Hybrid cloud solutions are becoming a preferred paradigm among enterprises. According to a recent study by UBS Evidence Lab, 60 percent of IT admins and CIOs agree that hybrid solutions make the most sense for them.
If you’re unfamiliar, hybrids clouds simply mean using both public and private cloud services, providing flexibility in one big way. Mixing public cloud with on-premises and/or private cloud lets organizations leverage the public cloud while keeping certain workloads in facilities under internal control.
With all the talk about the public cloud, it’s still not for everyone — and may never be. Here are five instances where using hybrid solutions make the most sense.
Where the customer journey is everything
In today’s marketplace, retailers sell more than products or services. They also need to build relationships. Hybrid clouds play a crucial role in those relationship building efforts.
Take athletic shoe companies for example. The global athletic footwear market was valued at $64.3 billion in 2017. Relationships are key, and they’re often informed by and initiated with market data. Companies are taking data collection from the till to the street (or trail or track). Enter the smart shoe.
Altra recently followed Nike into the high-performance smart shoe product category. Hooked to a smartphone, these shoes provide runners “live feedback on foot strike, cadence, impact rate and contact time.” In return, companies receive customer data they couldn’t otherwise obtain and therefore enable them to connect with customers in ways they couldn’t before.
By then aggregating and analyzing this data in their hybrid cloud, Altra anticipates demand and tailor solutions to customers. They can personalize email, discounts, and recommendations based on actual running activity, rather than purchase history. All the while keeping that data safe and using it responsibly, not creepily. (Maybe a little creepily.)
These trends are visible across the retail world. In a market sector with thin margins and high competition, retailers use data to anticipate customers need, market products, and respond accordingly. Hybrid solutions make a lot of sense for organizations that want to really hammer home brand loyalty — and keep those data safe.
Heavy regulated sectors that must be compliant
The challenge is two-fold for heavily regulated sectors. They must be compliant with current regulations. Yet, they need to able to quickly provision resources to meet shifting market demands. A hybrid approach enables regulated sectors to maintain that compliance. At the same time, they can take advantage of the benefits of public clouds. Hybrid cloud solutions provide both of this, making them ideal for banks, healthcare organizations, and insurance companies.
For example, a bank’s front-end services can be tested and deployed using public cloud services. Meanwhile, back-end services can be run in private cloud environments to provide regulatory compliance. In the financial sector, private clouds are used for trade orders, while the public cloud is used for trade analytics.
It’s the best of both worlds for organizations that must be compliant. In fact, 58 percent of healthcare CIOs said their organizations were using hybrid clouds in 2017.
When you want to move away from legacy systems
Legacy systems can be inflexible and time-consuming to modify. This can lead to companies taking on technical debt due to maintenance costs. Hybrid clouds enable businesses to shift away from restrictive legacy systems without going all-in on the public cloud.
Take Cathay Pacific Airways, a Hong Kong-based airline, for example. Their legacy infrastructure and development process made it difficult for them to keep up with the demands of the industry. Most notably, it affected the performance of their customer-facing applications, impacting the value they delivered to customers. They needed to be able to balance their internal systems with those customer-facing apps.
They knew the cloud could help them respond quickly and efficiently. But they weren’t ready to go all in the at once. Cathay Pacific settled on a combination of on-premises data centers and the public cloud, replacing their legacy system with a cloud-native stack built on Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform. This allowed a smoother blending of their on-prem systems and the cloud.
This hybrid cloud approach restructured Cathay Pacific’s IT infrastructure, making it more scalable and cost-effective. The company’s throughput for application deployment has increased from about 20 to 200 per day. And the best part for them, there’s no or little downtime for their customers.
When you want to try something new, quickly
Hybrid clouds give organizations the potential to implement new technologies faster and accelerate innovation. New technologies such as virtualization and machine learning quickly become available as services from hybrid cloud providers.
With lower up-front costs for developing and deploying apps and services, it’s quick and cost-effective for organizations to try new ideas and approaches. They can discard those that don’t pan out and rapidly scale up the viable ones. As a result, the cloud quickly accommodates new products, categories of customers, and even new business models.
Hybrid clouds have allowed for new business models to emerge. For example, consider a now-common model used by solar energy companies, called solar power purchase agreements (PPA). For years, solar panels have been unattainable for many consumers due to the upfront costs. With PPAs, companies install smart solar panels on customers’ roofs at no cost and then charge based on usage. The aggregate value of the solar panels are distributed to the homeowner, other homeowners, or sold back to the grid. In the backend, charges are calculated, collected, and analyzed by private or hybrid clouds (as is common with utility infrastructure).
Previously, solar energy companies had to sell solar panels based on the promise of future savings. PPAs aggregate data with hybrid clouds to increase their competitive advantage through real-time management of cost and resources.
You’re a business with a geographically diverse workforce
By 2020, as high 50 percent of the U.S. workforce will be working at least partially remote. Hybrid cloud is the driving force behind that surge.
Collaboration technology has rendered location irrelevant in hiring for jobs — as long as the tools are in place. For most companies, the right tools might be services on a public cloud like Slack or Hipchat. Large organizations often turn to hybrid solutions to unlock (or augment) on-prem resources for a global and mobile workforce. The term “hybrid UCC” has sprung up in recent years around this concept.
Cloud-based apps like Skype for Business allow hybrid connectivity between on-prem and cloud resources, even integrating PBX. In the Skype parlance, these situations are known as “split domain” with users occupying both Skype of Business Server and the online app.
In this way, users across a geographically diverse company can use the same collaboration tools, software, and apps without sacrificing security and functionality. The hybrid approach is particularly useful during a migration from on-prem to cloud services. You can migrate users over time, on your schedule.
For organizations with large remote workforces, hybrid solutions are ideal — even if it’s just during migration. Providing the right tools and data for your workforce makes them more productive.
Hybrid cloud usage is increasing across industries
The spend on hybrid cloud services is growing 45 percent annually. More organizations are leveraging the cloud in new ways. Most businesses can benefit from using hybrid cloud solutions.
But leveraging hybrid clouds isn’t always easy. Blending applications and services can be challenging. It’s crucial to regularly analyze cloud services with an eye on how they can be used for competitive advantage. It also might necessary to re-evaluate existing processes and systems — and be willing to change.
Can your organization benefit from a hybrid cloud solution? Most likely. But you’ll need to make sure your IT team has proper skills. Integrating and managing a complex cloud architecture is not easy. It’s also necessary to get the buy-in and alignment so that everyone is pulling in the same direction.
Hybrid cloud solutions provide the best of both worlds for organizations: Flexibility and security. If your organization hasn’t adopted a hybrid cloud approach, it makes sense to explore the option.