Posted Wednesday, March 09, 2016 by STUART PARKERSON, Publisher Emeritus
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Malcolm Ross, Vice President of Product at Appian recently spoke with us about the trend of deploying business applications in a hybrid cloud environment and the benefits of doing so. He has been directly involved in the implementation and development of enterprise software solutions for over 20 years, and has seen a lot of change in the industry over time.
ADM: What is the hybrid cloud? How are companies employing it?
Ross: The hybrid cloud is a cloud computing environment that works with a range of on-premises infrastructure and even other public cloud services. It enables the use of cloud-based applications and business logic, while keeping sensitive or regulated data behind an on-premise firewall. There’s orchestration among the platforms to make sure that workloads can be moved appropriately across the hybrid components.
ADM: Why are companies moving workloads and applications to the hybrid cloud?
Ross: Organizations of all types increasingly want the advantages of operational flexibility and lower-cost that cloud deployment brings. Cloud applications allow a company to focus on its business – not its IT infrastructure. However, geographic and industry regulations may prevent certain data from being hosted in the cloud. Hybrid cloud overcomes this challenge, striking a balance between efficiencies and compliance.
ADM: Which industries are leading the trend? Why?
Ross: It should come as no surprise that the industries leading the trend towards hybrid cloud environments are the one most closely associated with data sensitivity: financial services, insurance, healthcare and life sciences. These industries regularly deal with personally-identifiable information (PII) about customers, their finances, their medical histories, etc. Therefore, they are heavily regulated, and those regulations may make private cloud more attractive than public cloud.
There is also a geographic trend towards hybrid cloud in Europe, where national regulations often require data to remain in the country. Cloud hosting providers like AWS and others cannot always guarantee that.
ADM: How often is data within business applications compromised in the cloud? How does the hybrid cloud model provide protection?
Ross: Data breaches are very high profile when they occur. They cause problems and embarrassment for organizations. Hybrid cloud is thought of as a safeguard, but the reality is that public cloud systems can be as secure as even the most security-minded on-premise installations. The driver for hybrid cloud is less about security, and much more about meeting regulatory requirements.
ADM: Overall, how many Appian customers are leveraging the hybrid cloud?
Ross: Appian Cloud is by far the most mature, secure and certified cloud BPM platform. Our list of operational and data security accreditations includes FedRAMP, PCI compliance, SOC 2, FISMA Moderate, and many more. For this reason, the majority of our cloud customers use us in a public cloud configuration.
This is true even for our large practices in financial services, insurance, pharmaceuticals and other regulated industries. However, some of our customers in those industries do opt for private cloud. That is more true abroad than it is in the US.
ADM: Are companies seeing any cost benefits?
Ross: Hybrid cloud offers the same cost benefits as public cloud. That’s because the value comes from the “cloud” part – not the “public, private or hybrid” part. The benefits of cloud computing are well-proven at this point. Faster initial ramp-up. Faster time-to-market. Dramatically reduced infrastructure costs. Minimal ongoing maintenance.
ADM: Do you believe this trend will continue to grow? Will all companies adopt the hybrid cloud model for apps?
Ross: Constant changes in compliance regulations are the biggest driver for private cloud adoption. So, the future of private cloud versus public cloud really comes down to those regulators across the 190 different countries in the world, and how they adjust the regulations over time.
ADM: What business challenges can a hybrid cloud model solve?
Ross: A cloud of any stripe is simply a hosting mechanism that can be leveraged in solving a myriad of business challenges through software. What matters in a hybrid cloud situation is ensuring the proper orchestration across the cloud and on-premise portions of a solution.
This is one thing at which cloud BPM is particularly good. It allows orchestration among networks – what to do next, whom to notify, and the status of processes. With Cloud BPM in the hybrid architecture, a company can provide account services in the cloud, but they’re controlling the data inside their own firewall. Account information always resides in the company’s own architecture, ensuring compliance with data privacy regulations.
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