How COVID-19 accelerated the move to hybrid cloud
This article article also appears in The new IT playbook, a report that explores what it means to be resilient and adaptable in the face of disruption.
If they were not already headed that way, many IT departments are now finding it necessary to accelerate their migration to multicloud architectures because of the novel coronavirus.
In fact, IDC says that by 2022, more than 90 percent of enterprises worldwide will rely on a mix of on-premises or dedicated private clouds, multiple public clouds, and legacy platforms to meet their infrastructure needs. It even predicts that a rising desire by companies to mitigate future disruptions by being more flexible, agile, and resilient could make 2021 "the year of multicloud."
"We are seeing the coronavirus situation accelerating enterprise interest and adoption of cloud," says Deepak Mohan, research director at IDC. "The term we're hearing most often in this context is resilience. IT organizations leveraging cloud environments are able to adapt better to the current crisis because they can easily scale or shift and continue to deliver services. Those that have taken more constrained approaches have had challenges."
Mohan notes the evolution of enterprise organizations from preferring on-premises deployments to investing heavily in public clouds and finally landing on a blend of the two has been decades in the making. Coronavirus and the current disruption is accelerating this process, he says. But Mohan believes companies are seeing the urgency of not having all their eggs in one basket but instead spreading the risk around to avoid single points of sluggishness or failure. And this is increasingly driving IT organizations to more diversified options, including multicloud.
Cloud everywhere becomes the norm
"We think 2021 becomes a turning point where, instead of just talking about cloud-first, organizations are evolving toward having cloud everywhere," Mohan says. "A major part of that will involve building broad cloud strategies to assure more flexibility and resiliency in the future."
Of course, Mohan and other industry experts point out that migrating applications from on-premises architecture to more than one public or private cloud is not cheap or easy. It takes time and money—something smaller organizations do not always have, especially in a down economy. But this situation is increasingly helping to make the case for this investment.
Volterra, a start-up focused on distributed cloud services, recently conducted a global survey of more than 400 IT executives and found that while nearly all (97 percent) planned to distribute workloads across two or more clouds, most struggle to support and secure multicloud and edge deployments.
"The increasing deployment of technologies, including AI, machine learning, and IoT, are causing apps and data to be progressively spread across multiple clouds and edge sites," says Ankur Singla, CEO and founder of Volterra. "Our report found 98 percent of IT leaders think it is very important to have a consistent operational experience between the edge and public and private clouds. But the data shows there are tremendous obstacles preventing that, mostly around establishing secure and reliable connections between providers, trying to navigate different support and consulting processes, and having to work with various platform services."
Preparing for the 'novel economy'
Brian Solis, global innovation evangelist at Salesforce and a leading expert and best-selling author on digital transformation and innovation, says those difficulties are part of why many organizations wrap their cloud and multicloud efforts under the banner of larger digital transformation efforts. But many of those efforts are stalled or retargeted right now because of the global pandemic, he says.
"Whatever the digital transformation roadmap was before COVID-19 is now on hold, indefinitely postponed, or redirected" Solis says. "We're now entering what I call 'the novel economy,' which will involve three stages: staying alive, then vying to survive, and finally, aspiring to thrive. Today, most businesses are still in trying-to-stay-alive mode, where IT is getting together with cross-functional business owners and asking, 'What are the things we absolutely have to have right now?' As we come out of this crisis, you'll see investments in cloud and multicloud accelerate, but the trajectory of those investments will be tied to specific needs now and over the immediate horizon."
Solis says that's because digital transformation itself has been "digitally disrupted"—almost overnight—by the current crisis. Whereas earlier IT investments tended to go to just about anything promising to improve operational efficiency or improve competitiveness, recent experience will cause business support and continuity to become even higher priorities.
"We now have to look at digital transformation and the push toward cloud and multicloud more purposefully than we have in the past," Solis says. "This is going to take more unified digital strategies, vision, leadership, and purpose."
Multicloud strategies even more critical
Alexey Gerasimov, vice president of global cloud delivery at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), agrees, saying it is always critical to have a cloud strategy aligned to what a business hopes to accomplish for current or anticipated economic conditions. COVID-19 is making that even more clear.
"Public or private cloud aside, you have to start with the overall business strategy and then look at the IT strategy needed to achieve that," he says. "I'm not sure that COVID-19 is forcing people to swing more toward the cloud, but it's certainly causing them to pay more attention to the need and opportunity to run IT more efficiently and to strike the right balance between cloud and on-premises deployments. Few organizations, not even top public cloud providers, operate entirely in the cloud. So it is becoming even more important, as the economy stumbles, to consider what should be kept local and what can be done in the public cloud to save money, improve agility, and generate revenues
Gerasimov says migrating to the cloud can be difficult for some companies that might not have the financial or human resources to pull it off effectively.
"It's not like you have a Staples red 'easy' button that you can push and be automatically migrated over," he quips. "In reality, it isn't so simple. Even migrating between data centers can be hard. Vendors will tell you that you can save money by putting more in the cloud, but it takes money to make that happen, right?"
The value of third-party services
It also takes expertise that many organizations simply do not have, experts say. In fact, in an extensive survey by Flexera, finished before coronavirus quarantines took hold, 77 percent of enterprise and SMB respondents cited lack of resources and expertise as one of their top cloud concerns. Security (81 percent), managing cloud spend (79 percent), and governance (77 percent) were among the other challenges.
"With employees working from home and an increasing number of business interactions going digital, more than half of enterprise respondents (in our survey) said their cloud usage will be higher than originally planned at the beginning of the year due to the pandemic," according to Flexera CEO Jim Ryan in statement. "Companies plan to migrate more services to cloud, yet they're already exceeding cloud budgets. They will need to focus on optimizing workloads as they migrate in addition to cost management and governance to ensure operational efficiency."
HPE's Gerasimov notes there is help out there for organizations unsure of where to start or feeling a little overwhelmed by the digital transformation tasks ahead of them.
"If you have limited budgets but know it's important to balance more of your operations across on-premises and cloud or to rationalize what you have across multiple clouds, then it's time to look to outside experts to help you figure it out," Gerasimov advises. "There are options out there, from hiring specialists who can help you get the right mix of technology and applications to consumption-based IT services that help you monitor, manage, and optimize your on-premises and cloud deployments."
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This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.