Executives of all stripes are bullish on hybrid cloud, a new study shows. Hybrid — which combines public cloud services with those of on-site systems — is seen as the best path forward between too much dependence on outside providers with unknown security risks, and on-site data centers with their associated costs and maintenance requirements.  Within three years, executives expect to see most if their applications and services running within hybrid clouds.

The costs and headaches associated with running one’s own data centers are well documented, but going too far in the other direction into public cloud carries potential headaches as well. ComputerWorld’s Charles King even suggests that purely public clouds are the new “legacy” systems,  over which enterprises may not have a great deal of control.

However, finding that happy hybrid middle ground between public and private is going to take some figuring out. Even IT executives aren’t quite sure where that is yet.

That’s the key takeaway from a survey of 1,000 executives recently released by Avanade. The study of 1,000 business and IT leaders suggests there is much confusion about what exactly hybrid cloud means and what is required to prepare an organization for hybrid cloud implementation. The report cites the US National Institute of Standards and Technology’s definition of hybrid cloud (see page 7) as a guidepost: Hybrid cloud is “composed of two or more distinct cloud infrastructures (public, private or community) that remain unique entities, but are bound together by technology enabling data and application portability.”

Companies are investing in hybrid cloud solutions at a faster rate than private or public cloud. Seventy-two of C-level respondents say they’d be likely to adopt a hybrid cloud solution within the next three years. In fact, 69 percent of companies agree that implementing a hybrid cloud strategy will be one of their biggest areas of focus in 2015. However, with the new year upon us, most are not there yet — 58 percent of companies currently do not have a hybrid cloud strategy in place. Even those companies with a hybrid cloud strategy don’t have defined steps for implementing cloud-native applications (73 percent), application migration (64 percent) or even a cloud management platform (63 percent).

Few executives actually fully understand hybrid cloud’s potential — only 16 percent of respondents are able to identify the full range of benefits afforded by hybrid solutions. For example, 65 percent didn’t know that hybrid cloud provides the ability to burst (scale up and down) as needed. Another 61 percent didn’t know that hybrid cloud can include multiple public clouds, enabling the placement of workloads on the lowest-priced cloud solution. Another 54 percent didn’t know that hybrid cloud includes distinct public and private clouds.

Still, most are anticipating high-level business benefits – 77 percent of C-level leaders believe hybrid cloud will give them a competitive advantage and 76 percent believe it will allow them to focus on core growth opportunities. Maybe that’s all they need to understand — but it is they who are pushing for hybrid computing. IT executives, on the other hand, are far more cautious. Business executives are 32 percent more likely than IT leaders to advocate immediately moving critical applications including data and analytics, e-commerce applications and customer-facing services to hybrid cloud environments.

One thing is clear: there is a need for more education on the benefits and limits of hybrid cloud computing, and for that matter, cloud computing in general — before a lot of money gets spent. As with many technology-based solutions over the years, there’s a tendency to assume dropping the latest technology onto an organization will deliver profitability, agility and insightful decision making overnight. Technology is only a tool, and, at most, a reflection of management’s aspirations. First, you need enlightened, forward-looking management that’s open to innovation. Then you bring in the technology to help make things happen.

Source: Forbes