Hybrid cloud use grows but is it the future? (Image Credit: Drew Beamer on Unsplash)Hybrid cloud growth has increased during the pandemic as organisations digitally transform their IT estate. The claim comes in the 2021 Hybrid Cloud Report from NTT Ltd (registration required). Over 60% of respondents say they are using or piloting hybrid cloud. Just as important is the statement that over 32% of respondents plan to implement a hybrid cloud solution within 12-24 months.

The report is based on research with 950 decision-makers in 13 countries.

Rob Lopez, Executive Vice President, Intelligent Infrastructure, NTT Ltd (Image Credit: LinkedIn)
Rob Lopez, Executive Vice President, Intelligent Infrastructure, NTT Ltd

In a statement, Rob​ Lopez, Executive Vice President, Intelligent Infrastructure at NTT Ltd, commented: “As businesses look to navigate the new year, they must look to hybrid cloud environments that are optimised for agility, security and supported by the right network architecture while also meeting compliance requirements. This is the foundation upon which cloud is successful and will enable businesses to weather any form of disruption that comes their way.

What is driving hybrid cloud?

One of the biggest drivers has been the pandemic. As employees began to work from home, organisations found themselves taking on a lot of cloud-based applications. For many organisations, this highlighted inadequacies in their ability to change how the business worked.

According to the report: “Agility has always been a crucial outcome for most, if not all enterprises. The ability to innovate and respond to changing market and respond to changing market conditions is vital. Yet, the speed, scale, and intensity of the impacts of COVID-19 has laid bare deficiencies many may not have considered. In our experience, most clients underestimate the requirement for network transformation when deploying cloud solutions.”

However, as important as agility is, it is cost efficiency that is the top driver for hybrid cloud. Reducing the complexity and cost of IT operations is a key issue here. Part of that seems to be the maturing of SD-WAN solutions. The report calls it a “cost-effective way of connecting to the cloud”. One reason for this is the additional security of in-flight traffic. Another is the ability to optimise traffic flows, which is essential for those retaining data on-premises and moving applications to the cloud.

Concerns over moving to the cloud

The report also highlighted concerns over security and compliance. The former continues to be a barrier for companies, irrespective of the work cloud providers have undertaken to prove their security. There is also concern over the number of cloud platforms that companies are taking on. It creates a much larger attack surface and, for many, means less visibility into where their data is.

Of interest, is the increased involvement (94.7%) of the CISO and the security teams in the cloud decision-making process. They are also closely involved (98.6%) in vendor/service choice. What is not clear is how many organisations are adopting managed security solutions (MSS) as part of this approach.

Compliance is more complicated. Different governments have national and regulatory controls over where data sits. Keeping data on-premises gives companies more time to understand and address those compliance requirements. How important is that? 95.2% say they struggle to keep up with compliance obligations. It’s an astronomical figure and one that should concern the main board. Any breach or security incident where compliance failure is involved could cost millions.

Hybrid cloud not the only game in town

As might be expected, hybrid cloud is not the only focus for companies. Public cloud usage is up 22.5%  and private cloud 10.6%. Both of these increases have come at the expense of on-premises non-cloud IT environments (down 20.4%) and private cloud in a company-owned datacentre (down 11.8%).

The drop in the latter is of particular interest. Many companies want the virtualisation to cloud route under their own control to provide better security and control. However, those decisions were made when most staff were in company-owned offices where network architectures could be managed. Now the majority are remote working, the cracks in network design are opening into chasms. It explains why SD-WAN is part of that network transformation many respondents are undertaking.

What else do we learn?

Cloud is also enabling critical technology shifts for companies. 77.4% are adopting the Internet of Things to instrument their environments. Cloud is seen as a major requirement to cope with the increased traffic and data.

The cloud also enables artificial intelligence/machine learning. The size of the data sets and the complex processing required are easier when you can flex IT resources. 65.3% called this out as a major advantage. The same number as called out improving cybersecurity tools and culture.

In a clear nod to the pandemic, 60.4% are moving to software design networks and 57.4% to increased employee collaboration and digital workplace tools.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean?

For small and some mid-sized companies, the cloud has been about lower costs and access to technology. For larger organisations, there is much more at stake here. They are subject to more compliance and have more complex environments. With over 90% saying cloud is critical to their immediate business needs, it shows how narrowly focused on one consumption model IT departments have become.

Many saw hybrid cloud as a stepping stone to a move to public cloud for a while. What this report shows is a very different future. The impact of so much remote working has shown the failure of network architectures. But it would be simplistic to ascribe the move to the hybrid cloud to respond to that one issue. That would be to ignore issues such as compliance and security.

The cost and complexity of managing multi-cloud environments is also something not to be overlooked. That companies see hybrid cloud as being cost-efficient compared to other models is a surprise.


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