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How Hybrid Cloud Is Enabling the Digital Workplace

September 28, 2022 Information Management
Siobhan Fagan
By Siobhan Fagan

A large number of enterprises have turned to remote and hybrid work models to help retain employees and maintain engagement. Amid the change, leaders have also had to audit their technology stacks to ensure business continuity.

Among the areas most important in the enablement of hybrid work is data security, and research from San Francisco-based Scality seems to indicate that despite issues with data localization, this has resulted in widespread growth of cloud computing services and new approaches to data storage.

More specifically, organizations have begun to move away from the public cloud toward more hybrid approaches, including those involving regional service providers. Here's why the shift is taking place.

The Transition to Hybrid Cloud Computing

The pressure to deal with the issue of data security is growing. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), 137 out of 194 countries in the world have data protection and privacy legislation in place. As a result, many organizations must adhere to the data residency guidance and local regulations required for data collection and processing.

According to Scality's research, 40% of organizations are turning to large public cloud offerings like those offered by AWS, Azure or Google to keep their data safe, and more than a third are developing a combined on-premises and public cloud strategy (hybrid) — with another 11% that are developing storage strategies based on regional data centers. 

“The shift to the cloud is in full swing for many organizations, brought on by a variety of business factors and accelerated in many instances by the pandemic,” said Giorgio Regni, CTO of Scality.  

Regni said hybrid storage approaches have become popular as organizations look for ways to keep certain kinds of data close to the vest for security or compliance reasons. “Performance is another consideration when it comes to where data should be stored,” he said. 

He also argues that as remote work increases security threats, organizations need the option to empower employees to protect their own data.

“There are many options available today for both cloud and storage configurations that organizations need to consider when making decisions that will affect the security, compliance and performance needs of their organization," Regni said.

Related Article: 3 Reasons Why Cloud Working Is Here to Stay

Hybrid Cloud as De Facto Standard

To remain competitive, enterprises should be agile enough to deliver innovative products and services to market. This, he said, includes being ready to change their approach to the cloud. 

“Innovation requires a fresh look beyond the infrastructure selection — an agile IT development organization thrives because it challenges developers to build skills on cutting-edge technology and encourages building re-usable micro-services,” Herman said. 

In his view, an organization must not only be open to more than one cloud solution, it must also embrace the best fit. Innovation begins with the conviction that a technology choice should be based on the desired business outcome, Herman said, noting that can be a platform or use case that will differentiate the enterprise from its competition, whether it fuels new products that grow revenue and market share or takes cost out of maintaining and evolving an existing service.  

Related Article: Take Your Cloud Strategy Into the Future

Growing Fast and Wide

Like other disruptive innovations, the move to hybrid did not happen overnight. “When automobiles were first invented, they were standard, and you could only get one model in one color. Over time, users demanded different types of cars based on speed, distance, use, cost,” said Bernie Hoecker, partner for enterprise cloud transformation with global technology research and advisory firm ISG.

“It's the same with cloud. Clients choose hybrid and multi-cloud models to obtain a business outcome," he said.

The days of a single, standard cloud "in one color" (to use his analogy) may be over, as multiple models have evolved on premise/private, public, hybrid and multi. These different models were created out of necessity in response to client requirements for agility, speed, innovation and differentiation. 

Many software applications are also being delivered in a SaaS model running in a cloud because clients quickly discovered that software applications perform differently based on the type of clouds they leverage. These differences, too, come in multiple categories: latency, limited functionality, non-compliant with regulatory standards, no customization by industry and security exposures. In addition, Hoecker said, hyperscalers and cloud service providers are not always interchangeable based on the workloads they run.

He cited five principle drivers for hybrid/multi cloud estates: 

  1. Industry Clouds: Clients demand solutions that deliver unique and innovative value to the industry they serve. Regulated industries also must have end-to-end solutions that meet regulatory requirements. 
  2. Vendor Lock In: Clients leverage hybrid and multi cloud models to prevent vendor lock-in and maintain flexibility in the markets they serve. 
  3. Disaster Recovery/Resiliency: Smart clients architect their cloud models for failure. Force majeure events will occur, and hybrid and multi cloud models offer a hedge when catastrophe strikes.
  4. Employee Skills: Leveraging hybrid and multi-cloud models helps foster a broader skill base of talent and cross-pollination of skills across the enterprise.
  5. Hybrid Work: Hybrid and multi-cloud models democratize the mobile workforce and, by nature, break down a hierarchical IT structure based on a single legacy IT delivery model. 

Related Article: Why Digital Workplace Growth Will Push Cloud Spending in Coming Years

Finally, the flexibility of cloud computing and its infrastructure in the enterprise is an important factor in this conversation. Because the hardware backing cloud resources can be located almost anywhere, cloud computing tends to be positioned as a strict alternative to on-premise IT setups, Paul Haverstock, VP of engineering at Malta-based Cloudways, said.  

In truth, though, Haverstock said optimal use of the cloud model involves a hardware-agnostic approach capable of accommodating all useful systems, be they private or public, local or remote. 

“A configuration that draws upon several cloud-deployment models is appropriately known as a hybrid cloud, and there are a number of reasons why this configuration is particularly desirable at the enterprise level,” he said. He cites three reasons in particular:

1. Security and Practicality 

In the age of online operations, cybersecurity is a pressing concern for all businesses, and enterprise-level operations are naturally the most appealing targets for hackers, he said. The need to grant access to remote workers can present major system vulnerabilities capable of exposing sensitive data, and the use of external systems (no matter how high-end) will always pose a threat. 

Here, Haverstock said, sticking solely to internal systems is no longer practical. Taking the hybrid route retains the security advantage of local user management without racking up computing costs. 

2. Flexibility 

Every workflow has a unique set of requirements and priorities, and a key task for a large-scale remote business is to ensure that processes are being handled appropriately. Because a hybrid cloud allows optimal variability (supporting everything from the most costly low-latency local server to the cheapest public-cloud tier), Haverstock said it facilitates optimal allocation, with mission-critical workflows getting the backing they need while low-level tasks use minimal resources. 

3. Operational Stability

Enterprise businesses move slowly as a matter of necessity. Many still rely on decades-old computer systems because moving to newer hardware is challenging. Haverstock said that by implementing a hybrid setup, a risk-averse company can safeguard its progress toward hybrid working, as its persistent local resources will allow it to revert any failed online migrations. 

“Overall, it’s easy to draw a parallel between hybrid clouds and hybrid working because they result from the same conclusion: that committing absolutely to a fixed method is far from ideal,” he said. "To remain competitive, a modern operation (whether remote or hybrid) must show an awareness of the need for precise resource management and security control.” 


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