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How the hybrid cloud has made the digital transformation possible

Sep 28, 20174 mins
Cloud ComputingHybrid CloudSoftware Development

Group of workers collaborating around a table with mobile devices
Credit: Thinkstock

Competition in the 21st Century economy is fierce. Consumers are more tech-savvy than ever, as we all carry around more computing power in our pockets than Neil Armstrong took to the moon—and potential customers pay attention to differentiated experiences. Increasingly for all businesses, investing in agile software development is a way to achieve that differentiation.

In other words, in the 21st Century, every business is a software business.

All that software that’s enabling this transformation toward digital experiences has to run somewhere, and it turns out a hybrid cloud strategy gives businesses maximum choice when it comes to what runs where.

Agile software development: Getting more at-bats

Why are businesses turning to agile software development to get the attention of potential customers? Fundamentally, because it’s soft. Meaning, it can be changed quickly and inexpensively compared to the lead time necessary for some physical devices.

A big reason behind how Netflix disrupted the cable TV industry, for example, is that they do multiple software releases a day, and each one is a potential innovation that can positively influence the number of subscribers their service has. Older, traditional IT approaches of performing quarterly releases cannot offer that, and the idea that software should fail quickly so lessons can be learned has won out.

Software that’s deployed at that speed, however, requires flexible infrastructure that can change as the code evolves. This is what has led the march to cloud computing both on the public and private side. In the early 1990s, it would take months to get a new physical machine to host a deployment, but today it takes minutes to get a new virtual machine (VM) or seconds to get a new container. Faster access to computing power like this spirals with the speed that new software is created, giving a business more chances—more at-bats—at finding the next innovation.

Some public, some private

When you look closer at where exactly you might place an individual application, there’s more nuance involved. Some applications are obvious choices for hosting on public clouds, like those that already have publicly viewable data on them (think public-facing marketing websites) or those that will have wide swings in demand that can take advantage of the public cloud pay-as-you-go model.

Other applications, though, are going to be better fits for a private cloud, including those that have sensitive data that requires physical firewall protection or that have steady demand. Private cloud platforms can spin up VMs or containers just as quickly as their public counterparts, supporting agile software development teams and their continuous integration/continuous delivery needs, just with a fixed underlying capital hardware cost attached.

For any company of substantial size, the application portfolio will be diverse enough that some applications will run best on a public cloud while others are better suited for a private cloud. By taking a hybrid cloud approach—more than likely utilizing a Cloud Management Platform that makes it easy to manage applications in multiple locations from a single management plane—companies can maximize their deployment flexibility for individual applications within the portfolio.

Even the public workloads change over time

Some applications will be best targeted to one type of cloud early in its development life cycle, only to have that shift to another host later. It’s not unusual for a new consumer application to have wildly varying demand when it’s first released, but over time to have its usage settle. Early in its life, applications such as this are great fits for public cloud so that its elasticity can meet demand. But later in its life once, the demand has settled, it can be better from a cost perspective to have the same application on a public cloud.

Aside from the ability of some central governing authority to be able to manage a portfolio of applications with different needs and therefore different public or private cloud targeting, some applications will have those targets change over time. This portability of workloads makes a digital strategy more cost-effective over time and yet another reason why hybrid cloud is so important as this revolution continues.

In order to survive, businesses in all verticals are going through a digital transformation so they can create innovative solutions that grab and keep the attention of their customers. A hybrid cloud strategy makes that all possible so that software developers can iterate as quickly as possible in search of the next big idea, but operations can control costs and data flexibly. Application portability as it proceeds in its natural life cycle is important as well in this new economy that rewards those who can move quickly.


Pete Johnson is a Technical Solutions Architect at Cisco, covering cloud and serverless technologies. Prior to joining Cisco as part of the CliQr acquisition, Pete worked at Hewlett-Packard for 20 years where he served as the Chief Architect and as an inaugural member of the HP Cloud team.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Pete Johnson and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications, Inc., its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.