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A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Cisco on Hybrid Cloud technology trends sheds light on many of the business drivers and technical obstacles to creating a seamless connection from the enterprise data center to cloud service providers. This custom research study was sponsored by Cisco, and we’ve been authorized to share some of the data and insights in advance of the publication.

Cisco and Forrester generally define Hybrid Cloud as the integration of an enterprise data center or in-house private cloud which is seamlessly connected to a cloud service provider, at least to the extent that allows for virtual machine mobility and secure communications between the two cloud sites. A real hybrid cloud strategy can provide on-demand flexibility for where applications are hosted, and can help optimize cloud infrastructure costs beyond a purely private or public cloud strategy. In the commissioned study, Forrester showed that over three-quarters of respondents planning or using IaaS were looking for a tightly coupled hybrid cloud strategy, or were currently implementing one:

Graph 1

Forrester also asked what business drivers were leading organizations to this integrated hybrid cloud strategy. The results were very conclusive that businesses are looking for on-demand flexibility of where they host their key applications and virtual machines, whether on-premises or in the cloud. Being able to manage this flexibly is the key to making optimal use of in-house resources and overall cloud computing infrastructure costs. This also makes IT more responsive to changing business requirements as excess capacity can be migrated to the cloud as dynamically as possible. The business justifications are essentially the top four responses in their survey. The other drivers had to do with better disaster recovery and geographic flexibility (which can also partially lead to cost optimization):

Graph 2

To achieve these business benefits, however, requires seamless integration between the enterprise data center and cloud providers, and to date there have been some technical challenges. Forrester asked what the primary obstacles were to achieving this hybrid cloud vision, and again the results were quite consistent.

Organizations need to ensure that their application environments are mirrored in both the data center and cloud provider, including application services and security policies. For example, when virtual machines are relocated from the secure enterprise data center to the cloud, how are the same security policies consistently enforced in the new location? Where organizations do not control the cloud infrastructure, this can be a real challenge, but can be alleviated with virtual firewalls, load balancers and WAN optimization services that also can be co-located in the cloud as they are in-house.

Also reflecting this concern is the need to re-architect applications somehow to get them cloud-ready. An optimal hybrid cloud solution should run virtual machines on-premises or in-house without modification. The other major concerns for hybrid cloud were various aspects of secure communications to the cloud provider for mission-critical applications and data, as well as multi-tenant isolation in the cloud.

Graph 3

Forrester will be wrapping up the full report of these findings, along with associated analysis, in the coming weeks and we’ll let you know when it’s available.

Meanwhile, I’ll let you know that Cisco has some key innovations in this area that we will be showing at Cisco live! in London in a couple of weeks, as well as some related announcements on hybrid cloud in early February. We invite you to join us for a live announcement webcast on February 5 in North America and Europe, or February 6 in Asia, where we will expand on some of these hybrid cloud trends, and some of the solutions we have in mind. Register for the webcast here.

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