Hybrid cloud environments have rapidly evolved to support a range of IT and application requirements, and in 2019 a growing number of businesses and other organisations will make use of them. Hybrid clouds combine dedicated private cloud infrastructure (often maintained on-premises within an organisation’s own data center) with public cloud services provided by companies like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and Google.

Recognising this, Amazon, Microsoft and other leading cloud providers will accelerate their efforts in 2019 to target emerging hybrid cloud opportunities. Competition between Amazon and Microsoft, the two largest cloud service providers globally, will be particularly intense.

Microsoft’s 2019 cloud plans

Microsoft is hedging its hybrid cloud bet on its Azure Stack offering, delivered with a choice of on-premises hardware and using the same development and management tools to provide consistency across private Azure Stack deployments and the Azure public cloud.

In a move to boost its competitiveness vis-à-vis Amazon, Microsoft announced in August that it added Azure Stack to its US-based Azure Government service, giving federal organizations the option to host some workloads on-premises using its private cloud infrastructure.

Amazon’s hybrid cloud offerings

Although Amazon is the largest provider of public cloud services globally, this does not guarantee its ability to successfully target enterprise customers seeking to accelerate deployment of private and hybrid cloud workloads. Amazon already has a mixture of options for organisations that require a hybrid cloud solution.

In 2019, Amazon plans to come to market with a new managed on-premises version of its cloud platform called AWS Outposts. Once available, Outposts will allow customers to deploy configurable compute and storage racks based on AWS hardware and software in their own data centers, and integrate their on-premises AWS environment with the AWS public cloud. However, information on features, services, pricing and availability has yet to be provided.

As a vendor-managed offering, AWS Outposts will resemble Oracle’s Cloud at Customer solution, which aims to bring the Oracle Cloud to customers’ data centers, though availability is limited to Oracle’s much smaller international data center footprint compared with those of Amazon or Microsoft. Oracle has announced plans to expand its international data center footprint to 13 regions in 2019 as it will attempt to catch up with its larger cloud rivals.

The IBM approach

IBM is targeting hybrid cloud opportunities via its Cloud Private solution, which allows customers to establish a private, on-premises version of the IBM Cloud behind their organizations’ firewalls, and develop, deploy, and manage applications within a hybrid cloud environment.

IBM is differentiating its offering by emphasising its ability to help customers manage applications across multi-cloud environments. It does this with the help of built-in Kubernetes technology, which allows users to manage applications in a way that abstracts them from the underlying IT infrastructure.

IBM’s $34bn acquisition of Red Hat – planned to be completed in late 2019 – can be understood in light of this focus on multi-cloud management. Of particular interest to IBM is Red Hat’s OpenShift software, which also uses Kubernetes to support the management of applications across hybrid and multi-cloud environments.

Google targets cloud dominance

Google has made no secret of its ambition to gain a greater foothold among business customers. Google is also targeting hybrid cloud opportunities and doing so via strategic partnerships with on-premises infrastructure providers, Cisco and Nutanix.

In July, Google also announced the launch of Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) On-Prem, a version of its GKE service that customers can deploy and operate within their data centers. Nevertheless, GKE On-Prem is still in beta phase and, as with AWS Outposts, plenty of questions exist about deployment requirements and pricing.

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The threat from Alibaba

Finally, all of the above-mentioned cloud providers will face growing competition in 2019 from China’s Alibaba. Alibaba has been rapidly rolling out an international network of data center locations and, in August, announced the availability of its Aspara Stack on-premises offering outside China. Alibaba is targeting mid-to-large organizations with Aspara Stack, which allows users to run the Alibaba Cloud inside their own data center as part of a hybrid cloud environment.

The market for hybrid cloud solutions will become intensely competitive in 2019, driven by this expansive range of solutions and initiatives from the leading public cloud providers. However, it is still early days for most of these initiatives and this is a market with everything to play for.

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