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Hybrid by mistake? Now 
for hybrid by design

Many South African businesses are making the costly move back on-premises, writes MICHAEL LANGEVELD, head of technology and business development at HPE Emirates and Africa.

The first decade or so of cloud adoption was a scramble for most local businesses – so much so that by 2019 South Africa was one of the fastest growing countries globally for IT spend. By the time the pandemic hit a year later, those who had not yet implemented a cloud-first approach were quickly taking action to rectify this. In most cases, the motivation was to cut costs, improve productivity and drive growth.

But here’s the irony – while most local CIOs and CTOs believe cloud applications are essential to their company’s technological transformation, around 82 percent of organisations using public cloud are actually spending far more than necessary.

There’s no doubt cloud technology has accelerated innovation and agility, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for all the organisation’s workloads. In fact, the challenge with a cloud-first policy is that it places too much focus on where the data and workloads should be housed, when really the focus should be on what the business wants to achieve.

Entering an agreement with a cloud provider that will realise specific business objectives is also trickier than it seems. In fact, customers we’ve worked with have suggested that understanding the cloud licensing models of different service providers can prove so impossible it would practically require a degree on the subject. The result is that IT decision makers don’t always understand what exactly it is they are procuring and whether those costs are necessary.

And because not all systems and applications are suitable for the cloud, many enterprises have ended up with a mix of workloads across a variety of cloud platforms, both public and private, as well as workloads that stayed on-premises. In essence these organisations were hybrid long before the term was ever even coined. To put it simply, they landed up with a hybrid cloud model by mistake rather than by design.

Cloud repatriation is a growing trend

For those businesses that find themselves ‘unconsciously hybrid’, they now face the headache of running multiple IT environments where the potential costs are not only monetary but also come in the form of productivity loss and lack of flexibility. This is particularly the case for local organisations with large data centres and a number of different services and systems hosted on their physical infrastructure.

Challenges around data residency can also arise with some regulations requiring a higher level of security than cloud providers can offer. What’s more, organisations risk falling into the trap of hoarding data they can’t use. Because even though it’s easy to put data into the cloud, it’s expensive to take it out.

This has become such a problem that we now see numerous South African businesses shifting some workloads from the public cloud back on premises as they realise the benefits of the cloud may not be as clear cut as they once thought. Particularly where cost savings are concerned.

It’s a scenario that local organisations operating in a tough business climate can ill afford. With economic growth expected to continue to decline, around 85% of South African CEOs are focused on reducing operating costs this year to mitigate against challenges that range from electricity insecurity to a devaluing currency and rising unemployment rate.

These conditions in and of themselves can add to the complexity of a cloud-first approach. For example, in a business that is transitioning to the cloud where some departments are in the cloud and others not, a power outage can create widespread confusion with some parts of the business having no idea that others are offline.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

The benefits of becoming consciously hybrid

Organisations can choose to become consciously hybrid, recognising that not all applications and data should migrate to the public cloud and that the benefits of a cloud operating model can still be realised in a private data centre or colocation facility.

The benefits of shifting to a hybrid by design model are extensive – from cost optimisation to improved efficiency, agility and security. It opens the door to a hybrid edge-to-cloud architecture, where data is not confined to a data centre at all but generated and processed at the edge, and thereafter stored in the cloud. This is critical because it means businesses then have the architecture needed to leverage their data as a strategic asset.

With edge-to-cloud platforms like HPE GreenLake organisations are essentially back in control of their hybrid estate – enabling them to confidently identify the optimal fit and move workloads and data to the right hybrid cloud environments. This not only helps businesses optimise workloads but enables them to simplify operations and delivery while accelerating innovation, profitability, and growth.  

Through a highly consultative approach with their IT service provider, organisations will also find it easier to determine which workloads should remain on premises and which should shift to the public domain. HPE has seen clients achieve significant results by clearly mapping out their objectives and then consciously developing a hybrid strategy accordingly.

To succeed in the hybrid cloud era, a shift in mindset and culture is required. It may well be time to give up the thinking that a cloud-first approach is the quickest way to a more efficient and profitable operation. The reality is most organisations are already hybrid, whether by mistake or by design. But by opting for a more conscious approach to hybrid cloud, they can still realise the promise of the benefits that drew them to the cloud in the first place.

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