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Over the past several years, public cloud has seen increased adoption across a multitude of industries. The demand for simpler storage, combined with an unprecedented explosion of data, has created the perception of an unstoppable drive toward the public cloud. A “cloud-first” strategy is the popular buzzword for executive leadership. But it’s important to understand what that really means.

The narrative that cloud and traditional storage are at direct odds, while compelling, is oversimplified. Within today’s landscape, there are more options than just public cloud and traditional on-prem. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has exploded, while private cloud has also seen significant increases in relevancy – and both run on hardware, somewhere. A strategy that deploys some combination of these options is referred to as hybrid cloud – which is poised to be a massive trend in 2017.

In my conversations with more than 70 CIOs, VPs of Infrastructure and tech leaders over the past several months, the general consensus is two-fold:

  • Organizations that aren’t using public cloud in some capacity are likely missing out.
  • Public cloud is part of a strategy – but it’s not *the* strategy.

Strategic infrastructure is key to optimizing for the new reality of digital business – and that means building a hybrid cloud.

Today, major brands like Nike and Domino’s Pizza – which were previously never considered technology companies – are generating more data than high tech firms did a decade ago. Car companies like Mercedes and Tesla outfit cars with sometimes hundreds of sensors, which constantly pour critical performance data back into organizational databases. 90 percent of all data ever generated was generated in the last five years. Analysts forecast that by 2025, we will generate 180 zettabytes – or 180 trillion gigabytes – of data annually.*

To gain advantage from that data, maintain a modern pace of innovation and improve operational efficiency, organizations must be highly analytical and strategic about which workloads and applications live where.

Analytics and business intelligence are two of the top focus areas for CIOs in 2017. To effectively utilize both, modern IT professionals must understand the strengths and limitations of different infrastructure options to create the optimal hybrid environment for their organizational needs.

Public cloud has revolutionized the standard for easy IT. It’s simpler to manage, and removes the time and energy burden of technology upgrades from the customer. It’s a utility model, which is attractive to organizations for which CapEx is limited, and provides the flexibility needed to scale up and down quickly depending on fluctuating demand. An insurance company, for example, needs more infrastructure up and running when more of its customers are on the road – to scale up and down over the course of days or hours requires an agile solution.

The other side of the same coin is scale over time. As an organization’s data requirements grow, so does the public cloud bill – exponentially. Today, there is an entire industry being created around public cloud cost management. Many CIOs report directly to the CFO, and when we speak to them, cost certainty is a recurring theme. A volatile and unpredictable operating expense can be untenable when building a digital organization. Last month, Snapchat’s S-1 filing disclosed its $2 billion public cloud commitment as a potential risk, specifically citing its exposure to price increases. It has an impact.

For all its agility and ease, the public cloud often comes with a performance and reliability downgrade when compared to the best on-prem solutions. Availability and reliability are core tenets of any cloud strategy. Today, CIOs need to be much more deliberate and thoughtful about the impact of outages on end-users and customers. In the public cloud, disruptive outages do happen. In fact, it just happened to AWS last week. For mission-critical business operations, like high-performance analytics or anything at scale, a hybrid environment is better suited.

Last and top of mind for a great many CIOs I’ve spoken with is compliance. In highly-regulated industries such as healthcare and government, data sovereignty and direct control over response to outages are a non-negotiable requirement for many workloads. CIOs need to consider compliance strategy in a world where data sovereignty and regulations are fast changing. In light of global events like Brexit, CIOs need to ensure that their cloud strategies align with ever-fluid international regulations and requirements.

Ultimately, smart, successful companies use resources toward solving customer problems. Organizations need IT to work for them, so that their best and brightest technical minds are working to advance the next wave of innovation rather than managing infrastructure.

Over the coming months, we’ll delve deeper into optimal cloud strategies for a modern infrastructure – as well as provide insight and guidance on how to best deploy a hybrid environment for the best business results.

Are you a CIO with an interesting hybrid story or challenge? We’d love to hear from you.

 

*Source: “The Internet of Things: Getting Ready to Embrace Its Impact on the Digital Economy” (IDC #DR2016_GS4_VT)

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