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Hybrid Musings: Q1 2018

The maturation and acceleration of public cloud services continues to have a profound impact on the Enterprise IT landscape. While many organizations continue to run the majority of their IT platforms on-premise, it's clear that more and more companies are putting together a Hybrid IT platform relying on both public cloud and on-premise resources.

As we head into 2018, we'd like to share our perspective on the technologies having an impact on the Hybrid IT landscape.

Public Cloud SaaS

From an Enterprise perspective, the public cloud SaaS market can be categorized in two camps, end-user collaboration platforms (Office 365, Google Apps, etc.) and back-office platforms (Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, WorkDay, etc.).

Most organizations have either already switched to a cloud collaboration platform, or have established a strategy to get there. Office 365 in particular has not only matured, but is now offering features that surpass configurations that can be built on-premise at a reasonable cost. We anticipate that 2018 will see leading practices for deploying Office 365 continuing to evolve as companies try and sort out how to leverage new platform features.

Although many organizations were quick to start leveraging Salesforce, there has been a more cautious approach by established companies to move the entire back-office to SaaS platforms. We expect momentum to continue to build this year and beyond.

In 2018, we have reached a point where it is a no-brainer for any new company to have only public cloud SaaS platforms supporting user-collaboration and back-office functions.

Public Cloud IaaS and PaaS

The on-premise versus public cloud IaaS/PaaS has two parallel narratives, one for traditional applications and one for cloud native applications.

For traditional applications that are geared to run directly on servers (typically virtualized), lifting and shifting those to public cloud platforms may not be ideal for every scenario. There are numerous use cases where the public cloud works extremely well for traditional applications. Such use cases include development/temporary environments, disaster recovery environments, and situations where smaller IT shops can't afford the cost of paying for infrastructure investments. Many large organizations still find that for their production environments, the cost of moving and operating existing applications in the public cloud is not a strategic investment.

Cloud native applications are not dependent on traditional infrastructure. There are numerous emerging cloud technologies that continue to mature at a rapid pace.

Container technologies enable applications to be run without having to be natively installed on operating systems. Although companies can build and run their own container infrastructures, container services from AWS, Azure and Google allow companies to build and deploy container applications while eliminating the need to spend resources designing and maintaining virtual operating systems.

"Serverless" technologies in public cloud platforms, like Amazon's Lambda service and Azure Functions, are enabling applications to exist as code which gets triggered by events instead of running as a continuous service.

In addition to these cloud-based code execution platforms, native cloud database platforms enable companies to break free from deploying, configuring, tuning and maintaining numerous database instances.

Add to these, the ability to use cloud platforms to train machine learning systems, provide speech recognition services and process input from an army of IOT devices and it's clear that the next wave of application innovation is happening in the public cloud.

Many of these cloud native technologies are still in their early stages, but the maturation process is happening at a brisk pace. There is enough maturity in the space for organizations to start seriously investing in building cloud native applications.

Although usage of public cloud for traditional applications should continue to grow for the use cases mentioned, we anticipate that organizations will prioritize developing cloud native applications over shifting traditional, mature production workloads off of optimized and cost-effective on-premises deployments and into public cloud IaaS services. For those organizations, this will result in the need to continue optimizing and evolving infrastructure solutions in the on-premise data center to run applications until they can be successfully replaced with cloud native applications. In short, mid to large organizations will require data center infrastructure platforms and skills for some time, but it won't last forever on a broad scale.

Private Cloud

There is still some debate over the role that private cloud will play in the industry. Microsoft has made Azure stack available to run on-premise for customers that want to manage Azure workloads and on-premises workloads in a similar fashion. Similarly, VMware has teamed up with AWS to allow customers to extend their vSphere environments to run on bare-metal hardware in AWS. While both solutions will no doubt have early adopters and success stories, it's not clear how many organizations will be willing to invest to create and maintain private cloud eco-systems, if the end-game is to transition to applications running on cloud-native technologies. We believe many organizations will continue to invest in the upkeep of their on-premise virtual infrastructure as long as there are traditional applications to support. That being said, we expect that building out sophisticated private clouds may become more of a niche play for organizations with the pockets deep enough to support them.

Enterprise Networks

Two major trends are impacting the trajectory of Enterprise networks; the evolution of the network perimeter and the rationalization of software defined networking space.

The traditional network perimeter has all but disappeared. With critical mass adoption of public cloud SaaS services, the primary destination for Enterprise traffic is moving from the traditional data center to Internet-based cloud services. This can result in significant performance challenges for organizations that force all internet egress traffic to traverse centralized internet circuits and perimeter security appliances. Many companies are redesigning their Enterprise network strategy to support more distributed internet access from corporate locations, alternate means of satisfying proxy requirements for key SaaS platforms and enabling more native access to SaaS application for remote users. These changes to network strategy don't come easy. Great care must be taken to ensure that any redesign doesn't weaken the security posture of the organization. Many companies have found that they can replace or even improve upon existing security capabilities by taking advantage of emerging features in certain cloud platform offerings.

Although VMware's NSX and Cisco ACI have been deployed in some larger organizations, the continued adoption of public cloud services has somewhat limited the pervasiveness of these technologies. Most organizations are however, reaping the benefits of software defined networking as they deploy workloads with cloud providers. The ability to leverage security groups and tie them to deployed workloads, provides micro-segmentation capabilities as a feature, versus having to build out complex infrastructure on premises. In addition to data center and cloud, software defined networking is becoming an attractive solution for the WAN. SD-WAN solutions allow organizations to utilize centrally managed SD-WAN endpoints to gain better control over their WAN traffic without having to deal with complex engineering solutions using edge routers. This paves the way for organizations to reduce their investment in costly private WAN and MPLS solutions in lieu of more cost-effective Internet circuits. Cisco's recent purchase of Viptela was perceived by many as a validation of SD-WAN, and further consolidation and mergers in the SD-WAN space are likely to continue into 2018.

Looking Forward

At Hybrid Pathways we are excited about the prospects that all of these technologies present for our customers and we look forward to helping them securely take advantage of the benefits they provide. We hope to continue sharing our perspectives on the Enterprise IT infrastructure landscape on a quarterly basis moving forward.

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