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The Year of the Hybrid Cloud

February 23, 2011 - 1 Comment

2010 saw a lot of attention, coverage, and interest building up around the private cloud.  IDC’s “IT Cloud Services Survey” conducted in the second quarter of 2010 showed that “those who find private clouds more (and much more) appealing than public clouds outnumbered those who find private clouds less (or much less) appealing by over 5 to 1.”

Gartner’s poll conducted at Data Center Summit in December 2009 showed that over 2/3rd of respondents expect that their investment in cloud will be more oriented towards private cloud than public cloud through 2012.

The number of vendors talking private cloud exploded as well.

HP launched Cloudstart, CA acquired Oblicore, 3Tera, Nimsoft, and Hyperformix to boost its private cloud capabilities, Microsoft launched Hyper-V Cloud, IBM expanded its family of Cloudburst appliances, Oracle launched the Exalogic Elastic Cloud, BMC introduced its Cloud LifeCycle Management offering, and even application vendors like SAP announced that its customers will soon have more options and tools for deploying the company’s software on private clouds.

While it’s easy for enterprise CIO’s to consider public cloud offerings as competitors to their own private cloud offerings for meeting the needs of their business units, smart leaders are realizing that they can actually leverage the public cloud to add even greater elasticity, while keeping costs under control. This realization is leading to the buildup of the same kind of interest in the ‘hybrid cloud’ today that we saw a year earlier for the private cloud. In fact, one of the questions enterprise CIO’s are asking private cloud technology vendors is support for eventually moving to a hybrid cloud deployment model. Gartner predicts that ‘by 2015, the majority of private cloud computing services will evolve to leverage public cloud services in a hybrid mode.’ (Thomas Bittman, “Private Cloud Computing – The New Virtualization”, Gartner Data Center Conference, December 2010).

But while hybrid cloud seems to combine the best of both worlds – offering the security, data privacy, compliance, and control of the enterprise private cloud for sensitive workloads, as well as the greater elasticity of the public cloud without having to provision for peak for less sensitive workloads – there are plenty of issues around actually implementing hybrid clouds. Some key issues relating to hybrid clouds are highlighted below:

Workload-Infrastructure Separation: Most applications/services today don’t have a good separation the workload they run and the application/infrastructure configuration. To work well in a hybrid cloud deployment model, services need to be designed with this separation, so that they can run easily on a ‘standard’ infrastructure packages with a ‘standard’ configuration, which makes it easier to move workloads around; and enables ‘bursting’ from private to public clouds so private clouds can enjoy high capacity utilization while leveraging public clouds for peak workloads. Service and application designers and architects need to start designing their offerings with this separation, and also to document their service and application workflows to accommodate the ability to move workloads dynamically. A hybrid cloud platform needs to support a service concept where workloads are described in a standardized format, which the platform can use to move workloads around as required.

Avoiding Vendor Lock-in:  As enterprises start building out hybrid cloud platforms and connecting their internal clouds to public clouds, they need to ensure that they are not tied to a particular public cloud provider. The cloud platform should be provider-agnostic, and provide the ability to switch workloads from one provider to another without having to rebuild the application or the platform.

Support for Provider Ecosystem: As different public cloud providers evolve in different directions, the need will arise to connect the enterprise private cloud to multiple public cloud providers. For instance, some provides will focus exclusively on IaaS, while others will focus on specific PaaS and SaaS offerings. Specializations around verticals are also likely to evolve. In addition, large enterprises may end up with more than one private cloud and want to connect them together. Add to this the fact that many enterprises have services that run at partner locations, and you have the makings of a fairly complex ecosystem of providers. The true hybrid cloud platform will need to provide the capability to connect not just one private cloud to one or two public clouds, but to execute complex workflows across multiple types of clouds in a federated ecosystem.

Security in the Hybrid Cloud: Security concerns have been one of the main inhibitors in the adoption of public cloud, and will continue to be a concern in the hybrid cloud model. Once you connect up the internal private cloud to the public cloud, you need to ensure that sensitive data that is not meant to leave the private cloud is safeguarded from being attacked through the connection with the public cloud. As enterprises co-mingle the applications and data from different cloud providers with their own internal cloud, there needs to be strong permissions-related control to ensure that security is not breached across the various entities.

Driving Efficiency across Locations: Data synchronization and latency issues across multiple locations will continue to need attention. From an efficiency perspective, the hybrid cloud platform needs the ability to be able to dynamically ‘push’ processing to the location where it makes the most sense. For instance, an ETL process that uses data from an enterprise private cloud may be ‘pushed’ to the data warehouse provider at a remote location if the source data is more compact than the transformed data. The ability to do this needs to be an integral part of the hybrid cloud platform.

In conclusion, the hybrid cloud seems poised to get the kind of attention in 2011 as the private cloud got in 2010. Enterprise CIOs need to arm themselves with the right questions to ask their vendors to ensure that their offerings that claim hybrid cloud support are actually designed to deliver on this promise.

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  1. Thanks Tere - Good summary of what the rags are saying. The real issue is what will CIO do when confronted with a choice. I think 2011may well turn out to be the year of wait and see. The economic direction is not clear, and I for one don't expect CIOs to launch any major undertaking with high uncertainty. I can imagine we may see some pilot, testing the waters, and some very big player may be bold enough to launch out, but I expect this year to be "wait and see," and then move where it comfortable (i.e., where others are going). This is not good leadership, but I think it may well be where the market plays between now and June, and maybe all CY. Again, I appreciate you using this bog to roll out these thoughts in such a cohesive way. THANKS!