As the cloud native space is maturing, customers have started to discern the pros and cons of public cloud. They can see not just the facade of convenience and promised cost savings, but also the bills piling up and having to hand over critical business data to public cloud companies.

Red Hat recently conducted a global customer survey about this and results indicate that customers prefer hybrid cloud over public cloud. More than 31% respondents actually used the term hybrid cloud as their cloud strategy.

Rob Hirschfeld, founder and CEO of RackN and attendee of the recent Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference, noticed a similar tone. “Discussions and data from the Gartner IO Summit support that hybrid is preferred. There’s just so much existing infrastructure that it’s not practical to be ‘pure’ anything! It’s not so much that they want hybrid but that it’s the reality they are facing.”

There are many reasons why customers prefer hybrid over public cloud or pure private cloud. Red Hat says it boils down to three factors: data security, cost benefits, and data integration.

“Everyone accepts that cloud is secure; however, operators are starting to question how well they can control their data in cloud. Also, some of them don’t trust the cloud vendors, especially with some of the new analytics services,” said Hirschfeld.

Hybrid cloud enables customers to balance all three factors highlighted in the Red Hat survey. They can move pieces of their infrastructure between public and private cloud depending on the need. It lets them reap the benefits of public cloud without having to compromise their data.

Although 31% might seem like a small number, it doesn’t mean that the remaining 69% is running their workloads on public cloud. In fact, only 12% described themselves as having either a public cloud first strategy or a strategy to standardize on a single public cloud. Red Hat says 6% described their strategy as multi-cloud based on multiple public clouds, while 21% have a private cloud first strategy.

In particular, EMEA respondents described themselves as having a private cloud strategy, not hybrid. This region is concerned about handing over their data to US-based cloud companies, given its current political landscape. A simple embargo on your country will cut your entire business out of the public cloud run by Google, AWS, and Azure. Some of the biggest use cases in this region involve companies building their own private and public cloud using OpenStack.

Perhaps the most worrisome finding is that there are still companies without any concrete cloud strategy. Around 17% of the respondents were still working on a plan, while 12% respondents didn’t have any plan at all. Unfortunately, these companies are so far behind the curve that their future hangs in the balance. Hirschfeld warns that there is an urgency to cut their technical debt and embrace cloud now or they will find it hard to survive in the modern world.

In fact, Hirschfeld states that you need to have a cloud strategy even if you don’t use cloud. “The reality is that cloud is the default deployment choice for everything — from demos and proof-of-concept to training — because it’s predictable and accessible.” Teams must adapt to the patterns, even if they are not adopting.

The Red Hat survey found that companies do recognize the importance of building up technical skills. When asked to choose their top non-IT funding priorities, respondents chose both technical skills training (16%) and a digital transformation strategy (16%).

However, new technologies and jargon are emerging at such a fast pace that it’s virtually impossible to find experts (or even skilled professionals) in technologies that were open-sourced at CNCF just a month ago. The hype/adoption curve is so accelerated that it has gotten silly. Therefore, porting to the latest shiny requires evaluation.

“The reality is that new projects, even Kubernetes, still need baking time for scale operations. If there are not enough people with knowledge, then it’s OK (really, it’s required) to pick your battles or slow your adoption,” said Hirschfeld.