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Hybrid cloud has come to mean different things over time. One early canonical document from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) focused on quickly and transparently moving workloads between a private cloud and a public one. This turned out to be both too narrow a definition and often not feasible because of the difficulty and cost of moving around large volumes of data. In fact, the recent interest in edge computing, in part, reflects the need to move computing closer to data and users. In this post, we’ll cover some key considerations to keep in mind as you start digitally transforming your organization.
Consistency and integration across different computing footprints remains important. However, today’s hybrid clouds are really about having a mix of new and old development processes to support traditional architectures and new applications. Increasingly, organizations want choices when deciding where to build and run their applications to meet business demands.
One driving force is that while many are moving some traditional workloads to the cloud, they cannot do it all at once. They need to be able to use their existing technology, make sure that the applications they build today are going to be relevant in the future, and flexibly adapt those apps as business needs change. Organizations need the ability to run their applications on their choice of footprints, with common development, operations, and automation environments, as appropriate.
Hybrid cloud goes beyond infrastructure
This last point highlights how an effective hybrid cloud isn’t just about infrastructure. (People sometimes distinguish between a hybrid cloud and multiple cloud silos, referring to the latter as multi-cloud. However, this is getting into an inconsistently-used definitional rabbit hole and is therefore best avoided.)
Take automation for example. Automation is increasingly no longer seen as a tool or just a tactical solution. It is becoming a strategic initiative for IT and the business. Automation is now necessary because manual processes simply can’t handle the scale of modern computing infrastructures either efficiently or reliably. Nor can those manual processes prevent the operation of multiple clouds from devolving into inconsistent and incompatible operational procedures.
Security is a top priority
Data governance and security are also important considerations in a hybrid cloud as they are elsewhere. In fact, the Red Hat’s Global Tech Outlook 2021 survey found that security was the top IT funding priority with 45% of IT decision makers making that their pick. Companies need to protect their data everywhere it exists by using a layered defense strategy.
Companies should first identify where all of the sensitive data resides and categorize this data based on its sensitivity and regulatory requirements. This may lead to deciding that certain data should be stored on-premise or at least in-country. It’s important to work closely with privacy teams to make sure there is alignment around data privacy and governance. Encryption and other tools should then be deployed to protect data at rest and in motion.
Automation plays a role here as well. Checking to make sure systems are compliant with industry regulations is a tedious and error-prone task that is often done manually. This has become even more complicated with workloads living on-premise, in multiple public clouds, and out to systems in edge locations that may not even have local IT staff. Automation helps abstract away the complexity of a heterogeneous IT stack, while ensuring that security, compliance, and optimization challenges are consistently and routinely identified and addressed.
Effective hybrid clouds are based on enterprise open source
A hybrid cloud approach is at its most effective when it builds on top of enterprise open source products. These provide code portability and integration across disparate cloud environments so software will work similarly across all IT environments. Open source and open standards allow applications and data to consistently move from one environment to another. By contrast, in closed systems, customers have flexibility only within that system.
Flexible enterprise IT is based on an open architecture, which is an architecture that is not constrained to a fixed set of principles or technologies. An open architecture enables customers to more easily adopt agile and DevOps methodologies, which can improve collaboration and accelerate application delivery.
Which brings us to digital transformation. Without applications and collaboration and enterprise open source you can’t digitally transform even though that’s increasingly a requirement for effective digital businesses.
But don’t take our word for it, we asked IT decision makers around the world to identify their top uses of enterprise open source in The State of Enterprise Open Source 2021 report. Their top three responses? IT infrastructure modernization, which sounds a lot like the hybrid cloud technologies we’ve been talking about, came out on top; close behind were application development and digital transformation—which you can’t do without the right modern infrastructure in place.
The past year has seen businesses experiment with and adopt many changes to quickly adapt to much more distributed workforces and customers. Many are aspects of digital transformation, which the aforementioned Red Hat’s Global Tech Outlook 2021 survey found had accelerated in 21% of the organizations surveyed.
Digital transformation covers many facets of how an organization operates, including its overall culture but—without overemphasizing the technology aspects—it does require certain technology building blocks including applications, automation, and computing infrastructure on which everything else depends. It requires a hybrid cloud that can flexibly support the workloads that the business needs to succeed.
About the author
Gordon Haff is a technology evangelist and has been at Red Hat for more than 10 years. Prior to Red Hat, as an IT industry analyst, Gordon wrote hundreds of research notes, was frequently quoted in publications such as The New York Times on a wide range of IT topics, and advised clients on product and marketing strategies.