Cloud native versus hybrid infrastructure

Businesses were forced to react quickly and adapt to both working practices and infrastructure in the wake of government enforced lockdowns, restricted travel and market uncertainties. The dramatic shift to mass remote working was a change some companies found harder than others. In fact, according to some recent research from Riverbed, 69 percent of business decision makers were not completely prepared to support extensive remote work, despite 95 percent of leaders being comfortable with the idea of employees working remotely. A key divide in those who responded well to the challenge and those who struggled, was their network infrastructure and the split between cloud native companies and those operating on hybrid systems.

But as business starts to recover, what is the difference between cloud native and hybrid, and how can businesses utilize their infrastructure to grow in the wake of uncertainty?

The state of play for hybrid systems

Covid-19, and the resultant geographical spread of employees, brought about a fair share of challenges for businesses operating on hybrid systems – a model combining on-premises and cloud infrastructure. For the first time, IT teams were faced with ensuring that the entire workforce could connect remotely to the central business network, with the same efficiency and speed they experienced in the office. In addition, technicians were expected to troubleshoot problems and maintain a seamless experience for the workforce. All while employees simultaneously accessed the network from multiple at-home devices, inevitably overloading the networks.

What’s more, the sprawling nature of the hybrid infrastructure meant IT teams were left with a complete lack of visibility into their network performance and employee activity. Subsequently, they were hit with a vast increase in performance issues. According to Riverbed’s latest research, this included weaker employee productivity (37 percent), increased anxiety (36 percent), lack of work motivation (34 percent) and difficulty engaging with customers (34 percent).

The advantages of a cloud native approach

It’s the ability of the cloud to be spun up quickly and scaled rapidly that is empowering companies to raise the bar on productivity and innovation, particularly in sectors like finance. For example, Monzo and Revolut — who are cloudborn — have been able to innovate swiftly and deploy new services even during the pandemic, whilst also driving employee productivity, maintaining business operations and minimizing disruption to customers which could be caused by remote working.

By contrast to their hybrid counterparts, cloud native businesses – which have their systems exclusively based in the cloud – found the transition to remote working far easier. With no on-premise infrastructure to grapple with, employees could work from home, much as they did from the office, with little-to-no impact on their ability to access the applications and files that they needed.

This was facilitated by the cloud’s innate qualities that lend it to flexible working practices. For example, cloud infrastructure can be quickly and reliably scaled up or down according to the business capacity and needs. As such, cloud native businesses are inherently better at responding to uncertainty and change. For example, the increased demand caused by the mass shift to remote working in response to the Covid-19 lockdown was easier to deal with when having a cloud-based infrastructure. This is because it is not possible for employees to overload the network while they try to run applications across multiple devices, as there is no central network for them to have to connect through.

Visibility and optimizing performance for all

Although the initial transition to remote working may have been simpler for the cloud native companies, there are additional steps all businesses should follow to ensure success both during and after the current crisis. Namely, ensuring they have visibility over their network infrastructure. An increasingly important consideration given 97 percent of business decision makers in the UK are experiencing technology disruptions as a result of remote work and Covid-19.

Regardless of whether a business is hybrid or cloud native, it is essential for its leaders to invest in the right network performance management tools. Tools that provide a comprehensive overview of all the activity on the network so that issues can be identified and resolved quickly. This means embracing technology that not only collects information from every device connected, but also analyses and produces insights from the data across all user applications. With this insight, businesses across multiple infrastructures are in a better position to respond to slow running applications or troubleshoot any network inefficiencies employees may be experiencing.

In addition to the right network performance management technologies, businesses must also implement application acceleration tools to mitigate the impact of latency and bandwidth related network issues. Used in conjunction with increased visibility of the network, these tools allow organizations to optimize application performance, drive employee productivity and ultimately ensure the long-term success of business operations.

UK business decision makers are already recognizing the importance of this technology. In the next two years, many plan to deploy technology to achieve better visibility over network and application performance (39 percent) to support remote workforce performance, according to Riverbed’s research. Now business and IT leaders need to take active steps to add this technology to their infrastructure.

Succeeding beyond a pandemic

Adjusting to change and uncertainty quickly and with agility may be easier for those that are cloud native. However, ensuring long term business success beyond the current pandemic will require continual adaptation and technological evolution – no matter whether your business operates with a hybrid or cloud native infrastructure. By using technology that can not only enhance visibility across the network, but also optimize application performance, businesses can maintain employee productivity, start to innovate and successfully thrive in a post pandemic world.

Joe Bombagi, Director Solutions Engineering, UK & Ireland, Riverbed Technology

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