Hybrid cloud generally has a bad reputation – primarily because pure cloud providers like to denigrate hybrid cloud, claiming that organisations only go hybrid when they have not yet realised what cloud can do for them. This reputation, however, is both peculiar and unfair. Not only does cloud move at different speeds, but it is also driven by a number of different factors depending on particular business needs.
The telecommunications industry has long had to deal with the challenges of reliability, scalability, and distribution that lie at the heart of the hybrid cloud discussion. To centralise or to distribute? Just how much of a solution needs to be on a customer’s premises? How persistent does the solution need to be? All of these are age-old questions in the development and deployment of communications solutions, and now these same trade-offs need to be applied to the deployment of cloud technologies. The technology criteria may have changed, but the business drivers remain varied and dynamic.
Organisations of different sizes and levels of IT maturity require different cloud strategies. Smaller organisations tend to have few barriers when it comes to moving to the cloud, and many startups are now born in the cloud. At the other end of the scale, large Fortune 500 companies face moving on-premises implementations within their individual organisations to cloud solutions within their corporate IT environment.
Not only is this a far larger undertaking, but it also comes with additional factors that smaller organisations may not face, such as strict security requirements, government regulation, or the reality of brick-and-mortar infrastructure and depreciated assets. In these cases, a public cloud solution may never be appropriate; however, the scale to sustain a private cloud solution does exist. Branch offices or national footprints might also be well-served by public cloud offerings, while the core corporate assets remain secure within the private domain.
The telecom industry itself is attuned to operate at the upper end of scale, often struggling to effectively address niche services or specialised requirements. One of the key drivers of consolidation among telecom providers in North America has been the need to achieve economies of scale. The public cloud takes this one step further, with global cloud brands spanning both national and regulatory borders to create a globally scaled footprint. Individual businesses might look at themselves in similar terms – do you have the scale or geographic distribution to justify a private cloud? Or can you leverage public cloud for your global presence with premises-based or private cloud, addressing “niche” requirements in specific business segments or physical locations?
In addition to business size and maturity, the speed at which an organisation wants to transition to the cloud, as well as the breadth of this implementation, also influence whether hybrid can be a prudent option. Organisations with several different campuses have to ensure that this transition is smooth and consistent across locations. Hybrid cloud enables them to create a private cloud infrastructure, regionalising their implementation – and within each country or regional entity, create a cloud implementation that serves a specified set of premises and remote workers.
The path to cloud is not an overnight journey. Companies with numerous and dispersed systems are eager to begin the journey, but understand that they must often choose a slower lane than a small, agile organisation. However, hybrid cloud can help streamline the transition across an organisation and establish a pace that is best for them, allowing them to reduce the number of implementations as well as the tasks associated with upgrading and maintaining individual systems in different sites.
A variety of factors lead organisations to consider moving to the cloud, including business and technical drivers and the overall maturity of their IT team. Organisations can see the value in moving to the cloud, but must be cognizant of the different circumstances that determine what their best path is.
A specific example of this is the nurse-call function in a healthcare environment. This situation requires more sophisticated solutions than a pure cloud offering can bring because patient information must be available at all times. At the same time, however, serving these particular needs should not prevent the whole organisation from taking advantage of unique cloud capabilities, such as collaboration through content sharing or artificial intelligence driven digital assistant capabilities.
In short, some organisations might benefit from moving everything to the cloud immediately, but others with different priorities and needs might benefit more from a gradual move to the cloud, making the transition at a speed more appropriate for their unique circumstances. In this case, hybrid cloud can serve as the perfect option. Cloud is not a one size fits all solution, and one organisation’s path to cloud cannot and should not mimic (or shame) another’s.