The latest hybrid cloud trends of 2021

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“The enterprise shift to hybrid cloud as the standard is evident in recent developments in the cloud landscape that are blurring the lines between the public cloud and the traditional data center. This in turn is giving companies that embraced hybrid cloud earlier a competitive advantage.” – Emily Brand, chief architect at Red Hat

IT and more specifically cloud technologies were always a really rapidly evolving field but with the sudden shift to remote work and a significant momentum behind digital transformations we are at a point where the question is not if IT leaders and organizations are going to make the switch to cloud but it is how early they can do it. 

However, this sometimes gets too narrowly focused on the public cloud and it doesn’t completely capture the hybrid reality of most organizations and their actual IT setups, which often include a mix of on-premise and cloud infrastructure. To go even further, this doesn’t even necessarily reflect the portfolio of most major cloud platform providers who also encourage and support the hybrid cloud movement.

So, what does hybrid cloud mean?

To provide a better understanding, let’s quickly discuss what hybrid cloud really is, how it is built and what the main advantages are.  

First hybrid clouds were sort of a result of connecting private cloud environments to a public cloud environment using a fairly complex combination of middleware to achieve an underlying business goal. The private cloud part could be a self built solution or one of the prepackaged cloud infrastructures like OpenStack which then connects to one of the well known public cloud platforms.

Linking the two and moving huge amounts of resources between these environments require powerful middleware, or a preconfigured VPN that many cloud service providers package in for their customers as part of their regular subscription:

As a more accurate description, we would say that: “hybrid cloud is an IT architecture that has some degree of workload portability, orchestration, and management across 2 or more environments.” 

In the earlier age of cloud computing the differences between public clouds and private clouds were easily defined by location and ownership but today’s standards are far more complex, location and ownership became more abstract considerations so it is best to describe hybrid clouds based on what they actually do in practice: 

  • Connect multiple computers through a network.
  • Consolidate IT resources.
  • Scale and quickly provision new resources.
  • Move workloads between environments.
  • Incorporate a single, unified management tool.
  • Automate and orchestrate processes.

Modern hybrid clouds are architected to focus on the portability of the apps that run in the environments instead of the earlier approach of connecting the environments themselves. It is like building all-purpose vehicles that can drive, fly and float equally well instead of building more connecting roads between the already existing traffic points.

By running the same operating system in all IT environments and managing everything through a unified platform allow your app’s universality to also get extended to the environments below it. This creates an interconnected computing environment in which apps can be easily moved from one environment to another without maintaining a complex map of APIs that break every time there is an update or change.

Why has hybrid cloud become the next go-to IT infrastructure model?

Some of the early “adopters” of the hybrid cloud architecture made the move sort of unintentionally and out of a necessity but these companies quickly realized that moving past the previous either/or strategy when looking at private or public clouds affords a far greater strategic control over what runs where allowing a better balance of costs, performance, security and even compliance. 

“Despite the increased adoption of cloud services this year, especially those added to support the shift to remote work, organizations are still left asking themselves how to make the best use of the investments they’ve already made,” – says Kim King, director of product marketing, cloud management at Snow Software

Some of the main advantages are:

  • Business continuity: hybrid cloud models reduce potential downtime and improve business continuity meaning that in the event of a failure or disaster, business operations are able to continue as usual with minimal downtime or interruption. As demand for resources fluctuates, your organization isn’t at risk of overburdening their private servers which would mean services slowing down or stop altogether causing downtime. The cloud part of the setup can scale to absorb the demand.

  • Improved security and risk management: you can choose where to store data and handle workloads based on compliance, policy, or security considerations. The hybrid environment also helps with disaster recovery and data insurance as it lets security teams standardize redundant cloud storage.
    Key elements of risk management such as encryption, automation, access control, orchestration, and endpoint security are also easier to implement thanks to the hybrid cloud’s centralized management.

  • Flexibility and scalability: agility is one of the key promises of cloud computing. Private cloud provides some level of provisioning and scalability, but the available resources in a physical data center are still limited. Compared to that, in a public cloud environment you can immediately deploy, compute and store instances and services, without really worrying about available resources. However, anytime you need to move workload from the private infrastructure to the public cloud you need to count with the migration and preparation work.

  • Costs and Consistency: are some of the main benefits of hybrid cloud. The consistency provided by the hybrid cloud enables enterprises to provision and use the resources of the private cloud setup when it is the most appropriate and cost-effective but also easily draw upon additional resources from the public cloud whenever it is necessary. It is also easier to create, shift and scale workloads and resources when the private cloud is set up to offer instance types and services that are similar to the ones in the public cloud part.

What are the latest hybrid cloud trends we see?

  1. Even the cloud platforms are becoming more and more hybrid

    Compared to previous years’ trends, the hurry to move everything to the public cloud is decreasing as organizations no longer need to move an application to a public cloud platform to achieve the benefits that are usually associated with such projects. With more and more cloud-native but not at all “cloud-exclusive” technologies like Kubernetes, companies can gain the same or similar advantages even in their own data centers.
    Previous borders that existed for cloud technology are being broken down and major technology providers together with open source software are delivering the unique aspects of the cloud to customers with hybrid environments hosted in data centers or across multiple providers. This is done by extending platforms in an infrastructure-agnostic manner to work across many different setups.

  2. Edge computing

    Edge computing in a nutshell is computing that takes place near or at the exact physical location of the user or the source of the data. The advantage of placing computing services closer to these locations is faster and more reliable service. Edge computing is a new way for companies to use and distribute a common pool of resources across a large number of locations.
    Edge computing is one of the most significant driving factors behind hybrid cloud infrastructures as when applications and data can be at multiple locations, infrastructure must adapt and be similarly elastic and flexible and this requires consistent platforms and management in order to make edge architectures function effectively.

  3. Security takes on the cloud-native mindset

    We expect the 2021-2022 period to mark the beginning of security strategies starting to significantly adapt to the hybrid cloud reality and the cloud-native ecosystem that surrounds it.
    Security threats remain a mix of old and new but as the number of microservice-based workloads continues to rise and cloud-native technology becomes more and more widespread, security measures also need to evolve and provide software-defined security and authentication controls at all layers of the cloud-native technology ecosystem.

  4. Workload-environment fit as the key deciding factor

    Repatriation is essentially cloud migration done backwards but you should not think about companies suddenly abandoning the cloud as a new trend but rather putting more and more emphasis on workload fit and optimizing their application portfolio accordingly.
    Cloud offers an awful lot of advantages but migrating and refactoring entire codebases, rebuilding large data sets and adapting underlying structures to new platforms is not just a big risk but a huge effort and investment as well. So, we are going to see more and more hybrid IT setups that are optimized for a set of selected criteria whether that is cost, performance, compliance, skill sets, industry-specific needs… etc.

If have come this far, I would highly recommend to read our connecting post about Terraform and the advantages of Infrastructure as Code.
If your organization is thinking about moving to the cloud or already has a cloud setup that needs optimization please reach out for our weekly free consultation session.

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