February 7, 2019

2019 Predictions: Hybrid-Cloud, not Multi-Cloud, is the Future

Travis Good, MD

Co-founder & Chief Technology Officer

We now live in the post-cloud world, meaning the heavy lifting to lay down the physical infrastructure that is the global cloud utility is complete, or at least past the critical mass. Now, it’s an arms race by hyperscale providers, predominantly Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, to launch abstracted, proprietary, managed cloud services to meet the specific needs and use cases of developers and enterprises deploying net new applications and migrating existing, on-premise applications to the cloud.

2019 will be the year cloud customers start to abandon the notion of multi-cloud and anchor on a hybrid-cloud future involving a mix of on-premise services, often enabled or augmented by services from their preferred cloud provider, and managed cloud services.

Over the last five years, we have witnessed the incredible growth of managed services from hyperscale providers. Amazon alone offers more than one thousand different managed services. Software-delivered managed services abstract cloud customers from the underlying hardware, operating systems, and often networking. The ease of use and scale of these managed services comes at a cost as managed services create lock-in with cloud providers — lock-in that makes migrating from hyperscale provider to hyperscale provider practically not an option. More and more cloud deployments and enterprise cloud accounts contain multiple managed services with multiple, sometimes hundreds or thousands, instances of each service. Replicating this across hyperscale providers, and learning an entirely new set of proprietary managed services, is not practical or even justifiable to achieve the goal of avoiding lock-in.

As the cloud moves from a tool for developers to a key part of an organization’s strategy, larger and larger enterprises are starting their journey to the cloud. These large enterprises often anchor on one hyperscale provider. With this stage’s move to the cloud, the need for services to unify the experience, configuration, and governance of cloud plus on-premise is becoming a must. Microsoft released Azure Stack last year to address this need while Amazon released AWS Outposts this year for the same reason. In order to be the de-facto cloud provider for enterprises, tools to provide a consistent hybrid experience are essential.

When it comes to multi-cloud, cloud-native technologies are often part of the discussion. Many of the cloud-native technologies have multi-cloud support and flexibility as a selling point for their adoption. But, increasingly, cloud customers are choosing hyperscale provider managed services of these cloud-native technologies over the complexity of running the cloud-native technologies themselves. Kubernetes is an informative example of this as the popularity of managed Kubernetes offerings from Amazon, Microsoft, and Google take off. What we will see in 2019 is more on-premise offerings for these cloud native technologies, similar to GKE On-Prem, that enable a unified hybrid cloud experience with cloud-native technologies.

As the hyperscale providers launch new services to optimize the hybrid-cloud experience, hyperscale partners will start to launch similar services. Many hyperscale partners have positioned themselves as multi-cloud but I think 2019 is when those same vendors, and a crop of new vendors, will start to offer solutions and services for hybrid-cloud customers. 2019 and 2020 will be years marked by the hybrid-cloud opportunity and solutions.

What does this mean for cloud customers, especially large enterprises with established on-premise infrastructure that will represent the largest areas of cloud growth over the next 5-10 years? As our understanding of how to use the cloud has evolved and we have started to understand the realities of multi-cloud and hybrid-cloud, the future is starting to align with what large enterprises need in order to adopt the cloud en masse. Wading through the countless number of managed service offerings from hyperscale providers and their partners, enterprises have to anchor on one provider and they are going to need that hyperscale provider, and its partners, to unify the hybrid-cloud experience.

Editors note: This article was first published as an original contribution to VMblog.com.

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