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Cloud Expo: Article

The Inevitability of the Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid clouds are emerging as a natural evolution of existing cloud deployments

How have most organizations been building hybrid clouds to date?

Despite all the marketing and promotion surrounding the benefits of dynamically bursting into a hybrid cloud from inception, this rarely seems to be the case. If anything the current trend towards building hybrid clouds still stems from an organic growth and demand that has emanated from either an existent public or private cloud deployment. Certainly private clouds are the most common origins of hybrid clouds as organisations look towards adding further agility to the many benefits they've attained.

A lot of organizations have also recently been pushed towards the many new vendor hybrid cloud offerings that have hit the market. Here the initiative is drawn to promises of a seamless management experience across they're already deployed private cloud and newly considered public cloud as well as vice versa.

What have been the limitations of these methods?

Quite simply it's people and processes. Agility is the key driver towards a hybrid cloud model as applications can dynamically move across either the public or private cloud platform depending on its requirements and criticality. To achieve this successfully there needs to be drastic changes in the traditional IT operational processes where a siloed IT culture focuses on in-house technical expertise. Where hybrid clouds have emerged from initial private cloud deployments, the existent, stagnated siloed processes aren't suitable for the fully automated, self-service service-oriented approach of hybrid clouds.

Very few organizations are thinking of a hybrid cloud from the onset where the idea of also outsourcing their IT operations to the public cloud is a genuine consideration. Instead it's been a staged progression that has coincided with a staged changing of mindset. Private clouds that have adopted converged infrastructure platforms have made headway in this regard as many of the traditional siloes are broken down in favor of more dynamic and centralized teams but there's still a long way to go for most organizations.

As for the new hybrid cloud offerings that are being touted by a lot of the mainstream vendors, they still lack the maturity to help organizations transform their operations. While a technology offering may provide a technical solution, the people and processes challenge still doesn't get easily solved.

Are organizations right to be scared of the public cloud when it comes to business critical data?

The reality is that most large enterprise companies such as financials and pharmaceuticals will always be hesitant to move their critical data and IT operations into a public cloud. If such organizations are using the public cloud it's typically for test and development environments or backup and archiving. In such instances the hybrid cloud is adopted to maintain control over the large internal infrastructures that host their critical data while concurrently optimizing the performance of those applications.

Whether such organizations are right to be scared of the public cloud mainly stems from the ambiguity that lies in the liability for mission critical application SLAs, their security, performance and their requirement to be available 24/7. For this to change the consumer needs to place different demands on the public cloud provider that incorporates clarity from such ambiguity where for example SLAs are not just focused on uptime and availability but also performance metrics and response times. For organizations to feel comfortable to relinquish the control of their mission critical data, the public cloud needs to provide an improvement on what the consumer can provide themselves internally in terms of performance, security, availability and SLAs.

CIOs are blinded by conflicting information about cloud. How can they decide what data to put where?

Any such decision or initiative requires some form of classification and understanding of the organization's data value. Additionally there needs to be an assessment of the criticality of that data in terms of data loss and consequently the risk it introduces to the business. For example archived data may not be needed on an internal high-end performance public cloud infrastructure, yet its criticality could be measured by the fact that any security breach of that archived data could mean the end of the business. Any consideration that involves data being migrated to an external provider (public cloud storage), requires a thorough understanding of the potential impact and revenue loss should that data be compromised.

Moreover the service provider should not just be considered for its technical, security and service merits but also its stability as a business. The last thing an organization needs is to have its data migrated offsite to a cloud provider that eventually goes bankrupt or taken over by another company. As long as the groundwork is done in terms of researching the data as well as the stability of the potential provider the public cloud is a more than viable option for a large number of workloads such as archives, backup copies and test environments.

The rise of hybrid cloud architectures has led to the creation of Cloud Service Brokers - is this a necessary role going forward?

