Hybrid Cloud: Cloud’s take-off to innovation - Saudi Gazette

Hybrid Cloud: Cloud’s take-off to innovation

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By Eng. Saif M. Mashat

IN a rapidly changing market where one third of the top 20 companies face disruption from digital competitors, businesses must constantly speed up innovation, deliver exceptional customer experience, and transform their business models. Eighty percent of businesses are leveraging cloud as a key ingredient to do just that.

However, the questions about data security, integrity and where the actual data is held continue to be a barrier to adoption for many businesses in the Middle East region. As organizations in the Middle East are under constant pressure to increase productivity while reducing costs, the migration of business platforms and applications to the cloud is clearly a matter of when, not if.

What was not so obvious over the last 1-2 years is just how big of a focus the cloud would become. While businesses had a choice between public cloud services — with a lower CAPEX but less direct control — and private cloud setups in which they had more secure and customizable services albeit with higher investment up front. CIOs in the Middle East also faced a dilemma when choosing a cloud environment that not only meets existing needs but one that will future-proof IT investments as their business needs continue to evolve. Forward-thinking businesses are already looking at how cloud adoption will enhance innovation rather than just cost benefit alone.

According to MarketsandMarkets, the hybrid cloud market in the MEA region is expected to experience huge growth in the coming five years due to improved application functionality and enhanced technologies. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates are expected to be the fastest-growing countries adopting hybrid cloud solutions and services. MEA is expected to grow from $2.13 billion in 2016 to $6.69 billion by 2021, at a CAGR of 25.8% from 2016 to 2021.

According to IBM, 85% of business leaders believe that hybrid cloud is accelerating digital transformation, with hybrid cloud growing faster than the public cloud. The hybrid model allows customers to integrate rather than migrate, extending current investments to extract value.

Reduced complexity and the freedom to innovate

Enterprises large and small are now exploring several different cloud models as they assess current and future needs. Learning from the early days of cloud, many have found that building a private cloud environment is a lot more difficult than just using one. The networking layer can be complex, businesses need to have a good amount of IT-knowhow to get the foundations right, and it can be time-consuming to maintain.

However, it is ultimately your cloud, and that comes with all the benefits that a public model lacks; namely greater resource availability and heightened security functions. This remains a popular model in sectors like banking where there are strict regulations on information integrity and CIOs prefer to have complete control of the infrastructure.

Nevertheless, public cloud services have been a popular choice for many organizations in the Middle East and bring their own value to the table. A public model liberates organizations from complex and costly IT systems, which require a high degree of cost, capability and management to run efficiently. Public cloud services also offer the benefit of on-demand scalability and computing power without the need for further infrastructure investments. You rent what you need and that is all. Organizations can also benefit from being able to instantaneously incorporate ready-to-use cloud-based capabilities such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT).

Now neither of these models is perfect for every scenario. Thankfully, they no longer have to be. Today’s hybrid model — which combines the delivery of public and private cloud services — is gaining popularity in the Middle East by offering the dual benefits of both models with an added layer of security and control. It’s a model that overcomes regulatory and compliance requirements that a public cloud does not provide, while still allowing organizations to keep their IT investments lean for mass-volume operations.

Seems simple enough, but the challenge in cloud’s early days was that it was near impossible for businesses to easily integrate both systems. If you built a private cloud environment for certain operations, integrating it with another company’s public cloud services — or even another offices private cloud — was next to impossible. That situation has changed however as both offerings have matured and new open platforms have come on line within the Middle East in particular.

Many regional heavy weights already believe the hybrid model provides the right balance for enterprises to meet increasing agility and interoperability while providing control, visibility and security. Etihad Airways for example recently signed up with IBM on a major technology services and cloud collaboration agreement that will it transform its global operations with cloud, analytics, mobile, security and cognitive technologies.

Moreover, a recent IBM study from 2016 revealed that two-thirds of organizations implementing hybrid cloud report they’re already gaining competitive advantage from their hybrid environments, and are nearly three times as likely to use it to assemble data assets or monetize data.

Five considerations in setting up a hybrid model

In making this leap and moving to the hybrid model — whether you’re already on the cloud or not — there are five considerations that every organization should bear in mind:

Choice with consistency – Choosing open technology allows you to develop and deploy solutions with flexibility while protecting your IT investment for the future. This ensures that solutions deployed on your cloud will work seamlessly with future technologies.

Hybrid Integration – Unlock the value of your cloud investment by extending enterprise apps and data to the cloud, allowing you to build and deploy applications on the cloud you have today and only change what needs to be changed to support future needs.

Industrialized hybrid cloud – By unlocking the potential of existing data to gain the most value, an industrialized hybrid cloud for businesses allows enterprises to gain visibility into potential problems while enabling access to hundreds of open-source technologies to power applications.

Developer productivity – Enterprises in the Middle East have to be able to react faster to marketplace opportunities to stay competitive. In the tech world, that means innovative applications need to be delivered quickly without comprising quality, security and compliance. A hybrid cloud should be able to provide a platform for doing that.

Accessible analytics with cognitive – Cloud-based analytics solutions with cognitive enables an enterprise to make smarter, faster decisions to address real-time business needs. Cognitive technology provides expertise and intelligence as it builds understanding and learning, like having a personal advisor to your business. Each element of the cloud should be a cognitive service, and if it is not, it is not delivering its full value.

Businesses in the region should continue to focus on improving collaboration between IT and key business units while integrating Big Data, mobile, social and IoT with existing infrastructure demands — making the choice for the hybrid cloud model a greater imperative.

— The author is the Cloud Executive Leader, IBM Saudi Arabia


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