In a new study of how hybrid cloud is really being implemented across 14 European countries, a majority of respondents indicated plans to use multiple cloud environments, with 62% intending a degree of interoperability between them. The study, conducted by 451 Research and commissioned by NTT Communications in partnership with Dell EMC, found that many businesses' IT strategies include achieving a state of hybrid cloud adoption, in which on-premises infrastructure, hosted private cloud, and public cloud infrastructure and applications are used together to seamlessly deliver business functions.

What these responses (and forward-looking statements of IT strategy in general) do not describe, however, is the point in their cloud development at which hybrid cloud becomes 'strategic' for these businesses. In our many interactions with IT decision-makers, 451 Research frequently hears that businesses make significant progress toward cloud adoption before hybrid becomes a strategic priority, and very few organizations begin the process of cloud transformation with hybrid cloud as an explicit strategic objective.

Often, hybrid cloud strategies are adopted to address challenges – around cost, security, operations and more – that arise as businesses invest in cloud. So hybrid deployment is realistically regarded as a fix for some common cloud challenges. But it is certainly still advantageous for businesses to think about hybrid cloud (and to think holistically about cloud's role in IT overall) during the early stages of cloud adoption, when usage is more focused on one-off projects, net new SaaS functions and other low-hanging fruit, rather than on sweeping organizational changes.

Businesses that start out with the end state in mind, when it comes to hybrid cloud, are less likely to find themselves correcting for mistakes or oversights related to integration, governance or management as they engage in the later stages of hybrid cloud development.

Of course, planning out the course of a hybrid cloud deployment long-term – considering all the operational, architectural and organizational requirements – is a significant challenge on its own. At this point, it is often advantageous for the organization to turn to cloud enablers in the service-provider role to deliver expert services. These services include assessing existing IT systems for cloud readiness, evaluating various cloud platforms, refactoring applications for cloud, and designing and architecting cloud environments, as well as handling migration, integration and other functions. Reinforcing the value of expert assistance in successful execution of cloud projects is the fact that public cloud operators are increasingly enlisting enablement partners to provide these functions to their customers. 

Cloud – even hybrid cloud – is not an end in itself, but a means to achieving business objectives that will vary significantly by business type. When businesses arrive at hybrid cloud, it is a long-term strategy, since hybrid platforms will need to support the workloads that businesses have identified as potentially benefiting from hybrid structures (those that naturally, or most effectively, exist across multiple environments) and also those workloads that businesses have identified as driving new resource consumption in the near future.

Workloads identified by businesses as likely hybrid cloud use cases in the near future are covered in greater detail in the black and white paper:

Going Hybrid: What Enterprises Want from Cloud Service Providers  []. 

Topping that list are:

  • Virtual desktop and mobility management
  • File/content storage
  • Data analytics and business intelligence
  • Database and data warehousing

These are the workloads for which considerations like scaling demands, the need for connection across apps, dependencies with on-premises functions, isolation, latency and platform customization, as well as interplay between core and edge environments, are important.

As a future IT state, hybrid cloud will also have to enable the projects businesses will regard as most important in the next several years. Here, there is some overlap, as analytics and BI are high on that list as well. Machine learning and AI, and big data projects are also top priorities for businesses during the next several years.

Collecting, moving, scaling, analyzing and securing application data will all be key functions hybrid cloud will have to support in the coming years.