It’s Time to Talk About the Elephant in the Cloud: We Are in a Hybrid-cloud World for the Next 10 Years [and that’s not a bad thing]

Grant Wernick
Oct 24 · 4 min read
Image by debdenton from Pixabay

There is an illusion that the whole world has moved to the cloud. From memes to television commercials to industry forecasts — it seems like the cloud has blanketed the world.

Despite what the media wants you to think, and despite being well on its way to remaking our world, the cloud isn’t ubiquitous yet.

When I speak or present at an industry event or gathering, one of the first things I do is ask people to raise their hand if their company is in the cloud. Nearly everyone raises a hand. Then I ask who is 100 percent in the cloud. Usually, one or two hands remain.

Putting aside early-stage startups and next-gen tech companies, most companies of all types, especially the biggest enterprises, say they are in the cloud. But when pressed, it turns out that they are just tapping the surface of the cloud. Company leaders often admit this with a tinge of shame in their voice. The cloud is the elephant in the room: Everyone thinks everyone else has it figured out, but really no one has. So it’s a touchy topic.

But all the cool kids are doing it

Companies are mandating a switch to the cloud — as soon as possible! “If our mission-critical apps aren’t floating around in a cumulus by the end of the day, we’re done!”

This mentality rushes companies to make the jump in headfirst, launching disparate cloud services across the enterprise without much alignment to an overarching business strategy. The CIO is happy to allocate the budget to prove to the board that the company is taking the cloud seriously. But the DevOps team is left scratching their heads about how to turn these cloud dreams into reality. Resources get hastily deployed, IT inefficiencies cause delays, and unforeseen costs skyrocket.

Most people in charge of managing the move to the cloud spent their careers in an on-premise world. The cloud is such a radical departure from what they have known that many are learning as they go and trying to force on-premise principles that simply don’t work in a cloud world. This has been the cause of many migrations not producing the benefits expected from them.

If this sounds similar to a position you’re in, don’t fret; you are not alone. Take a deep breath and repeat this to yourself: We don’t have to, nor should, move everything to the cloud at once. We will be in a predominantly hybrid-cloud world for at least the next ten years. And that’s ok.

People are feeling crushed by the pressure to go all-in with the cloud. They should stop for a moment to ask why.

The hybrid-cloud is the path of least resistance

If you have lots of on-premise legacy infrastructure and processes — this applies especially for industries like manufacturing, banking, government, and healthcare — you shouldn’t be thinking in terms of total cloud migration at this point.

The forward-thinking cloud-aspirational companies are looking to use the cloud where it makes sense for the business right now. That means building their future-looking products and services in the cloud today, while maintaining their mission-critical legacy systems as they always have, for tomorrow. Many of these systems are too old to easily port over and eventually will need to be replaced. For now, they work.

The shift to the cloud is not slowing down by any means. Cloud vendors are on the rise; new products are removing pain points in cloud migration and integration, and SaaS is seeing strong growth. According to Gartner, more than $1.3 trillion in IT spending will be directly or indirectly affected by the shift to the cloud by 2022. This is all great news. But today, there is still a business to run. And that business isn’t going to be entirely in the cloud for at least another ten years.

That’s why companies are beginning to realize that a hybrid-cloud is a great place to start. RightScale’s 2019 State of the Cloud Report found that enterprises with a hybrid strategy grew to 58 percent in 2019 from 51 percent in 2018.

This trend will likely continue over the course of the next few years as companies that rushed to the cloud learn that the public cloud is not a right-size-fits-all approach. Because of the unexpected negative backlash about security, cost, and performance, many companies are pulling applications and workloads out of the cloud and methodically putting them back in.

Advances in cloud products and services will enable a simpler and more seamless transition to the cloud. The main driver, however, will be a cultural mind-shift. The generation who grew up in a cloud-enabled world and wrote their first programs in the cloud need to graduate from college and enter the workforce to see this transformation all the way through.

We are in a transition period right now. It’s like we’re warming up for an Olympic competition — only we’re being told that everyone else has already started the real race. If we take a moment to look around, we’ll realize that’s not the case. The crowd hasn’t even gathered. We’re all still warming up.

Getting to the cloud is important. But it’s more important to get there when it makes sense for your company. Don’t believe all the hype you hear.

Grant Wernick

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