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The Hybrid Cloud: What You Need To Know

The Hybrid Cloud, an IT infrastructure and service that is distributed across a combination of either premise hardware, public cloud providers, private cloud providers, or a number of cloud providers, is predicted to be one of the top tech trends this year.

Traditionally, organisations house all of their IT services in on-premise equipment. As cloud computing has come of age, it has become common practice to ‘outsource’ IT services such as email, CRM, and web-based services to cloud providers.

It allows companies to continue control of their IT environments while sending not so critical workloads to a public cloud, taking advantage of the technology’s flexibility and scalability.

The market is booming, with various vendors introducing their own hybrid cloud services. A recent Cisco global cloud index said that annual global data centre IP traffic would reach 8.6 zettabytes by the end of 2018. By that year, cloud data centres will process 78 percent of workloads.

However, deployment isn’t that simple. There can be problems with integration, migration and other complex work. It has its own risks such as security and confusing service-level agreements.

Daniel Johns, head of professional services at ASI Solutions, said the key requirement for making hybrid cloud work is for the organisation to understand what services they can outsource, bearing in mind any compliance or regulatory restrictions that may apply to their industry.

“Depending on any compliance regulations, data may need to be held in a more secure environment than most public cloud providers can offer. Any company that stores credit card details, for example, will need to ensure that their cloud provider is Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant,” Johns said.

There are several things that companies need to be aware of before taking on hybrid cloud. Johns said any organisation looking into taking on a hybrid cloud solution should align themselves with a trusted advisor, which would typically be an IT solutions provider.

“By seeking expert advice, the trusted advisor can look at the organisation’s requirements, and provide recommendations on what is possible, and how a hybrid cloud solution may offer advantages to the business. Typically, those advantages are changing a business’s investment in IT from a CAPEX to an OPEX model, improving cash flow. Additionally, the services can be scaled to suit a growing, or rapidly changing environment. The challenge is really around understanding what is possible and engaging the right partners to assist in that change,” he said.

He added that while the uptake of cloud services and the maturity of those services are not as high in Australia as the European and US markets, it is still growing at an amazing rate.

“We are seeing all the big players open their local data centres here in Australia, which is providing significant competition in the market — always good for consumers,” Johns said.

Google, Amazon, Azure, and VMWare are all opening, or have opened, their local data centres to the public right here in Australia.

“I think that Australian business owners are smart about their cash-flow options, but should really consider their IT investments not as a luxury item but as essential to business growth, and continuity. The considered and intelligent decisions made around IT investments can literally make or break an organisation. Invest too little in the infrastructure and the risk to the business is enormous, through risk of hardware failure, data loss, and downtime,” he said.

Johns said today there are a plethora of cloud-based migration services to assist in the migration of a business’s services to the cloud. A good IT advisor is always aware of the many ways to approach migration strategies.

“Typically, an outsourced IT provider will have a team of ‘Solutions Architects’ who all have different experiences and skills, allowing for a much greater diversity of knowledge than the average internal IT department can. Service providers should be used to augment the capabilities of an internal IT department to be able to achieve more with the IT budget. Smarter decisions from more informed sources could allow that budget to go further,” he said.

But then is hybrid cloud only for bigger businesses or can SMEs adopt it as well? Johns said small and medium sized businesses in Australia are taking on hybrid cloud fast, if not faster, than their larger counterparts.

“Consuming IT services on demand is changing the way we consider any IT investment these days. No longer does a business need to bring in house the skills to build, configure, deploy, and manage their IT services. They can simply purchase those services as a utility, much like you would with water, electricity, and gas,” he said.

The next step now, according to Johns, for companies to move away from a complete on-premise IT environment is to outsource one or more functions to a cloud provider.

“A business may start by moving their email to a cloud provider like Office 365. Once the business gains some confidence in cloud service, other services can be considered to move into the cloud as well. There is no reason why any business couldn’t eventually become 100 per cent cloud-based over time by working with their trusted IT advisor to achieve the business goals,” he said.