VP IT Delivery and Member of the Board of Management, T-Systems Ltd.
In the past several years, Enterprise Cloud Adoption has increased steadily - coming of age Cloud Services have enabled businesses to make Enterprise Workloads agile and cost effective. Private Cloud, usually providing leveraged Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) or simpler Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) services is now a business-as-usual consideration rather than just for the brave and bold, replacing traditional hosting and outsourcing contracts with richer service based contracts based on consumption and scale.
With that success comes the feeling that Public and thus true Hybrid cloud adoption is no longer something just for the future, but something to be embraced quickly to try and take competitive benefit from the advantage it brings. The technology rolls forward at pace, providing capability to deal with the once impervious roadblocks to such a strategy, but with it comes the challenge of a complex service integration to make a seamless, reliable and always-on service for the business. In 2017, it is these Integration offerings that will really enable Enterprises to adopt Hybrid Cloud robustly.
All the ingredients are in place for Hybrid adoption to truly become the mainstream approach, with Enterprises prepared to set expectations that their workloads can and should move to the best-fit Cloud and that a cohesive service across that multi-Cloud is the aim - best in class services, best in class economy, highest agility, highest security, fully integrated either internally by the IT Department itself, or more likely, by using an established Service Provider open and willing to integrate its own and now its peers and competitors Cloud offerings to make an offering that meets that demand.
We’re already seeing this start to happen, but much greater adoption is set for 2017. Businesses are looking to enhance operational agility and reliability, while ensuring that data and applications are available at any time, from anywhere - and as ever, with a continual focus on cost and efficiency of the IT Workload - and are seeing a concrete strategy built around hybrid cloud as a strong way of delivering on that.
In the last few years, I've helped a number of multi-nationals take first steps away from private traditional hosting arrangements, into primarily Private Cloud solutions - they've taken benefits in terms of cost (usually through the benefits of multi-tenancy and leveraged services, whilst still having a strong degree of isolation comfort for security), but where they discovered the true benefit as businesses was in terms of agility. The ability to move, scale, respond and deploy in days and weeks rather than months doesn't sound all that impressive compared to the hours or minutes of Public Cloud, but compared the traditional 3-6 months of your typical Classical IT Approach - it makes a huge difference to the IT departments reputation and of course to the businesses success. Being able to double the computing power underneath your ERP System for business critical activity for instance, with only a few days of notice and only paying for what you use, whilst you use it, has been touted for years as a true benefit of cloud computing - but when first truly realised as business value starts to make Cloud a very attractive prospect for wider adoption as that agility becomes the norm and an expectation from the business.
And in that safe bubble of Private Cloud, Enterprises have been able to operate a some-kind-of-hybrid model before that was a stated strategy - often with core assets replaced by a Private Cloud platform of type provided by a third party service provider with the scale to make it efficient, a classical hosting contract to the side, and a connection back into the office or legacy datacentre to access legacy services and on-site hosted solutions (and I've yet to work with a customer who hasn't had a nasty Shadow IT surprise, finding something in the business running on public unbeknown to everyone save the guilty instigator).
Some lessons have had to be learned along the way, as even without a significant public presence, this hybrid setup brought complexity and unanticipated problems for service providers and customers alike. These lessons have been learnt though and have helped the service providers such as us at T-Systems, plan for the future of greater complexity through wider hybrid cloud adoption.
The success these customers have had has clearly pushed their appetite up - the obvious next step advantages of utilising Public Cloud solutions, of taking the benefit of even greater agility, even greater cost optimisations and a truly multi-cloud environment are too great to ignore, and the concerns about security, availability and reliability whilst not diminished are being increasingly answered by technology, the service providers capabilities and the businesses themselves. The tipping point is not so far away when the argument that the Cloud is the more secure approach to the traditional datacentre won't be so openly dismissed.
Not so long ago, the thought of planning to extend your own private enterprise network to a hybrid multi-cloud may have seemed almost futile - the roadblocks of connectivity, security, compliance amongst others frightening off the most intrepid IT Strategist. But offerings such as Cloud Exchange (Equinix) from large co-location and hosting providers, and integrated offerings from the larger Service Providers from within their own datacentre environments, simplify the network topology needed - once a customer is in these environments, connectivity to all the large hyper-scale providers and mutli-vendor SaaS platforms is on-tap.
Service providers like T-Systems, have spent recent years preparing for this wide scale adoption of hybrid cloud architectures as an inevitable next step from Private Cloud - both as a way to offer customers the services they demand, but also to transform the way they operate (and of course survive!) - the "all in my datacentre box" IT Service Provider may well become a thing of the past, and those suppliers need to look to become either Hyper-scale providers to rival AWS, Azure etc. (good luck with that), niche workload experts (SaaS offerings such as ERP in the Cloud, ITSM, CRM), or Cloud Service Integrators - which is where the customer can really take the best value.
Such as we have at T-Systems, providers are spending significant R+D developing tool-sets and methodologies to enable them to support and manage customer enterprise workloads in the hybrid multi-cloud future, open and read to run those workloads not only on their own infrastructure but on others as well.
With next-step advances already here and with us such as Internet of Things (IoT), the Hybrid Multi-Cloud strategy is a forerunner to prepare for that next revolution to hit your business - IoT is a great concept that many think they understands but struggle to see the application to their own business - but it will come, almost inevitably to any complex enterprise - the opportunity it provides will be too great to ignore.
This vast influx of inputs from the Internet of Things, increasingly complex business systems and growing amounts of existing data sets mean the data deluge businesses are having to deal with and process will only continue to grow - For me then, it's clear that the (virtual) datacentre of today, and definitely of tomorrow, will increasingly hold more and more data – both historical and mission-critical and will need all the tools of low cost, flexible, agile computing and applications across a multiple of public cloud space (best tool for best job), dedicated and secure private systems (cloud or otherwise) as appropriate, retained on-premise capability where unavoidable and legacy systems that will not go away any time soon.
2017 will be the year when this complex hybridicity (not sure that's a word, but it sounds nice) will become far more the mainstream and drive wider and wider adoption of Public Cloud into the Enterprise. Finding a Service Provider who can truly integrate those services into your Enterprise can be an excellent start to understanding the benefits it could bring.