After a period in the relative wilderness, hybrid cloud is widely thought to be the dominant cloud strategy for 2020 and beyond.
Our experts have said it – variously forecasting hybrid cloud to remain ascendant, the resurgence of hybrid cloud 2.0, and hybrid cloud to become the new multi-cloud (again) – and so has Gartner. Analysts expect more than 75% of midsize and large organizations to have adopted a multi- or hybrid-cloud strategy by 2021.
But this promises to make matters tricky for IT leaders plotting a path to the cloud or refining existing strategies. Cloud is already complex, and hybrid cloud isn’t one easily-defined methodology or approach.
It’s an evolving concept with – as our experts’ differing predictions show – many angles to it that promise to excite or agitate various personas. For example, cost governance, security and tagging look set to keep some up at night, while others are getting revved up over the significance of large infrastructure providers bringing public cloud technology into on-prem environments (more on this later). All that to say – hybrid cloud is here to stay, but you have to define what it will mean to you. Just because you can run workloads in every cloud – should you?
One size doesn’t fit all with hybrid cloud
So where to start? Well, when public clouds can run in on-premises data centers, and private clouds off-premises, it’s less useful to talk about what hybrid cloud looks like except at a high level. (Ideally, it incorporates a single, unified management tool that orchestrates processes with the help of automation.)
It’s better, instead, to focus on what it does. At its best, hybrid cloud combines choice with efficiency. It provides an agile and cost-effective approach to moving workloads in and out of the public cloud (or between public clouds) while lowering costs, increasing productivity and limiting vendor lock-in.
In this way, hybrid offers more business flexibility through improved data and application deployment options, and the ability to handle overflow without the need to invest in compute resources to handle only short-term spikes in demand.
The rest is up to you. Hybrid cloud is a highly adaptable concept and how you build your own will be unique to you, because every cloud journey is unique.
Why hybrid cloud, and why now?
Smart organizations recognize the benefits of running apps and data in the environment that makes the most sense for those workloads at any given time. Of course for that to be workable, each environment in play needs to be managed, secured and orchestrated in a consistent manner. But since the early days of cloud, many tools have tried to fill the gaps in consistent management, security and orchestration. And they’ve all fallen short.
It’s really due to the growth in global service providers that hybrid-cloud is in reach for most non-Fortune 10 companies. The amount of effort required for managing multiple clouds is exponential. To make it work, most organizations require a service provider who can bring all of those loose-ends of cloud together like tagging, billing, ticketing, and cost optimization.
The emergence of cloud-native Kubernetes
The biggest reason why experts are once again lining up behind hybrid cloud is the rapid adoption of cloud-native development and infrastructure, namely containers – which increasingly means Kubernetes.
As my colleague Tolga Tarhan explained in his 2020 predictions: “For organizations that have to run hybrid cloud workloads, containers will reduce complexity. Containers will become a primary enabler for cloud adoption by providing a platform-agnostic way to package and manage apps. And the question is no longer if, but how. But the real story here is Kubernetes, the chosen container orchestrator for over half of large enterprises.”
Instead of relying on complex networks of APIs to move workloads, modern hybrid clouds use containers and Kubernetes technologies to run the same OS in every environment; apps are developed and deployed as collections of microservices, and everything is managed through a unified platform.
Kubernetes is now the standard tech for deploying infrastructure to support container-based workloads. “There is no serious competition,” says Tarhan. “The battle will be in the Kubernetes tools market for deployment, automation, security, auditing and other supporting software.”
And it seems the major infrastructure vendors agree: almost every single one has recently launched Kubernetes-based hybrid cloud solutions, such as Azure Stack, Google Cloud Anthos, and AWS Outposts. “These new offerings not only manage clusters running on-premises and in their own cloud platforms but any Kubernetes cluster including those that are deployed in other cloud environments,” as Janakiram MSV recently wrote for Forbes.com.
Thinking outside of the container
Containers and Kubernetes aren’t the only factors driving the resurgence of hybrid cloud. Rapid innovation in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have brought these technologies to the masses, and event-driven ‘serverless’ or function-as-a-service platforms have enabled a completely new paradigm for developing software.
Advances in edge computing, on-premises public cloud and 5G mobile broadband are also enabling businesses of any size to solve the most complex problems in truly innovative ways. A successful hybrid strategy in 2020 and beyond requires that all of these toolsets – including Kubernetes – are deployed to serve the use cases for which they’re designed in order to avoid the inefficiencies of the ‘one size fits all’ approach that defined similar strategies only a few years ago.
And there’s more change to come
While specific deployments of hybrid cloud will vary from organization to organization, our experts predict growing challenges around the complexity of managing hybrid clouds across the dimensions of cost, governance, identity and DevOps patterns. A range of new cloud native security considerations will also emerge as workloads are balanced across multiple public cloud platforms and dedicated on-premises environments.
Hybrid cloud as a concept, and its core capabilities, will also continue to evolve from this point. Increasing competition between the three biggest cloud hyperscalers and VMware will drive their efforts to explore and deliver on how Kubernetes will make them the hybrid cloud provider of choice.
All of which sets us up for an exciting year of product and service announcements – and lots more new information to make sense of for already-inundated IT leaders.