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Microsoft Survey Finds Hybrid Cloud Confusion Rampant

A surprising percentage of organizations running hybrid cloud environments are unaware of it, according to a recent Microsoft survey.

In its 2017 "State of the Hybrid Cloud" report released this month, Microsoft found that 63 percent of large and midsized enterprises have already implemented a hybrid cloud. The remaining 37 percent claimed that they haven't yet implemented their first hybrid cloud, but intend to within the next 12 months.

However, 48 percent of that second group have already deployed one, apparently unknowingly, according to Microsoft's findings.

Microsoft came to that conclusion based on the infrastructure specified by the 1,175 IT pros who took the survey December and January. "Odds are you've got a hybrid cloud strategy and have already started implementing this approach," said Julia White, corporate vice president of the Microsoft cloud platform, in a blog post prefacing the report. "We know this because nine in ten of IT workers report that hybrid cloud will be the approach for their organizations five years from now."

Overall, those who responded to Microsoft's survey had similar definitions of hybrid cloud, defining as some type of infrastructure that integrates an on-premises environment and a public cloud. However, Microsoft was surprised by the disparity between that definition and reality.

"It seems that while the conceptual definition of hybrid cloud is not challenging for people, identifying hybrid cloud in practice is more difficult," the report stated.

What are the deployments that customers didn't consider to be hybrid cloud? A spokeswoman for Microsoft referred to the report's appendix, where it spelled out the use-case definitions. They're broken down into four categories:

  • Hybrid Applications: Any application that shares common APIs and end-user experiences with an on-premises implementation and IaaS or PaaS services. Typically, an organization can extend an application by combining on-premises data with on-demand public cloud resources when workload requirements spike.

  • Data: It's become increasingly common to use some form of public cloud to backup and/or archive data. Likewise, many mobile and Web-based front end analytics tools may run in a public cloud, even if it's querying on-premises data.

  • User: Organizations running Office 365 or using cloud-based file sharing services such as OneDrive, Box or Dropbox are examples of those which likely have a hybrid cloud. Cloud-based directories federated with on-premises user account information, most notably Active Directory, have become popular forms of providing single sign-on (SSO) to enterprise resources, including SaaS-based applications and tools. Many organizations are using either Azure Active Directory or one of several third-party Identity Management as a Service (IDMaaS) offerings.

  • Infrastructure: The ability to extend the compute capacity of an on-premises datacenter by connecting to an app to a public cloud-based IaaS or PaaS via a dedicated gateway, network or VPN makes up a basic hybrid cloud. It's what enables the above-mentioned hybrid cloud applications. But anyone who said they were using a monitoring tool that offers visibility and/or control over both systems on-premises and in a public cloud also has a hybrid cloud, according to Microsoft. Likewise, many organizations that require near-real-time recovery of on-premises data are using new Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) offerings, which are hybrid cloud-based. These DRaaS offerings are public cloud-based services capable of providing nearly synchronous replication between the two. An organization that has deployed advanced security analytics tools that provide unified views and protection against threats against any on-premises endpoint or a cloud-based resource also has a hybrid cloud infrastructure.

The report underscores Microsoft's emphasis on hybrid clouds, which is evident in almost everything it -- and most other companies -- are developing these days. From that standpoint, the report provides a baseline for Microsoft's view of hybrid clouds with some notable data points.  

For example, it shows that the most popular use cases for hybrid clouds were (in order) productivity/collaboration, high-performance networking, SSO, DRaaS, cloud front ends to on-premises data, archiving, analytics, unified monitoring, dev test in cloud and production on-premises, advanced security, and global applications.

Not surprisingly, there were notable variations depending on the industry and country the respondents were from. All respondents were from the United States, United Kingdom, India and Germany. Those in regulated industries such as banking and health care were among the top hybrid cloud adopters, and retailers ranked high, as well. Adoption in Germany was notably low due to data sovereignty laws, while India showed high adoption, likely because of latency issues there and the need to keep data accessible.

Deployments also varied based on the age of a company. More older companies with on-premises infrastructure have hybrid clouds than younger ones. More than half (52 percent) of companies that have been in business for less than 10 years have hybrid clouds, while 91 percent of companies that are 25 to 49 years old have one. Curiously, the percentage drops slightly to 84 percent among companies that are 50 years old.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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