Organizations continue the aggressive movement of their operations to the cloud. According to Flexera’s 2021 State of the Cloud report, 80% of enterprises are utilizing a hybrid cloud strategy.
Respondents to Flexera’s report estimate that 30% of their organizations’ cloud budgets are wasted. Managing cloud spend continues to be a self-designated top challenge among businesses of all sizes, and for good reason.
With cloud spend on the rise, it’s more important than ever to have high-level understanding on how you can optimize your hybrid architecture to reap full benefits and leave no money or technology on the table.
Understand What Hybrid Cloud Is (and What It Isn’t)
A hybrid cloud strategy is a complicated concept, despite how easy the myriad commercials make it appear. A critical first step to optimizing your cloud architecture is to understand what you’re working with -- and to be certain everyone is using the same terms in the same manner.
The simple answer: A hybrid cloud strategy integrates elements of multiple clouds (public and private, public and public, etc.) to deliver cost-efficient scalability, flexibility, configurability, and control. The exact configuration should be optimized for your organization, so that it works better than only a public or private cloud would alone.
Define Your Desired Goals and Outcomes Upfront
A hybrid cloud strategy should be your second choice because a single cloud solution doesn't meet your needs. There are cost and performance benefits, but there is also a significant trade-off in complexity, technological constraints, and flexibility. Successful hybrid cloud strategies are customized specifically for your business. For the strategy to be optimally effective, you must have a clear idea of your business’s desired goals. If you do not have a strategic technology plan to achieve these outcomes, you may end up among the number of companies that waste their cloud spend.
You must be able to answer the following questions:
- Why do you want to pursue a hybrid cloud strategy?
- What operational, technological, and/or compliance requirements are in place that require a hybrid cloud environment?
- What does your business need to achieve?
- Why won’t non-hybrid solutions work?
There are numerous reasons why a business might pursue a hybrid strategy -- cost, control and performance being the most common.
A simple example: You are a fast-growing company delivering a platform where graphic designers and artists can store, edit, and share their work.
To ensure that you don’t lose users to long load times and unreliable access to their stored files, you may choose to store compute and storage in a data center to optimize performance and control. However, to access the best possible tools available without having to build them, you purchase AI, ML, and cloud-specific services from AWS and GCP.
Suppose your company's specific goals and needs align with the benefits of hybrid architecture. In that case, investing in a hybrid solution will ensure that your product experience is fast, cost-effective, and easy to maintain.
Run a Proof of Concept Before Adopting
If your desired outcome is performance or cost-related, run a proof of concept before you adopt a hybrid cloud strategy. It’s worth your time to set up a test case that accurately reflects your business and confirm you see the anticipated results. Doing this before full adoption will ensure greater opportunity for success and reveal hidden pitfalls.
Let’s say you’re planning to implement a hybrid cloud solution that will shift certain workloads from the data center to a cloud solution. In your financial analysis of this plan, you anticipate the migration of these workloads to the cloud will save money, as the cloud will enable you to utilize auto-scaling and a pay only for what you use model to optimize cost efficiency.
However, when you run the proof of concept, you learn that if you implement the plan as architected, you’ll realize compute and data egress fees actually increase your cloud spend. In this case, maintaining a particular workload in the data center will provide optimal operational and financial performance. This example is simple by concept because it is almost universally true. There will always be hidden aspects of a hybrid cloud strategy and a migration that is not meticulously planned. With a proof of concept, you can catch this type of problem and pivot to successfully implement the hybrid strategy that aligns with your business requirements.
Reflect Your Business’s Evolving Objectives
Once you settle on a hybrid cloud strategy that is aligned with your business, it’s important to evaluate the performance of that strategy every six months. This timeframe, while appearing to be quite frequent, will ensure that your strategy continues to deliver the financial, performance and operational benefits you’re looking for.
Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all performance metric. Every business will have a different set of objectives. Start by reviewing your original goals, then see if your strategy is delivering the performance you want. For example:
- If you adopted a hybrid cloud design for flexibility, did you gain the level of flexibility you wanted?
- If you sought to make your teams more efficient, are they nimbler, delivering new functionality, and resolving issues faster?
- Are employees getting what they want and need from your technology stack?
- Did you see the cost reductions you were looking for?
To answer these questions, periodically survey the folks who are using the hybrid cloud environment. If you are finding value in the strategy but other employees aren’t, it is worth investigating.
This type of regular self-evaluation is imperative because a well-architected solution is born of in-the-moment needs. It’s likely that, after two or three years, your company’s needs will evolve. Its current state may no longer be in line with the vision of a few years ago, which means your hybrid cloud strategy may need to evolve as well.