Navigating the New IT Landscape: From Cloud-First to Hybrid-First

David Walker

Cloud technology dates back to the 1960s but only became entrenched in the IT landscape in the late 1990s. This shift was propelled mainly by the highly effective marketing strategies of pioneering companies like Salesforce and (later) by the launch of Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2006.

For the last decade (and some), the resounding answer to any IT challenge—whether it be storage, scalability, or accessibility to third-party applications—has been “cloud, cloud, cloud.”

Redefining “Cloud-First” for Today’s Technology Reality

However, today’s technology reality is a little different. There is a growing tide of healthy skepticism among many CIOs, who question whether the cloud is always the answer. CIOs are reconsidering areas they’ve previously overlooked. They are also rethinking the consequences of their past cloud and on-premises choices, increasingly mindful of not burdening the business with expensive, technically painful (and often irreversible) decisions in the future.

While it’s rare for an enterprise to depart from the public cloud completely, many are withdrawing certain elements and re-evaluating their reliance on cloud services. This movement is known as cloud or workload repatriation and involves migrating workloads or applications away from public cloud infrastructure to on-premises solutions or alternative cloud providers.

The trend appears to be a small step back from the dominance of the major cloud service providers (CSPs), rather than an indictment of the cloud itself. It also seems to be a response to the ongoing debate and challenges around CSP lock-in and cloud concentration risk, which has prompted many enterprises to consider a multi-cloud approach.

A recent survey by analyst group 451 Research revealed that a striking 54% of enterprises had shifted workloads or data away from the public cloud in the past year, with 36% moving both data and applications. Although only 4% had entirely abandoned the public cloud, nearly a third (27%) had relocated between a quarter and half of all their cloud-based deployments (26%-50%).

Statistics Around Migrating Workloads and Data from Cloud
Source: Cloud repatriation: the who, the where, the why

A number of concerns fueled this change, including persistent worries about security and data sovereignty, as well as concerns about overspending on public cloud services.

One US organization publicly shared that by relocating selected workloads from their chosen CSP, they had slashed their cloud expenditure by 60%. Their bill went from $180,000 per month to under $80,000, with an anticipated $10 million savings over the next decade.

Nevertheless, just as it is often unwise to advocate for an all-encompassing “cloud’ strategy”, it is equally short-sighted to reject the cloud entirely. Determining the optimal destination for workloads should be a nuanced, case-by-case decision. Many workloads are still better suited for deployment on cloud infrastructure. This is especially true for startups or applications characterized by modest volumes and unpredictable growth.

When operations scale up or there’s a predictable growth trajectory, deployment choices require more consideration. After conducting a structured price comparison, it may become apparent that specific workloads remain consistent and well-suited for on-premise management.

Crafting the right stack for optimal hybrid workload deployments is important for business success. Perhaps now is the time for a paradigm shift. Instead of fixating on “on-prem first” or “cloud first”, a “hybrid-first” approach is the better way forward.

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New CSP / On-Premises Relationships Are On the Horizon

This newfound flexibility can be beneficial; however, poor initial decisions might hinder the smooth bidirectional migration of workloads between on-premises environments and the cloud. The ability to seamlessly repatriate data or workloads from an expensive cloud is crucial, as is the option to transfer data center-hosted applications to a Cloud Service Provider when that becomes a more suitable choice.

Selecting an inadequate database can significantly hinder business growth by restricting scalability. Opting for a database that tethers your organization to a single deployment option poses similar risks. Relying on a proprietary cloud database for cloud applications almost makes it impossible to switch to alternative environments, such as private clouds.

Adopting a ‘hybrid-first’ strategy addresses several challenges for organizations capable of managing a data center. Yet, it’s vital to ensure that replication of necessary functionalities is feasible, regardless of the chosen environment.

A solution now exists that bridges both on-premises and cloud environments. Scalable, open-source, distributed PostgreSQL databases like YugabyteDB can effortlessly adapt to meet the diverse data needs of businesses.

It’s a timely reminder that companies should avoid committing to proprietary systems when possible, as it’s likely to be expensive and time-consuming to migrate away from this when business needs evolve. Ultimately, keeping all your IT options open, including your database strategy, makes more business sense.

David Walker

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