More enterprises are moving past cloud 101 and looking for smarter, tighter integration of their on-premise systems with cloud-based options. Market analysts peg a 30 percent growth rate through 2019 for hybrid clouds, and when enterprise IT executives are asked whether hybrid is in their immediate future, three-fourths say “yes.”

First steps

Going hybrid often starts out under the radar—the finance department spins up a server to test out a new idea or marketing puts more of its assets on a consumer-oriented file-sharing service. Soon the enterprise is struggling to manage a traditional infrastructure and a surprisingly large number of “shadow” cloud initiatives. Here’s when IT starts looking for more holistic options.  

Why hybrid?

Legal and compliance issues are another key driver behind the demand for hybrid clouds. Industries such as financial services and health care have numerous regulations that govern the handling of sensitive data. In such instances, third parties often work with organizations, application-by-application, data set by data set, to establish cloud accountability.

“'Hybrid is all about letting you choose the type of organization that you are and focus in on what you do best.'“

While consumerization, shadow IT and compliance or security issues are major factors, the biggest driver behind going hybrid is to optimize IT performance. Unfortunately, this also tends to be where most hybrid cloud initiatives fall short.

According to Chris Patterson, senior director of cloud service provider NaviSite, “The traditional ‘four walls’ of the enterprise are dissolving and IT workloads are flowing in every direction. Hybrid cloud allows for offloading at a much more granular level, but unfortunately the service offerings of most cloud providers are too productized to make this work. Access to the cloud infrastructure itself is flexible, but the actual cloud services are cookie-cutter. Hybrid efforts suffer accordingly.”

Cloud control

Tailoring services to meet specific client needs includes traditional compute resources and applications, but also IT management functions. As one of NaviSite’s hybrid customers, Warren Perlman, CIO of the human capital management company Ceridian puts it: “Hybrid is all about letting you choose the type of organization that you are and focus in on what you do best.“

Hybrid is coming into its own as a larger, more permanent part of the cloud landscape. “Enterprises need to acknowledge this reality,” notes the research firm Forrester, “and start managing their hybrid state now.”

“The cloud has always offered the promise of adapting IT infrastructures to specific client needs,” agrees Patterson. “Hybrid takes that promise even further, and it’s incumbent on cloud service providers to keep up.”