EC18 Day 1: Thinking About Hybrid Clouds

I kicked off Day 1 of Enterprise Connect 2018 on Monday with a focus on the cloud -- first with my Cloud Communications 2021 session and then in a sponsored lunch where Tim Gaines, SVP of North American Sales for Unify, and I discussed hybrid cloud.

In the Unify session, Tim and I provided a good dose of reality on where companies really are with cloud adoption and what challenges they face in making the jump. Most of us who are part of the No Jitter and Enterprise Connect family eat, live, and breathe the cloud every day, and just assume the transition is happening. But then I asked for a show of hands as to whose companies were still running a traditional PBX or IP PBX and whose had adopted either a public or private cloud. Much to my surprise, all but three people indicated their companies were still running legacy systems. What was encouraging, though, is that all these people showed up for the session and in interacting with attendees I found many had a strong interest in moving to the cloud.

Hybrid as Norm

The term "cloud" is a bit nebulous in that it can mean different things to different people. Most consider cloud to mean public cloud, but much research shows that more workloads run in private clouds than in a public cloud. In reality, there doesn't need to be a "winner" in the public versus private debate, as each model has its own strengths and weaknesses. Most organizations are going to take a hybrid approach, and this will be the norm into the foreseeable future.

There are many reasons why an organization would want to keep its infrastructure, workloads, or data in a private cloud. The first and most debatable point is security. But are private clouds more or less secure than public clouds? I believe almost all of the UCaaS, SaaS, and IaaS providers have some of the most secure environments around, so it's hard for me to imagine that most enterprises have better security than they do. What isn't debatable, though, is that keeping things on premises offers better control over the security, and I think that's the main sticking point. Many companies, particularly large enterprises, want to put their security fate in their own hands instead of trusting a third party.

Another factor is analytics, and where data should be stored. If the company needs to perform real-time analytics on data, moving it to the public cloud, performing the analytics, and migrating it back might add too much delay. For example, with video analytics, files can be so large that the only way to process them in near real time is to keep the data local. This also brings up the cost of bandwidth. Network transport isn't free, and moving large data sets can drive up bandwidth needs and costs. One of the audience members admitted he had moved to a public cloud service, but so much data was being generated that the cost of bandwidth went through the roof -- so his company wound up bringing it back and deploying a private cloud.

One last point that both Gaines and I brought up was investment protection. Organizations typically like to sweat their telephony assets for anywhere from seven to 15 years. If the system is only two to three years old, it's unrealistic to expect the organization to ditch the on-premises solution in favor of cloud, as very few businesses will toss away assets well before they're due to be retired.

The above reasons all make sense to stick with a private cloud, but they aren't a panacea to all communications woes either. Public clouds can be deployed quickly and require little to no up-front capital commitment – againt meaning hybrid clouds will likely be the norm.

Paths to Hybrid Cloud

The path to a hybrid cloud will vary from organization to organization. During the session, I provided some of the more common ways to think about hybrid cloud architectures. These are as follows:

  • Leave everything on premises and burst to the public cloud
  • Keep voice and video infrastructure on premises, and purchase all new UC features, such as team collaboration, as a cloud service
  • Use a private cloud in large offices with local IT resources, and use public clouds for branch offices, telecommuters, and mobile workers
  • Migrate older systems to the public cloud as those will be retired soon, and leave the newer solutions on premises
  • Keep the data on premises and perform analytics in a public cloud. This could be valuable when data sovereignty is an issue
  • Put the data in a public cloud and perform the analytics on premises. This model would make sense when the data sets are so large that the business can't add enough storage capacity

These are some of the more common approaches to hybrid that I've seen, but these aren't the only options. The important point is that each business must look at its needs and choose the deployment model that's best for them.

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