The enterprise has barely gotten its feet wet in the public cloud at this point, but already most eyes are turning toward broadly distributed, hybrid environments.
There’s nothing wrong with having a goal, of course, but when it comes to highly complex digital architectures, it helps to walk a little before you try to fly.
Clearly, the vendor community has a lot at stake in the development of the hybrid cloud, primarily because it supports the continued development of private clouds in data centers across the globe. Microsoft, for example, has teamed up with Accenture and Avanade to provide an integrated hybrid infrastructure overseen by a unified management stack. In this way, customers can maintain local cloud capabilities while bursting appropriate workloads to the Azure Cloud.
As well, IBM has launched an accelerated hybrid cloud adoption program with colocation provider Equinix aimed at key markets in North America, Europe and Asia. The idea is to link IBM’s SoftLayer services portfolio with the Equinix Cloud Exchange via dedicated network connections. This offers both dynamic flexibility and heightened security as users pick and choose the cloud configuration that best suits their goals.
These are all lofty endeavors, to be sure, but behind the flashy trade show presentations is the reality that first building and then managing the hybrid cloud is turning out to be a lot more complicated than once thought. For one thing, the migration path involves a lot more than just deploying a private cloud and linking to a public service. As NetApp CTO Kirk Kern points out, even the initial assessment phase involves multiple tasks like evaluating changes to existing infrastructure, determining appropriate public resources and setting the proper migration parameters. And even once the initial setup is complete, there are issues regarding governance, security and risk management to deal with. None of these are insurmountable, of course, but it’s not like many organizations are ready to launch a hybrid cloud tomorrow either.
This is why the long-term trend in IT infrastructure still favors the hybrid cloud, says Lief Morin, president of systems integrator Key Information Systems. Data center managers are already used to managing diverse collections of technology, and as key functions like disaster recovery become more affordable in the cloud, extending infrastructure into the cloud will increasingly become the norm. At the same time, organizations will determine that some workloads are appropriate for shared, public resources while others are best held closer to home, and that ultimately, a unified management stack is the best way to keep track of everything. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the hybrid model will become the de facto standard in 2015, but over the next five years? Probably.
But like the cloud itself, there is not likely to be one version of hybrid infrastructure. Enterprises across the board will compile data resources in any number of ways according to their needs and desires, just as they do now in the brick-and-mortar data center. Some of these new architectures will fall into the classic definition of a hybrid cloud, while others will gravitate more toward public or private infrastructure.
These may be heady times for IT, but care should be taken to avoid chasing technology at the expense of devising solutions to problems or building greater functionality. In the end, what works is what matters, not whether it is public, private or hybrid – or even a cloud at all.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.