While still an emerging role, for organizations that are considering moving to the cloud and are finding that it's not a simple process dealing with multiple relations, contracts, vendors, providers etc. the Cloud Service Broker is a necessity. Having a dedicated resource whether internal or external to the organization that can work closely amongst a multitude of cloud providers to negotiate and attain the best price, offerings and services on your behalf is essential in attaining the most benefit from your cloud initiative.

Additionally brokers are also key to saving time by alleviating organizations the burden of researching services from different vendors and how they will coincide with the organization's work processes, budgets and data values as well as financial background checks of potential providers.

The role and benefit of a Cloud Service Broker is not just key to the pre-deployment process but also the post Cloud deployment phase. Having been the broker to negotiate the best deals, services and offerings on your behalf based on their existent relationships, the Cloud Service Broker also offers the opportunity to be the first point of call if and when any issues or problems occur. If there are problems with the service provider such as breach of contracts, missing SLAs etc. the Cloud Service Broker is an integral role in resolving any disputes while consequently isolating your organization from having to deal with the issues. As the hybrid cloud market matures and grows the role of the Cloud Service Broker will certainly become more prevalent.

How important is it to easily move data between private and public clouds?

The challenge of creating a hybrid cloud is far greater than a dedicated private or public deployment. The main challenge is that the processes required to scale and shift data across the hybrid cloud can't be successfully achieved with the traditional methods used in migrating data to and from public and private clouds. The ability to seamlessly move data across the hybrid cloud based on application requirements and demands as well as data classification is key to the hybrid model being adopted by the mainstream.

The hybrid model is being considered by many because it offers the opportunity to improve efficiencies, geographical coverage and economies of scale. To truly achieve this workloads need to be moved seamlessly between private and public clouds based on their requirements, where a standardized and centralized portal alongside common management tools present the hybrid cloud as a ubiquitous pool of resources. In this instance the requirement for the simplification, automation and ease of data movement is axiomatic.

How is the movement towards SDDCs impacting the hybrid cloud trend?

While the adoption of the SDDC is still in its infancy, its ability to provide the standardized framework for data to be moved to and from public clouds based on application requirements, regardless of geographical location is quintessential. The SDDC provides the opportunity for organizations to reap the agility of the cloud computing while maintaining legacy applications that aren't suitable for the public cloud for whatever reason. For example in the hybrid model new services could benefit from development and coding that goes directly into the private cloud, while the core services that run the business can remain onsite while still benefiting from any bug fixes and code releases in a seamless manner.

With the SDDC providing the intelligence and consequent automation of workloads, the hybrid cloud model can quickly be emancipated from the shackles of traditional operational processes and siloes making its benefits and subsequent adoption considerably greater. Furthermore it will lead the way for hybrid clouds to be considered as an immediate initiative as opposed to the evolutionary process we are currently seeing in the market.

What are the most common hybrid architectures that we will see over the next year and why?

We will certainly see the adoption of hybrid architectures and models grow, much like we saw the adoption of private clouds. Over the next year the model that we'll more than likely see is the continuation of legacy application infrastructures that preserve organizations' large investments and are then coupled with hybrid automation solutions that enable them to leverage on demand cloud resources. The security concerns of public clouds as well as the need to ensure application performance and optimization will be the key drivers for this.

Indeed we may see a further shift away of some workloads from the public to the hybrid model as organizations start to reassess the financial benefits of public cloud deployments based on the economies of scale they could achieve with a Private Cloud deployment. As organizations become more familiar with their on going cloud costs, there'll be more of a demand for platforms that enable them to seamlessly move their applications to and from a public cloud-based service. Adopters of converged infrastructure are certainly moving towards this path as they've recognized the agility, speed and consequent capex and opex savings they've achieved with their Private Clouds.

Indeed the anticipated and most likely approach for organizations next year will not be a decision of whether to utilize a large existent infrastructure investment or a scalable on demand public cloud service but rather the most effective strategy to leverage both.

Taken from the June 2014 Archie Hendryx interview with Information Age magazine.

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SAN, NAS, Back Up / Recovery & Virtualisation Specialist.

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