What are the pitfalls to avoid when managing a hybrid cloud ecosystem?

A hybrid cloud environment promises a business an optimum solution from a security, cost and accessibility perspective

It means that organisations can move workloads between resources according to the needs of the business. 

Valued by organisations that want to continue operating ‘business as usual’ whilst driving their digital transformation initiatives, hybrid cloud offers an agile and scalable approach to hosting applications in multiple environments. 

Experts have estimated that the global hybrid cloud market will value at USD 63,658.0 million in 2021 and is projected to reach USD 6, 67,916.4 million by 2030 at a CAGR of 29.8% during the forecast period.  

Many organisations start off by using a ‘lift and shift’ approach to moving existing applications over to their new cloud environment – whether through choice or pandemic provoked necessity. But the majority of these companies soon find that this approach lacks compatibility. Hybrid cloud introduces some major risks to an organisation that need to be carefully mitigated and managed if their cloud project is to be a success. Not to mention that in some cases, a lack of effective cloud management could see cloud budgets spiral or in other cases, are under-optimised with current estimations that up to 30% of cloud budgets are wasted

So how do you design, integrate and manage a hybrid cloud ecosystem so that it delivers all the security, cost savings and efficiencies that were promised? This article will explain more.  

What considerations need to be made? 

Before starting your cloud journey, it’s important to take into consideration the service infrastructure that is trying to be replicated into the cloud environment. Working to a cloud adoption framework will give a clear line of best practice.  

Each cloud platform has its own framework of excellence and is consumed in different ways. This demands a review of the reasons behind why a business is moving to the cloud in the first place. A detailed benefits and cost analysis should be undertaken to decide whether an application would be better in a cloud environment rather than on premise. For example, do the desired benefits come down to revenue generation, internal infrastructure, employee productivity or another reason?  

It’s the ecosystem of the platform that differentiates where you place the workload. A lot of customer-facing businesses lean towards AWS because of its affiliate ecosystem and marketspace which allows you to bring in a multitude of third parties with ease. This is beneficial if you have broken down your services into lines of code and looked at which elements other providers could supply to ultimately reduce your time to value in delivering a service back out to customers.  

In comparison, Microsoft’s cloud environment is based on an infrastructure way of working or GCP which tends to be used for its data-lead capabilities. It’s important to choose a cloud provider that best suits your business’ operating model. Is it more important that the platform allows you to manage revenue streams or boost employee productivity and experience? The way that you’re looking to improve efficiencies to boost the bottom line is an important consideration here. 

What are the pitfalls of hybrid cloud management? 

Some of the first risks an organisation will encounter centre around governance and risk. For example; who has access to what data, how do you maintain an audit trail? From a security perspective there are also challenges around system vulnerabilities, insufficient identity, and credential and access management. There is a real need to apply effective hybrid cloud management to mitigate these challenges.  

The risks differ depending on which multi-cloud strategy is taken. Each cloud service – whether its Azure, AWS, GCP or another – has its own characteristics and thus is consumed in distinct ways. For example, AWS is a business revenue generating platform, therefore the risk of revenue and reputation is massive if a business lifts and shifts a workload to this environment inefficiently without a decent adoption framework or a centre of excellence.  

If the foundation isn’t right in the first place it could be catastrophic; leading to loss of revenue, loss of data and loss of reputation. The risk is that a business could end up spending more to fix mistakes then the cost of moving to the cloud in the first place.  

The other key issue is around adoption. There’s little point in moving applications and services to the cloud if no-one ends up using them. They need to be appropriate and relevant as well as functional 

How can an organisation avoid these pitfalls? 

Take your time from the outset in building out a centre of excellence. Research and employ good developers who will talk through a cloud adoption framework with you. Remember that no matter how quickly you want to migrate your services to the cloud, having too much haste will lead to operational inefficiencies that will hold you back from the true benefits it promises.    

Cloud transformation affects the whole business from finance to HR, so while the overall strategy needs to be led from the top down, every department needs to be listened to, to make sure their requirements are met. 

Companies will either be investing in people or investing in tools; but the market currently isn’t strong enough from a tooling perspective not to require people. This is unless you look at it from a 1:1 perspective; in this case, the hybrid cloud management of an on-premises environment to one cloud platform is quite advanced. But we’re probably still a year or two out for true multi-cloud management.  

The pitfalls of trying to optimise a hybrid cloud environment comes down to workload behaviours; are the applications that you’re moving to the cloud ready? If not, you’re probably moving the problem to a different location without resolving it. This will make your cloud project run up unnecessary costs. There’s a lot of maturing that needs to happen to have true hybrid cloud management within workloads and spaces. It comes down to infrastructure, type of services, how employees are communicating to the business and the overall operating model.    

A move to the cloud is a good chance to consolidate and optimise your applications and services. 

Once a hybrid cloud environment is optimised, what’s next? 

Most companies will initially lift a service that they have on premises into the cloud and then they will start to look at redesigning those applications natively by leveraging PaaS components instead of IaaS, thus reaping the true benefits of moving to a cloud provider from on premise. They can then look at bringing third party platforms, API integrations and managed services into this, leading to second generation optimisation and app modernisation programmes. 

A final piece of advice if you’re looking at hybrid cloud management, is that you need to engage with a provider that knows both worlds as they will be able to deliver tried and tested capabilities. Having a partner that is solely cloud or solely on-premises will ultimately do you a disservice as they don’t understand the other side of the coin. A suitably designed, integrated and managed hybrid cloud ecosystem can be as secure as conventional on-premises IT while delivering improved productivity and business outcomes. 

About the Author

James Hunnybourne is Cloud Solutions Director at Ultima. James Hunnybourne is Cloud Solutions Director at Ultima. He is responsible for its cloud practice and demonstrating how Ultima’s technology, people and services can help improve business outcomes. Prior to this he was Head of Technology Services and Solutions at Softcat. 

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