Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: The Art of the Hybrid Cloud

Five pitfalls to avoid in your hybrid cloud strategy

Enterprises face some common challenges when it comes to managing the hybrid cloud. Here's how to avoid them.

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Image: iStockphoto/phototechno

Enterprise adoption of hybrid cloud continues to gain momentum. Some 68 percent of tech professionals said their companies are either using or considering the hybrid cloud, according to a 2016 Tech Pro Research survey. And 99 percent predicted that some of their systems and applications would be cloud-based within the next five years.

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"Almost every organization has cloud plus something else at this point today, whether that's a SaaS application, or whether that's some public usage," said Forrester analyst Lauren Nelson. "I think it's fair to say that everybody is a hybrid to some extent today."

In a recent 451 Research survey, tech professionals were asked what best describes their hybrid strategy. Some 36 percent said they dynamically move workloads to the most appropriate IT environment based on cost, performance, security, data sovereignty, and other requirements, while 31 percent said they use on-premises resources mainly for existing workloads, and use IaaS, public, or hosted clouds for new workloads. Meanwhile, 27 percent said they run internal business systems and data on premises, while customer or end-user facing systems run on IaaS, public, or hosted clouds.

"Enterprises are looking at multiple execution venues both on premises and off premises," said 451 Research analyst Carl Lehmann. "They understand the various characteristics of each execution venue -- cost, performance, security, intellectual property issues, control over infrastructure -- and then allocate workloads to the best execution venue."

However, many organizations lack clarity on how to effectively create, implement, and manage a hybrid cloud strategy, experts said. Here are five common pitfalls to avoid when developing a hybrid cloud strategy.

SEE: Cloud computing policy template (Tech Pro Research)

1. Lacking purpose

Much confusion remains within companies about the definition of hybrid cloud: A recent Stratoscale survey found that C-level executives define hybrid cloud slightly differently than IT professionals.

"Most of our clients have accepted that hybrid is their end state," said Gartner analyst Mindy Cancila. "But what I find is that very few of them have clarity around what that means that they need to do. And so, while most organizations are recognizing that they're going to adopt some type of public cloud services, their data centers are not likely to go away overnight." Organizations will likely remain in a hybrid state for the foreseeable future, Cancila said.

And rather than determining the true purpose of the cloud in their company, "a lot of organizations look at hybrid cloud and say 'Okay, this is what everyone's doing, so this is what I'm going to do,'" said Forrester's Nelson.

For the best chance at hybrid cloud success, companies should "have direction, have priorities, have the core values of what you're trying to achieve with cloud very clearly articulated," Nelson said, "and revisit those plans over time."

2. Getting stuck in a public vs. private cloud debate

It's key to avoid political debates within your company around public versus private cloud, Cancila said. "Rather, recognize that we're going to do something in public cloud, let's build the right types of framework so that we can assess what should move to the public cloud versus not," she added.

These debates occur because the cloud is new for many organizations, Cancila said. The transition requires companies to take data they've historically had control of and visibility into, and to let go of some of that control as they move it to the cloud. "There tends to often be a debate as to whether or not the public cloud providers can deliver that same level of availability and performance better or not, and with equal security," Cancila said.

To make those decisions, Cancila recommends building a framework for assessing applications, choosing cloud providers, and governing the public cloud deployment operationally.

This framework will help find the delicate balance between what you do on premises and what you do in the cloud, and revise that over time as the cloud matures, the data center business changes, and legacy hardware starts to get older, Nelson said. "It's a very lifecycle-based model of constantly needing to revisit some of the decisions you've previously made," Nelson said.

3. Failing to rigorously analyze workloads and execution venues

Most companies don't perform a thorough enough analysis of the various hybrid options available to them to properly understand price, performance, and operating characteristics, said 451 Research's Lehmann. "It comes down to understanding the value and risk of various workloads, and the performance characteristics of the operating environment, and creating an evaluation matrix mapping the workload to the execution venue," Lehmann said.

Additionally, many lines of business and IT teams have subscribed to SaaS services on their own without considering an overall strategy, Lehmann said. "There was insufficient strategic forethought," he said. "Companies need to step back, reconsider workloads entirely, reconsider the execution venues available to them, formulate a more thoughtful strategy based on business need and competitive dynamics in their market, and then structure a set of key performance indicators that measure success from a business perspective."

SEE: Research: Hybrid cloud - deployment, drivers, strategies and value (Tech Pro Research)

4. Ignoring multi-cloud management

Most companies use multiple clouds, according to a recent survey from 451 Research. Some 64 percent of businesses use SaaS, and 43 percent use IaaS. Just 10 percent said they don't use anything.

"If enterprises build up their hybrid strategy, it's important to plan for not just public cloud, but multiple public clouds," Cancila said.

Regardless of what that architecture looks like, multi-cloud management becomes very important, Cancila said. "That's where you govern the consumption and the cost of what your organization can do across more than one cloud provider," Cancila said.

5. Forgetting integration strategies

"Hybrid is really all about integration," Cancila said. Companies look for a single tool to manage all of their cloud deployments; however, this does not exist, she added.

"Hybrid cloud is real, but it's time to start breaking it down and investing in the integrations that you need," Cancila said. "And that starts with identifying the applications that move to public cloud, and the attributes that need to integrate back into your data center."

Many companies are turning to integration platforms as a service to link their clouds to other clouds and to on-premises infrastructure, Lehmann said. "Now that we have so many execution venue options and so many different tools, the integration tooling needs to be reconsidered," Lehmann said. Many of those tools are beginning to coalesce into hybrid integration platforms.

"Enterprises are not giving sufficient attention to integration strategy, or are not taking sufficient advantage of emerging tools that enable more sophisticated multi-cloud integration," Lehmann said. "We need a renewed emphasis on integration strategy."

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