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This article appeared here October 26, 2021

By Lyndon Hedderly, director, customer solutions, Confluent

The digital first paradigm we now live in has created clear expectations from consumers on what businesses need to provide in terms of services and experiences. To deliver these modern services, hybrid cloud has become a standard way of working for the majority of businesses, with clear benefits, including increased efficiency and flexibility. And then we saw how the pandemic truly shifted everything into high gear, accelerating the shift to cloud even more, as companies overnight had to adopt a completely new way of working to ensure business continuity. Just think back to headlines of huge banks and retailers getting thousands of workers set up online from home in a matter of weeks!

However, as we head into 2022, CIO’s will be looking beyond just how to support remote working. Instead they will be more focused on developing longer-term strategies around how to utilise their hybrid cloud strategies. To achieve that, there are still a number of key challenges to overcome when it comes to getting hybrid cloud right. Front and centre is facilitating the data exchange between on-premises infrastructure and the cloud.

Drilling into the data exchange challenge

Every hybrid cloud architecture is different, but the ultimate goal is fundamentally the same: to retain the value embedded in on-premises IT equipment, while leveraging the scale and agility of the cloud and fully-managed services. And this is critical for businesses and industries that heavily rely on intricate legacy systems. New applications might be built in the cloud, but they still mostly need to connect to historical data sitting in data centres.

Major issues arise when data isn’t shared efficiently between different systems. Furthermore, friction between different systems can lead to serious errors. Take the manufacturing industry, which is currently dealing with a lot of industry challenges that have come from both Brexit and the pandemic. The impact on this sector is severe, with delays across supply chains causing a loss in revenue and customer loyalty. So it is critical organisations are able to aggregate and access data from all their systems to reduce those delays and minimise the business impact. But there could be one simple problem – one customer address is held on file in the cloud, and a different one is held on-premise.

Embracing new ways in harness data

Historically the approach to resolving this challenge was to introduce a direct linkage between systems that need to communicate. While this may sound like the answer, it is typically only manageable for a limited number of links and chaotic when scaled up to every office and home.

Ultimately, solving the data exchange problem requires a new approach and one that can successfully evolve and optimise hybrid cloud models over time. The reality is businesses need to act fast. Whilst few consumers realise it, behind the scenes they are not interacting with a single application or platform, but instead a complex fleet of applications, or microservices. Consumers and businesses alike should simply see and enjoy a seamless experience across these backend systems. So it is a make-or-break situation and this means having to innovate and automate.

Putting data in motion

That innovation lies in handling data in a new way – one that supports collecting a continuous flow of data from across the business, between apps, databases, SaaS layers and cloud providers. Similar to the human body’s nervous system, there needs to be a data platform and instant link between all of a company’s footprint; One that ties together different parts of the business, uniting all the applications into a coherent network that can react and respond intelligently in real-time.

For hybrid cloud specifically, this sidesteps the capacity issues involved in keeping on-premises and cloud infrastructure running in unison, minimising the bandwidth and complexity needed for data transfer.

Whilst this new way of handling data might seem impossible to do, it isn’t. By partnering with the right experts and technologists, businesses can implement a platform and layer that lets data move fluidly whether it resides in the cloud or on-premise.

Taking hybrid cloud to the next level

Gartner recently stated that worldwide end-user spending on public cloud services is forecast to grow 23.1% in 2021 to total $332.3 billion. Combine that with hybrid cloud providing a solution for delivering advanced services, and it’s clear that this is something that businesses need to focus on. However, they need to clearly understand how they can best optimise their hybrid capabilities to truly impact growth and revenue. Doing that also means overcoming the key challenges and complexities of hybrid cloud, particularly when it comes to connecting data from disparate systems. And that requires a new mindset and the need to overhaul how we think about how data is shared.


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