The Beginner’s Guide to Blended Cloud
New research from IDG shows that 90% of companies will have some part of their applications or infrastructure in the cloud by the end of this year, with the rest expected to follow by 2021. The question is no longer if companies are moving to the cloud but how they’re strategically leveraging it.
So, how can organizations invest in cloud in a way that makes sense for them? The answer: blended cloud, a custom mixture of cloud delivered services that fits an organization’s exact needs regardless of business model, budget or IT environment. A blended approach has been proven to help mitigate today’s top challenges of using cloud computing, pressing the “reset” button on what cloud can (and should) be.
Before we get into this concept of blended cloud, let’s start with a quick overview of today’s different delivery models including public, private and hybrid.
Multi-Tenant, Multi-Instance, or Hosted Cloud: What’s the difference?
The variances between these cloud delivery models are like those of different living situations. On one hand, for example, you can choose to rent an apartment. As one of many in a building, you can leverage scale to lower costs, increase flexibility, and you aren’t responsible for such things as repairing the roof or mowing the lawn. Yet if the landlord says he’s replacing the carpeting with hardwood flooring, you have no say in the change being made or when the work takes place. Work happens when it happens, and you simply must adapt.
If you aren’t comfortable ceding so much control to a landlord, you may choose to live in a condo or townhouse. Living in a condo typically costs less than owning your own home while providing some of the benefits of living in an apartment. Like an apartment, you live in a physical building with one or more neighbors which provides some of the same benefits as apartment living – outsourced exterior maintenance and repairs. Unlike an apartment, you own your living space which gives you control over modifications and scheduling of internal repairs.
On the other hand, you can choose to buy your own home. In this way, you control when contractors work and what changes are made (no hardwood flooring? no problem). You have complete control and security because you’re the only person in the facility. Like apartment and condo living, these advantages come at a cost: it’s more expensive to own your own home and it’s typically slower and more expensive to move in and make changes.
Choosing the right cloud for your organization is akin to choosing what type of home is right for you. They key to remember is what works for one does not for another, or in other words one size does not fit all.
Multi-tenant solutions, often referred to as Public Cloud, for any application is like living in an apartment. Your organization is one of many operating on the same platform. You gain the benefits of lower costs paired with not having to deal with IT repairs or maintenance, but you have no control over such things as software releases or maintenance control. This can pose unique challenges that we’ll get into later.
Multi-instance is the condo version of cloud. A private, multi-instance cloud solution solution is a private application built on shared hardware (example: an email server hosted in Amazon Web Services). Multi-instance cloud gives your organization some cloud without many of the compromises required for public, multi-tenant cloud. Your organization gains flexible per user, per month pricing while outsourcing the maintenance and repair work that comes from service patches, security updates, and platform upgrades. Unlike multi-tenant cloud solutions you have control over your application, meaning you can schedule updates and upgrades around your business needs.
Hosted Cloud solutions are like putting your communications infrastructure in it’s own home. You’re the only customer housed in the platform, can totally customize the application stack, and execute full control over maintenance scheduling. Like public & multi-tenant cloud, these advantages do come at a cost: the process is typically slower, more expensive and more comprehensive. Private or software based solutions can fall into this model.
It’s important to note that there are no right or wrong answers here. If you want per user, per month pricing but aren’t ready to “live in an apartment building,” you don’t have to; you can maintain complete control and security while gaining the benefits of consumption-based pricing with a private cloud solution. If you need to deploy services quickly and the idea of managing the overhead required with “owning your own home” is unbearable, a public cloud solution makes perfect sense. The cloud doesn’t have to be an all or nothing move. In fact a custom, multi-cloud environment that leverages both public and private clouds can be created by you, for you regardless of where you’re at along the path to cloud adoption. This is where blended cloud shines.
Why Blended Cloud
The general perception today is that companies must have all their eggs in one basket (a.k.a. all users on the same cloud model regardless of application or platform). Nothing could be farther from the truth. Every application inherently requires a different cloud model (not all were meant to be on the same cloud, if at all). In today’s smart, digital world, there are a bounty of deployment choices to flexibly implement different apps and solutions across the enterprise. Blended cloud enhances this approach, allowing organizations to seamlessly blend their user base depending on specific needs, circumstances and goals.
Consider this: Many operational departments and workloads operate around the clock, require almost infinite flexibility, and often demand enhanced security while other parts of the business, branch offices for example, prioritize cost containment and agility. A one size fits all approach can deliver for one group but can be overkill, or even fail to deliver for the other group. A blended approach delivers results on a stakeholder by stakeholder basis; facilities and departments that typically operate during standard business hours can leverage public cloud services while their mission critical counterparts can leverage private cloud to ensure maximum uptime, call quality, and platform control.
A blended cloud approach can be particularly useful for migrating real-time applications like communications and collaboration. Consider unified communications (UC). As a critical enabler of digital transformation, it’s imperative that organizations make the move to a modernized, cloud-based UC system (research from IDG shows that cloud UC is growing seven times faster than on-premises offerings). Yet doing so is much different than the process of migrating non-real-time workloads.
Consider non-real-time applications like CRM or email. If a maintenance window appears, with proper notice IT can instruct users to simply hop out to ensure minimal disruption. With real-time communications, however, losing control over maintenance scheduling and control often becomes untenable. Companies must consider such things as virtual office workers, customer facing communications and persistent communications solutions. As communications and collaboration becomes more embedded into workflows, it seemingly becomes increasingly difficult for businesses—especially large enterprises—to move real-time applications to the cloud without severe tradeoffs.
A blended cloud approach enables businesses to innovate through augmentation. Nascent services can be rapidly deployed without major investment. This allows businesses to evaluate utilization after offering new services to its users and consumers. Many of these adjunct services will not require mission critical levels of control and support, especially during evaluation, and a blended solution offers businesses agility, cost efficiencies, and full command and control where necessary.
Cloud was never meant to be a one-size-fits-all solution. That’s why leaders should look at blended cloud to use different delivery models where it makes the most sense across their organization depending on specific priorities and needs.
The Bottom Line
A cloud model is designed for the kind of rapid innovation businesses need, but that doesn’t mean all volume must be contained in one place. Look tactically at your cloud approach, choosing the ideal solution on a case-by-case basis. It may feel productive to migrate everything all at once, but you’ll soon discover inefficiencies and expenses compared to other options that deliver better agility and return.
Above all, find a vendor that unites the most flexible cloud platform and options available for any size of business. Moving your real time communications to the cloud is a journey, not a jump. While many times the chosen destination may be the same as others, there are multiple routes to get there, and none are wrong. When evaluating cloud providers look for a vendor who acts as a GPS for that journey, one who can show you the various routes, or in other words help you choose from different cloud models as to create a streamlined, all-accessible service offering. This is what will provide that coveted blended environment, enabling you to choose where your solution lives, how you want to consume it, and how much or little you want to manage and control. In the end, those with an effective cloud strategy will thrive. Your strategy, however, is only as good as the vendor you partner with. Carefully examine the marketplace, finding a solution provider that offers a range of options. Then, you can make blended cloud a practical reality.