Hybrid cloud in 2023: 5 predictions from IT leaders

As more organizations turn to the hybrid cloud to prepare for future business demands, the hybrid cloud ecosystem is evolving. Watch for these five trends in the coming months
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Hybrid cloud is a technical and architectural strategy, to be sure. But the term also reflects a philosophical shift and the modern reality for CIOs: Delivering strategic business value requires much more agility and flexibility in your technology stack than ever.

That principle will be on full display in 2023 as more and more organizations and their IT leaders lean into that reality – and recognize how and why a hybrid cloud strategy enables that agility and flexibility. One-environment-fits-all approaches to running workloads typically don’t.

For some, that means realizing that not everything needs to move to a cloud. For others, it’s an increasing awareness that you can run critical enterprise apps in the cloud. Regardless, hybrid cloud gives IT leaders the choice.

“Embracing a decentralized modern enterprise IT ecosystem means accepting that mission-critical workloads don’t just run inside of the data center,” says Kevin Tunks, chief architect and national technical advisor at Red Hat. “Modern customer and employee experience demands from the business are rapidly forcing IT leaders to adapt to a hybrid environment approach.”

[ Related read: Hybrid cloud: 3 ways to maximize value. ]

As those organizations evolve, so does the hybrid cloud ecosystem itself. Here are five trends and predictions to keep top of mind in 2023.

1. Edge computing and hybrid cloud: The perfect couple

Edge computing and hybrid cloud architectures play well together. As enterprise edge strategies mature, that relationship will get serious, with edge driving hybrid cloud adoption because the latter enables the former.

“Edge computing has evolved to become an important rationale for a hybrid cloud strategy, and this will only intensify in 2023,” says Gordon Haff, technology evangelist, Red Hat.

“Whether for lower latency, reduced bandwidth requirements, or to improve resiliency in the event of network outages, an architecture that captures data, processes it, and archives it where doing so is most appropriate delivers the greatest business value,” Haff says. “Hybrid cloud architectures apply across a wide range of industries from telcos to retail to energy to automotive.”

2. Hybrid clouds go vertical

As Haff notes, hybrid cloud is widely applicable across various industries. Expect those different sectors to gain a ton of momentum in 2023 in terms of identifying the tangible value of the hybrid cloud architecture – and the hybrid-edge pairing – for their specific industries.

That might be most apparent in the telecommunications space, where Ian Hood, chief strategist for global industries, Red Hat, expects to see accelerating deployment of hybrid edge application clouds – both to pursue their own business goals and to better support their enterprise customers’ cloud and edge strategies.

In general, more industries will begin to see the value of hybrid cloud for solving their particular business challenges.

“In the telecom industry, service providers have begun to embrace cloud-native deployment of their 5G core networking applications and digital services,” Hood says. “Cloud RAN will see a stronger emphasis in 2023, along with a desire to refine multi-cloud partnerships and edge strategies.”

Hood says this trend is fundamentally about operators accelerating their 5G network deployments while simultaneously delivering innovative edge services to their enterprise customers, especially in key verticals like retail, manufacturing, and energy. He also expects growing use of AL/ML at the edge to help optimize telco networks and hybrid edge clouds.

“Many operators have been consuming services from multiple hyperscalers while building out their on-premise deployment to support their different lines of business,” Hood says. “The ability to securely distribute applications with access to data acceleration and AI/ML GPU resources while meeting data sovereignty regulations is opening up a new era in building application clouds independent of the underlying network infrastructure.”

In general, more industries will begin to see the value of hybrid cloud for solving their particular business challenges, such as tight margins and high operational overhead in the retail sector.

“Given a background of low margins, limited budgets, and the complexity of IT systems required to keep their businesses operating, many retailers now understandably rely on a hybrid cloud approach to help reduce costs whilst delivering value to their customers,” says Ian Boyle, Red Hat chief architect for retail.

3. CIOs take the long view on hybrid strategies

While enterprise hybrid cloud strategies can begin by accident – whether by M&A activity, cloud services sprawl, or other reasons – they eventually become intentional or risk failing.

Ben Slater, CPO at Instaclustr, expects 2023 to be a pivotal year for IT leaders to embrace their hybrid realities and make more significant investments in its long-term success.

"For many CIOs in 2023, it'll be really important that hybrid cloud is recognized as an architectural state in which their organization will likely exist for the foreseeable future, and that it should be optimized in its own right."

“I expect hybrid cloud will be a reality for many CIOs and their organizations for many years to come, even if they are trying to move more towards fully cloud-native architecture,” Slater says. “For many CIOs in 2023, it’ll be really important that hybrid cloud is recognized as an architectural state in which their organization will likely exist for the foreseeable future, and that it should be optimized in its own right.”

Indeed, even organizations that envision running most of their workloads in a cloud environment at some point in the future may take a very long time to complete that journey. Done right, hybrid cloud isn’t a liminal phase but a business and technology strategy.

CIOs can’t just view this as a transition state between ‘as-is’ and ‘to-be,’ Slater says. “The hybrid cloud state requires CIO planning and investment all its own, whether that is data synchronization and governance, resilience and disaster recovery, or cost management and optimization. That’ll likely be even more of a focus for tech leaders in 2023.”

4. Hybrid helps rationalize and optimize cloud investments

That increased intentionality and focus is becoming more likely to occur as IT leaders and their organizations more deeply evaluate their cloud migrations to date – and realize that not every workload may be best served there.

“There is growing skepticism about the projected benefits of migrating to the cloud being actually realized,” notes E.G. Nadhan, global chief architect leader, Red Hat.

IT leaders and their organizations are becoming pickier – and rightly so – about what runs in a cloud and what stays on-premises in order (among other reasons) to pursue more granular goals and results. That’s applicable across many businesses and sectors, but perhaps especially in organizations that previously rushed to migrate applications based on a general (but undefined) “get to the cloud” mandate.

Hybrid cloud is the foundation for being more selective and strategic.

“CIOs are better served to take pause and observe how cloud migrations have been executed to date and make adjustments to proceed with appropriate measures in place,” Nadhan advises. “It is not just about moving workloads to the cloud – it is about realizing tangible business and financial outcomes through migration.”

5. Standardization simplifies cloud complexity

If there was a key roadblock to hybrid cloud in the past, it was complexity. The distributed, heterogeneous nature of a hybrid cloud environment (like with edge environments, too) creates new challenges for IT teams.

Operational standardization and consistency is key, and it’s becoming more and more attainable via orchestration and other forms of automation. 2023 will continue to enable IT teams to simplify their operational overhead in hybrid cloud settings.

"CIOs and their teams are finding hybrid cloud setups are becoming simpler, and that’ll continue to be an important part of 2023 strategy,” says Ajay Tripathy, CTO of Kubecost. “This is in part due to the increased adoption of standardized orchestration layers, like Kubernetes, running across multiple cloud providers and on-prem environments.”

That simplification will be key, Tripathy says, to enable teams to achieve some of the loftier potential benefits of hybrid cloud and multi-cloud settings, including workload portability. “I do think that this increased ease-of-use – plus a focus on cost optimization in uncertain economic times – may lead to dynamic workload arbitrage, where teams decide where to run their workload based on price."

[ Build application environments for reliability, productivity, and change. Download the eBook, Cloud-native meets hybrid cloud: A strategy guide. ]

Kevin Casey writes about technology and business for a variety of publications. He won an Azbee Award, given by the American Society of Business Publication Editors, for his InformationWeek.com story, "Are You Too Old For IT?" He's a former community choice honoree in the Small Business Influencer Awards.