Inside SharePoint

The Rise of the Hybrid Cloud and Its Impact on SharePoint

The majority SharePoint implementations are on pace to run in hybrid cloud architectures. The good news is it has become a first-class citizen in the SharePoint ecosystem.

Hybrid is the  topic du jour within SharePoint circles, and with good reason: according to recent Hybrid SharePoint research, it will quickly become the largest segment of the SharePoint installed base. It's not as if all of this was happening overnight -- we've been heading down this road for some time as the Office 365 platform matures and organizations have had time to think about their future SharePoint plans. Over the past two years, Microsoft has softened some of its messaging around moving customers off of SharePoint on-premises, recognizing that migrations are difficult, security concerns around the cloud remain and that enterprises do not want to be push toward the cloud before they are ready. With an expansion of hybrid features, and new marketing and partner messaging, hybrid SharePoint has become a first-class citizen in the SharePoint ecosystem.

The State of the Hybrid Cloud
In addition to the independent hybrid study, Microsoft released its 'State of the Hybrid Cloud 2017' report that looks across all workloads, not just SharePoint. The results of the Microsoft study align with the hybrid SharePoint results, showing that most enterprises view hybrid as a strategy that allows them to continue supporting their business growth and overall IT strategies. In fact, the Microsoft report shows that 92 percent of customers who deployed a hybrid solution stated that they would follow the same strategy again.

While the data shows that small- to medium-size businesses readily adopt cloud technologies, enterprise organizations with years of data, customizations and branding within SharePoint on-premises are, understandably, finding it more difficult to move directly to the cloud. Hybrid is a strategy that allows organizations to continue leveraging existing infrastructure investments, while also taking advantage of new features and capabilities in the cloud.

According to the Microsoft study:

The correlation between the number of years a company has been in business and its hybrid cloud usage is very strong. Organizations over 10 years old have already made significant technology investments, and they are extremely likely to be using hybrid cloud. The number drops quite a bit for companies less than 10 years old, especially when filtering out IT services and software companies, which are generally more likely to use hybrid cloud. With that filter about 50 percent of companies less than 10 years old are using hybrid cloud, versus nearly 90 percent for 10-year-old companies.

Hybrid cloud provides many benefits, but organizations also face challenges. Respondents indicated complexity was the biggest challenge they faced, along with a lack of skill sets. This is even more true for financial services and manufacturing firms, as well as for more established organizations.

Real-World Experiences with Hybrid
While it's always interesting to review the survey results and analysis from various experts, my preference is always to hear directly from the SharePoint practitioners. Following the release of the hybrid SharePoint results, I reached out to a number of MVPs and influencers within the SharePoint community who are actively developing and deploying hybrid solutions for customers to get their perspectives on the state of hybrid SharePoint, sharing insights into customer conversations -- as well as how hybrid is changing their own company and product strategies. Here's what some of them said:

Stacy Deere-Strole, MVP and owner of Focal Point Solutions: Only recently have I noticed an increase in comments and full discussions involving hybrid, and what it brings to the table.  These are discussions coming from clients or potential clients, and not as suggestions from my team -- which is always good, as when something comes from the client, it is much easier to get project traction, user adoption, and funding.  Noticing the change in the community and from our own clients, we have made some adjustments in our own roadmap, and have updated what we cover in our introduction meetings and materials.   We needed to bring hybrid to the front without over selling it, and it has organically moved to the front.   

Chris Regan, Managing Partner at B&R Business Solutions: Many organizations that provide managed services have had a strict focus on pushing their customers to become '100% cloud' – essentially having a strict focus on managed services built around Office 365.  With the growing focus on hybrid, MSPs need to really take a step back and reevaluate their plans from both a sales and technical perspective.  While they will still be able to drive some customers to go 'cloud only', they need to be able to work with customers that want to take the hybrid approach.  This means that the sales team needs to be well versed in the hybrid options that are available, understand how to package them into existing managed services bundles and properly price them, and the technical team needs to know how to properly implement and then support the hybrid solutions.  Being able to offer managed services built around hybrid is the only way for MSPs to maximize their revenue potential and ensure they aren't missing out on a large segment of the market.

Dux Raymond Sy, MVP and CMO of AvePoint / CTO of AvePoint Public Sector: While there has been tremendous growth in cloud adoption as Microsoft has delivered rapid innovations across Office 365, there are still plenty of customers that are not ready to go all in or are taking a phased approach. This was also validated by Microsoft with the release of SharePoint 2016 and its emphasis on hybrid features, such as like hybrid search and Team Sites. We've made significant investments in supporting hybrid customers across our product suite for years now, and plan for that to continue well into the future.

Scott Restivo, CEO of Crow Canyon Software: As an ISV selling business applications that run on SharePoint, the question of hybrid usage is quite important to us. With SharePoint on-premises and Office 365 being different programming environments, we need to know where to direct our developer resources. Reviewing the results of the recent hybrid SharePoint study, we can see that there is a need to maintain comparable efforts in both environments. While there is a general 'move-to-the-cloud' direction in this market, a substantial number of organizations, especially larger ones, will be maintaining hybrid SharePoint scenarios, and therefore, we will continue to enhance our applications on both versions of SharePoint, with comparable feature sets.

Matthias Einig, MVP, Co-founder and CEO of Rencore: The shift to hybrid scenarios within the next few years will significantly impact our own product strategy. When we launched the company more than four years ago, we were exclusively focused on development for SharePoint on-premises. But with Microsoft continuing its journey into the cloud, we realized quite early on that only catering to on-prem SharePoint clients was not enough. We ended up developing solutions to help those customers who rely on heavily customized SharePoint environments, enabling them to gradually move customizations to development models that would allow them to migrate to newer SharePoint versions and to SharePoint Online further down the line. The cloud component in hybrid holds a plethora of new topics to keep an eye on for SharePoint Online platform owners and admins. We see tremendous opportunity in addressing the governance side of cloud services, as well as helping clients get to the cloud. As a company, we're focused on bridging the gap for organizations between their data centers and the cloud.

Barry Jinks, CEO of Colligo: Pretty well 100 percent of our customers are moving some or all of their workloads to SharePoint online. The question is *when* they will move all workloads. That's a way off, in my opinion, because it's usually an internal conflict that has no quick fix. As a result, hybrid is a necessity today. In response to this, we ensure that our solutions support customers in all-on prem, all-cloud, or hybrid scenarios. Over time, we believe the barriers will lower and cloud will dominate.

There is no simple hybrid solution that will meet the need of every organization, and there can be additional overhead required to manage what is, essentially, two independent systems running side by side. However, for organizations that have a strategy to move to the cloud but need to continue to see a return on previous infrastructure investments, hybrid SharePoint may be the optimal path forward for the foreseeable future.

The Hybrid SharePoint research was conducted by CollabTalk and the Marriott School of management at Brigham Young University, and was sponsored by Microsoft, a number of ISVs and a number of media partners including Redmond magazine (and is available for download here).

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