Where hybrid cloud is headed next, and the role of Microsoft Azure


Hybrid cloud—environments that blend public and private cloud—are a central part of the modern IT landscape, particularly as organizations of all sizes work to incorporate legacy systems into future-looking digital strategies and while meeting regulatory requirements. Although well-established, hybrid cloud is often poorly understood by IT departments, CIOs and partners, and its long-term trajectory is unclear to many that work with the cloud. As Microsoft positions Azure to play in a hybrid cloud world, MSDW reached out to experts for their thoughts on where hybrid cloud is headed next.

Assessing the benefits of hybrid
When it comes to hybrid cloud, many organizations adopt a hybrid approach to keep data under their own control, while gaining the benefits of scalability in the cloud. Adam Mansfield, commercial advisory practice leader at UpperEdge explained:

Using a hybrid cloud, enterprises have the ability to put sensitive data in a highly secure and controlled private cloud environment while having the ability to also place other non-sensitive data in an often more scalable, reliable and cost-effective public cloud environment, like Microsoft Azure, AWS, or Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

According to Dr. Taras Filatov, CEO and founder of blockchain-provider Dappros, the proportion of cloud components relative to on-prem continues to grow with time. To improve hybrid cloud performance, Filatov recommends using Kubernetes—which is still at a low level of adoption—to containerize applications. Additionally, he suggests taking advantage of machine learning and blockchain add-ons as well as leveraging public cloud compliance tools for regulations like GDPR.

In many cases, hybrid scenarios are a way for companies to boost agility while continuing to get value out of on-prem data centers. But in other situations, hybrid is a way to handle poor connectivity with remote locations like rural factories, farms, or oil and gas sites. What’s more, hybrid gives a way for companies to spend time unpacking years of what Andrew Bandera, DMI practice lead and solutions architect, calls “enterprise accretion,” tidying up massive customized systems as a staging area before a move to the public cloud.

The role of Azure and the way forward
As public cloud offerings become more secure, many companies are already phasing out private clouds and private data centers, raising questions on the long-term use of hybrid cloud models in various industries. While an eventual decline is likely, Bandera sees hybrid cloud persisting for the foreseeable future. He explained:

Hybrid scenarios are here to stay for the foreseeable future, particularly for organizations with sensitivities around IP or data, and in low or no bandwidth situations, such as remote industrial mining or oil platforms. Due to cost and complexity, hybrid scenarios will diminish over time, but for now they serve a purpose that cannot otherwise be fulfilled.

One of the biggest hybrid cloud challenges that may spur some to move more quickly away from hybrid to public cloud is the expense of dedicated, often MPLS-based connectivity. From a pure electrical engineering standpoint, latency with MPLS will never be as good as two or more devices housed in the backbone or subnet.

One option to squeeze more value out of scenarios may be AI-based optimization. “One of the trends gaining traction in the public/private cloud space is ‘continuous optimization’ of applications using AI to automate the process,” Joel Richman, principal at Opsani said.

Many of the world’s largest enterprises, with longstanding Microsoft relationships, are already poised to use Azure in hybrid scenarios. According to UpperEdge’s Mansfield, one of the big advantages of working with Azure for hybrid scenarios is the option to get pricing commitments when volume passes certain thresholds.

For example, will Microsoft lower the consumption rates (i.e., additional discounting at the particular Azure services SKU level) that are used to draw down on the Azure Monetary Commitment fee made in Microsoft to use Azure? Enterprises often make an upfront commitment (like a pre-paid calling card) that is drawn on based on use. Microsoft should not only provide discounted Azure service SKUs at the outset, but they should provide commitments that Azure services SKU pricing should get lower as volumes increase.

Overall though, Bandera views Azure as well equipped to meet hybrid cloud needs, thanks to varying levels of VPN connectivity, ExpressRoute, and a 99.95 percent SLA.

So it seems hybrid cloud is here to stay, but with public cloud, particularly Microsoft Azure, as a fast growing critical component of the picture. For buyers, containerizations, compliance tools, machine learning, and blockchain are among the public cloud elements that can improve a hybrid cloud environment—or replace the need for it entirely.

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