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Meeting demand with a hybrid cloud approach

Image: Adobe Stock / sdecoret

In recent years, the ability to deploy almost anything to a hyperscale public cloud environment has perpetuated perceptions that this has become the go-to approach for IT professionals. 

While the unlimited scalability and on-demand compute resources offered by suppliers like AWS, Azure and Google undoubtedly hold a strong appeal for enterprises large and small, recent research findings highlight how public cloud is not always all it’s hyped up to be for every business model or need. 

Indeed, the experiences and concerns reported by UK-based IT professionals in relation to their dealings with public cloud providers over the last two years raises some serious questions about the role of public cloud in the longer term. Plus, in light of Ofcom’s recent announcement that it will be investigating the dominance of Amazon, Microsoft and Google in the UK cloud services market, clouds appear to be gathering on the horizon for the hyperscalers.

With everything to play for, getting a grip on what’s driving today’s IT movers and shakers when it comes to IT infrastructure decisions will prove crucial for data centre operators and co-location providers looking to ride an upcoming wave of opportunity.

A question of trust – what UK IT professionals really think of hyperscalers

While today’s businesses are increasingly reliant on cloud platforms and services, many IT leaders confirm that public cloud platforms aren’t proving to be the universal panacea they were anticipating.

So much so that a recent Leaseweb study exploring the experiences of 500 UK-based professionals with public cloud providers found that over half (55%) now trust public cloud services less than they did two years ago.

A number of key operational issues have contributed to this erosion of trust. In particular, leaders at UK firms report having encountered challenges when it comes to effectively controlling costs, with 49% stating it’s been difficult to understand their organisation’s true public cloud usage costs. Similarly, 57% report finding it hard to migrate workloads out of a public cloud environment, with infrastructure managers (78%) in particular finding this a challenging proposition – an issue that is making it difficult to transition to other cloud services or protect the business from the costly consequences of vendor lock-in.

Meanwhile, a fifth (21%) of organisations forced to migrate to the cloud in the last two years say they encountered unexpected costs while doing so. As a consequence, 54% believe they lack the agile infrastructure that will be needed to cope with whatever the future throws at them.

Finally, almost half (49%) of the organisations surveyed struggled to get hold of a cloud provider’s customer services team, with smaller organisations in particular facing an uphill battle on this front. Clearly, only customers with the biggest budgets get to benefit from help from hyperscalers when they need it.

Fact or fiction: is ‘cloud only’ the new normal? 

While cloud now represents a key component of many IT infrastructure strategies, the study’s findings reveal how ‘cloud only’ or ‘cloud first’ isn’t necessarily the dominant approach among all companies right now. Instead, organisations appear to be taking a more nuanced approach when it comes to evaluating and implementing cloud technologies.

Pre-pandemic, a cloud-first approach proved the top ranked option of choice for 36% of UK organisations, followed by 26% of organisations voicing a preference for using private cloud while 19% were committed to a cloud-only approach. 

But fast forward to 2022 and the appetite for ‘cloud first’ has fallen back to 31%, while cloud only is proving the top choice for 25% of organisations – typically those with less than 500 personnel. 

Highlighting a largely static investment in cloud infrastructure since 2019, these figures underscore how organisations are increasingly intent on choosing the right infrastructure for specific applications and use cases. A decision motivated in part by concerns about connectivity or latency restrictions, as well as data sovereignty or sensitivity issues.

In addition to organisations becoming increasingly savvy about whether hyperscalers are the right option for every operational scenario, it’s also clear on-premises legacy infrastructure remains an important component of the IT strategy for many UK organisations.

One size doesn’t fit all – the case for hybrid

Despite the widespread industry narrative that on-premises is giving way to cloud, right now it continues to play an important role for the majority of UK businesses that are looking to springboard a hybrid cloud approach that enables them to take advantage of the best of both worlds.

When asked what they thought would be the optimum IT infrastructure for their organisation, the top choices as ranked by IT professionals was private cloud only (23%) and a mixture of on-premises and public cloud (20%), followed by public cloud only (17%) and a mixture of on-premises and private cloud (14%). Just a small number (8%) felt that a combination of all three options – public cloud, private cloud and on-premises – represented the optimum mix. Clearly, there is no ‘one size fits all’ template for organisations that are investing in infrastructure today or into the near future.

As enterprises become increasingly adept at determining how best to achieve their business goals, 2023 is set to be the year in which customers plump for a hybrid cloud strategy that enables them to customise infrastructure, services and applications in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Whether that’s tapping into public cloud for peak loads and low-traffic applications and building key services featuring increased security and governance in an on-premises data centre. Or connecting multiple clouds for increased agility and improved price/performance outcomes.

Examining the opportunities – key takeaways for service providers

Despite the seemingly all-pervasive growth of big cloud providers like AWS, Azure and Google, the changing attitudes of IT decision makers with regard to hyperscalers highlights a growing opportunity for providers that can offer the know-how, networking capabilities and ultra-personalised support today’s organisations are looking for.

To make the most of this opening, suppliers will need to work cooperatively and in tandem. Because while hyperscalers still have a lot to offer, their services will form part of a wider solution that’s specifically tailored to the needs of each and every customer.

As UK organisations look for trusted partners that can deliver access to data centres in top locations alongside expertise in procuring or assembling the cloud resources they need, suppliers will need to consider how best to meet – and keep – this ballooning demand.

Clearly, maintaining transparency and clarity on pricing models will be key to ensure that decision-makers, already burnt by their experiences with hyperscalers on this front, aren’t tempted to jump ship once again. Similarly, rather than trying to sweep up all of a potential customer’s estate or workloads, providers will need to provide honest and unbiased guidance on the best route forward for each and every client.

Finally, to deliver the optimised performance and usage costs that IT decision makers need, service providers will need to implement highly consolidated and converged infrastructure solutions to underpin the delivery of highly efficient cloud platforms. As the energy and climate change crises continue to bite, shifting to 100% renewables will surely be the way forward.

With Gartner predicting that by 2025, 85% of infrastructure strategies will integrate on-premises, colocation, cloud and edge delivery options, compared to just 20% in 2020, service providers that work within a co-operative ecosystem will be best placed to secure their place in an increasingly hybrid future.

Picture of Terry Storrar
Terry Storrar
Managing Director at Leaseweb UK

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