Overcoming Obstacles to Embracing Hybrid Environments for Digital Transformation

This year has proven to be much more challenging than anyone could have predicted. The current pan­demic has forced enterprises to completely change their business strategies—either going 100% digital or failing to do so at the risk of not surviving.

It will take time for many organizations to resume “busi­ness as usual”—making it more important than ever for them to think fast, but strategically, about their digital transformation efforts and which tools and solutions will best help them succeed.

One of the primary considerations enterprises face is whether to house data in the cloud, on-prem­ise, or in a hybrid environment. A recent survey of more than 300 IT professionals conducted by Actian found that 87% of IT decision makers agreed that when it comes to data analytics, they want a hybrid solution with both cloud and on-premise deploy­ments. As IT leaders implement this type of solution, they will face obstacles upfront but will also reap the benefits of a solid long-term solution.

Transitioning to Hybrid

Transitioning to hybrid environments has its obsta­cles, but it’s worth it for long-term business outcomes. Anecdotally, the global economic recession has stalled or slowed cloud migration projects, which are typically expensive and are not without risk. Now, organizations are being faced with the reality that the lifespan of their on-premise analytics platforms has been extended, and they will need a more permanent solution that can span their on-premise and public cloud data assets—while still meeting the needs of the business from a cost, performance, and functional perspective.

Cost, performance, and increased complexity are the three main issues IT decision makers must consider when it comes to transitioning to a hybrid environment.

Key Considerations

Data warehouse migration can be costly. The study found that 84% of IT decision makers would be more inclined to deploy additional data warehouse solutions if it took less time and money. Especially now, with the havoc the pandemic has wrought on world economies and the business landscape—including high unem­ployment rates and layoffs—cost savings is a top priority for businesses.

However, while the transition may be costly upfront, hybrid data warehouse solutions, which can be deployed both on-premise and in public clouds, offer businesses cost savings on the back end. Hybrid solutions give users the flexibility to decide where a dataset or workload should reside based on cost, performance, or security requirements. In addition, a single set of skills and appli­cations can be used with both cloud and on-premise warehouses. Hybrid scenarios leverage cloud elasticity to grow and shrink the resource pool to meet business demands, without having to build an infrastructure for peak demand, and they also help organizations avoid lock-in should they decide to go all in on either cloud or on-premise.

Data warehouse migration is not always fast and easy. According to the study, 80% of respon­dents viewed prolonged deployment as one of the greatest pain points they associate with data analyt­ics. With any data migration project, the goal is to have as minimal an impact on day-to-day business operations as possible. However, one misstep during a migration, and data can become inconsistent or corrupted. Key data assets may be overlooked, caus­ing lag times in the migration and challenges to cur­rent business operations.

This is where a migration plan is particularly import­ant, ensuring the migration is correctly scoped to account for all data and application assets that need to be moved. From there, businesses can use this plan to better understand system usage patterns and application and database object interdependencies. This way, an organi­zation can ensure that their migration project will run smoothly, reducing the risk of lag times and disruption to the daily flow of work.

Amalgamated applications wreak havoc. More than 50% of respondents said that data complexity issues are a top barrier to accessing data and gaining effective real-time insights. This is often a result of application and database object interdependencies or the failure to migrate a certain script to the new system which can cause applications to not function against the new database.

While a time-consuming and often tedious challenge, map­ping the database schema and application interdependencies is essential to a successful migration. A hybrid framework enables a smooth testing and migration process, better allowing disparate data and applications to coexist no matter where they are housed.

Whenever an organization embarks on a transformation journey, there will be challenges. It’s important to have a solid plan in place to get to the other side of a migration, as hybrid environments have a number of benefits, which will be increas­ingly valuable in a post-COVID world.

Reaping the Benefits of a Hybrid Environment

As data and the insights it provides become increasingly critical, transitioning to a system that allows for more seam­less, real-time access to the entire data ecosystem can make all the difference. From real-time insights to data compliance to informed decision making, there are several key benefits when transitioning to hybrid environments, including the following:

Hybrid environments allow companies to act on real-time insights. According to the data, only 50% of the organizations surveyed have the resources to effectively access and use the data available to them. Unfortunately, if an organization is not well-equipped to leverage its data, it is at a severe disadvantage and can risk falling behind competitors. By implementing a hybrid envi­ronment, organizations can more easily access and analyze their data from an array of sources, providing data-driven advantages over their competitors. For example, 30 years ago stock-purchas­ing decisions were made based on the closing price published in the daily newspaper. Today, a real-time analysis of market activity is provided from a wide variety of data sources, within 20 milli­seconds—real-time insights on real-time data.

Hybrid architectures help organizations meet data compli­ance demands. IT teams are frequently adjusting their data strate­gies to ensure that they’re aligned with regulatory and compliance requirements. This proves difficult when the true benefit of data is only unleashed when an organization’s business decision mak­ers have access to all the relevant data assets. For instance, hybrid architectures enable financial services and healthcare organizations, which are subject to strict regulatory compliance demands, to locate the data wherever their chief security officer dictates, without that data’s location impacting the business strategy.

Hybrid environments allow companies to unify and effec­tively utilize the data that is most useful to real-time insights, decision making, and trendspotting. Regardless of where the data natively lives, it is imperative that organizations be able to access it when and how they need it. As the COVID crisis put enormous pressure on various parts of the supply chain, retailers and manufacturers needed to be able to adapt and react in real-time to a variety of data sources to keep their businesses running.

Hybrid environments support analytics ambitions. While a hybrid architecture may be the goal, the architectural strategy is not the end all, be all. Motivated by the desire to bring analytics capabil­ities to any place data lives within an organization, IT decision mak­ers should look to a pure-cloud or hybrid architecture. A hybrid data warehouse that provides a federated query capability can enable data queries across these deployment architectures seamlessly.

Hybrid data environments offer flexibility and control to organizations with different needs. Since flexibility in data ana­lytics solutions is at the top of IT decision makers’ wish lists, with 80% reporting they need more flexibility, hybrid offers a cost- effective model, allowing organizations to decide which work­loads reside where. Workloads that have extreme peaks, e.g., sales information for retailers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, are well-suited to a cloud deployment since compute resources can be scaled up for the busy period and then scaled back down when the demand drops. During these uncertain times, having the abil­ity to adjust compute usage and the overall cost is imperative.

While there is an initial investment—whether it be money, time, or effort—the benefits of a hybrid approach greatly out­weigh the cost in the long term, and perhaps even the short term.

Flexibility for Trying Times

During these trying times, organizations must make the most of the data available to them. By adopting a hybrid cloud approach, organizations have the flexibility they need to “play their data where it lies” all while leveraging the elasticity, scale, economics, and connectedness of the cloud.


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