Hybrid cloud - is it the future or just the next technology buzzword?

The use of data and analytics in the cloud is no longer an aspiration, it’s a reality. Most, if not all, enterprise organisations already have multiple workloads in public and private clouds. The cloud can offer benefits of cost, security, and governance, but also in balancing the relentless demand from the people who want frequent access to the data they need at speed. However, let’s not forget that despite the benefits of cloud, many workloads will remain on-premises now and for the future.

A hybrid cloud approach to data management for analytics seems like the answer, but is it just another buzzword or is it something that enterprises can truly leverage to help their business drive more value from data?

We invited a group of senior cyber security architects, CDOs, and heads of infrastructure and data analytics to discuss their experiences with:

  • Hybrid cloud and what that means for their organisations
  • Re-engineering for the cloud vs. lift and shift
  • Maintaining data governance and security across a hybrid environment

Rela8 Group’s Technology Leaders Club roundtables are held under the Chatham House Rule. Names, organisations and some anecdotes have been withheld to protect privacy.

About Cloudera

At Cloudera, they believe that data can make what is impossible today, possible tomorrow. They empower people to transform complex data into clear and actionable insights. Cloudera delivers an enterprise data cloud for any data, anywhere, from the Edge to AI. Powered by the relentless innovation of the open-source community, Cloudera advances digital transformation for the world’s largest enterprises.

The cloud

In today’s business landscape, it is impossible to avoid the allure of the cloud. Be they public or private, the cloud can offer the agility and scalability needed to stay competitive. While entire businesses are now being born in the cloud, many are left with a hybrid environment juggling on-premises legacy, PaaS, SaaS, and private clouds. Organisations are faced with numerous challenges in this situation, but hybrid doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

Hybrid clouds

Most businesses will find themselves tangled up in a hybrid environment eventually. By looking at data and how we use it, it isn’t hard to understand why it gets siloed and split into separate environments in the first place:

  • The edge of your environment, where data is being created. This can be on-prem or in the cloud. Shifting this data elsewhere to be processed is inefficient and costly, so the computing is often brought to it.
  • Your data centre. Computational powerhouses, these are often your on-prem legacy or mission critical systems that are too risky or complicated to move.
  • Public clouds. Offering inarguable benefits for data analytics and scalability. But whether it’s IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS, organisations still need to consider cost, data gravity, and security governance.

When discussing hybrid clouds, one thing quickly becomes clear – ‘hybrid cloud’ is a very flexible term. For some it means a combination of on-prem, private cloud and SaaS, for others it means on-prem and public cloud, and for others it means multi-cloud with mission critical systems remaining on-prem. Some are hoping to eventually eliminate all on-prem while others would never dream of it.

With everyone being on radically different journeys, it is therefore crucial that businesses interrogate their own needs in the cloud. Based on hybrid-cloud specifics, organisations will need to consider skill sets across their environments, varying security and governance postures, different tools and processes, and most importantly, how all of this can be integrated together.

Investing correctly

Investment is often a major roadblock for organisations looking to embrace the cloud. Cloud technology can offer returns on investment, but the upfront cost is a hard pill to swallow. As such, a huge part of any investment campaign needs to be dedicated towards transforming your people and business culture. When communicating this to the business leads, impress upon them that the outcome of heavy investment in your people is having teams that can use all this new technology and can adopt it to move at pace competitively.

However, you don’t only need to convince the board, you also need to convince your staff to undertake this journey. As the business changes, so do job roles. Understanding the trajectory for job roles as the business grows and empowering staff with training for that journey is how you get your staff on board.

Re-architecting vs. lift and shift

Moving to the cloud offers the opportunity to update and re-architect old systems that could work better, but it’s important to understand that this isn’t always the best choice. Some things will without question need to be re-engineered, but while lifting and shifting is often vilified, the truth is that some systems can be contained and moved onto the cloud without trouble. In these instances, costly re-engineering is unnecessary. Taking a case-by-case approach is the most effective solution.

Where things can’t be lifted and shifted, organisations need to decide if they remain onprem or if they retire functions and start again on PaaS or SaaS as needed. One thing that can be agreed upon however, is that when re-architecting, automation should be made a foundational feature. Automation frees up resource and allows for businesses to keep up with the ever-growing volume of data that needs processing.

Security and governance in a hybrid cloud

As a result of their disparate nature, most organisations struggle with governance and security across hybrid clouds. Going through a process of cleansing and validating data is critical and it has to become part of the processes within an organisation if you are to be able to see the lineage and lifecycle of your data. The business’ focus should be on data accuracy and maintaining the governance and quality of your data catalogue. Agility and speed will follow.

The businesses that have gotten it right have had strong security teams that were clear on policies and were supported by distributing responsibility to server leads who were accountable for the security and compliance of the data. A strong foundation of clear guidelines and re-useable templates was vital to their success. Success was also found by embedding security engineers within the teams to de-centralise security responsibility. By reinforcing knowledge and processes within individuals and teams, everybody took responsibility. Counter to restricting data, it was the knowledge and empowerment of staff that led to security success.

The inevitability of hybrid

Hybrid cloud isn’t simply a buzzword, it is a virtual certainty in today’s digital landscape. No business can avoid it between regulations forcing some data to stay onprem, and multiple departments wanting different things. Effective transition to the cloud is understanding that the change is iterative and ultimately comes down the users, not management.

So many businesses today view the cloud as the solution to all their problems. The reality is that the cloud doesn’t make things easier, it simply shifts the complexity and challenges elsewhere. Integrating your environments so that you can deliver business value while still maintaining security postures and compliance is difficult, but hybrid cloud is about achieving a consistent operating layer. If you don’t have that, all you’re actually doing is just multicloud with the added on-prem.

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