Enterprise move toward hybrid cloud heightens need for defined strategy

An increasing number of organizations in Asia are opting for the hybrid model to maintain some control and visibility while tapping the benefits of increased flexibility that cloud has to offer. However, most still lack a proper hybrid cloud strategy.

More enterprises are expected to look to hybrid cloud in the new year to gain some control of their infrastructure while tapping into the benefits that cloud has to offer. However, many still do not have a proper strategy in place, and the lack of a definition for what a hybrid cloud actually means isn't helping, either.

Businesses typically begin their cloud journey with private cloud, because they have no experience in running a public cloud service, or have limited knowledge about the platform. However, this will not allow organizations to reap the full benefits of running a cloud infrastructure, noted Eric Hui, Asia-Pacific director of cloud and service provider markets, Equinix.

Hybrids, hence, have been generating much interest, and traditional hardware vendors are bundling their private cloud offerings with those from public cloud providers to create hybrid cloud services, Hui said.

According to Stephen Miles, CA Technologies' CTO for Asia-Pacific and Japan, enterprises in the region are also shifting toward hybrid clouds and services to access a combination of environment and service providers to meet their needs for speed and flexibility. These companies are testing out basic applications and moving critical workloads, including production workloads, onto hybrid clouds, Miles said.

This cloud model allows organizations concerned about security to address these needs while still enjoying the cost benefits that cloud offers, he said.

"Just like outsourcing, implementing cloud is about letting go of some control, but it does not have to equate to increasing security risk. These risks exist today with or without the cloud," Miles explained.

"For organizations adapting to the hybrid computing environment reality, they can essentially achieve some of those same aspects of control with the right degree of visibility, automation, and management," he said. "Hybrid clouds allow for the confluence of blended business IT needs whilst optimizing the requirements around cost, control, time, and place.

"Critical data should reside in a private environment, while applications can be hosted and run from a cloud service provider. With a hybrid IT model, organizations can mitigate security and privacy concerns while enabling scale and ensuring greater reliability," he added.

Kevin Wo, Avanade's ASEAN senior vice president and general manager, agreed, noting that hybrid clouds are inherently flexible and more customizable than public or private environments. "Companies can decide which data and applications they'd like to store publicly, privately, or any combination therein," Wo said.

In fact, enterprises in Asia now view hybrid cloud as a strategic asset, with 87 percent in Singapore pointing to this model as their biggest focus area in 2015, he noted, citing Avanade's global study that polled 1,000 businesses. Another 75 percent of c-level respondents said that hybrid cloud should list among their company's biggest priorities this year.

Most of the companies surveyed expect the majority of their applications to be deployed over hybrid clouds within three years, including critical applications such as data and analytics, office applications, and customer-facing services. The study included respondents from Australia, China, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore.

No defined strategy for hybrid implementation

Despite the growing interest, enterprises have yet to develop proper strategies for implementing hybrid cloud.

According to Avanade's study, more than half of the overall respondents did not have a strategy in place, and among those that do, 73 percent lacked defined steps for deploying cloud-native applications. Another 64 percent did not have proper guidelines for application migration, while 63 percent lacked a cloud management platform.

Besides concerns about security and privacy, another key barrier to adoption is a lack of understanding among enterprises about what hybrid cloud actually means, Wo said.

"Despite the popularity of cloud computing solutions for the enterprise -- and, in particular, hybrid cloud -- there are many competing definitions of cloud terminology. Because there is not one universally agreed-upon definition, hybrid cloud can mean different things to different people," he said.

Avanade takes its definition from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, which describes hybrid cloud as comprising two or more distinct cloud infrastructures, public and private, that remain unique entities but are "bound together by technology enabling data and application portability".

Varying -- and sometimes conflicting -- definitions of what hybrid cloud really entails can lead to much confusion among organizations, according to Lynda Stadtmueller, program director of cloud computing research and analysis at Frost and Sullivan's Stratecast. Cloud vendors would also misinterpret what their customers want and overestimate their ability to deliver what their customers actually require, Stadtmueller said in a 2012 article.

She noted that successful cloud providers are those that can build a hybrid offer that "extends beyond the public cloud [and] into the enterprise's on-premises datacenter as well as hosted physical servers". They should also provide an integrated infrastructure platform and common management tools.

"For customers, that's the only definition of hybrid cloud that makes sense," she said.

With more businesses expected to deploy hybrid cloud in 2015, Hui said that more vendors will join the fray to enable easier access and offer provisioning of multiple cloud services.

He recommends that organisations assess applications or technology stacks that they think can be best served by the cloud, and look at decoupling the application and data layer when they put together their cloud infrastructure.

"In an increasingly digital world, companies now expect IT to look inside and outside the organization to identify new innovative technologies that will enable better business results," said Wo. "The ability to incorporate services into existing infrastructure controlled by IT is an advantage of hybrid cloud [and one] that can drive this alignment."

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