast become the norm and accepted as the appropriate model for the forward thinking organisation.

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