“If you’re gonna go cloud, might as well be hybrid.” So goes the rule of thumb that is guiding cloud development and deployment these days. And while most of us have a good idea of what the hybrid cloud entails—a combination of public and private resources—how it all comes together and the ultimate utility it provides is still very much up in the air.
Even so, this prevailing uncertainty has not dampened enthusiasm for the technology. According to Research and Markets, hybrid cloud revenues are on pace to see more than 30 percent annual gains for the next five years, jumping from $21.27 billion in 2013 to $79.54 billion in 2018. Much of this growth will come from North America at first, but emerging markets in the Asia-Pacific and Latin American regions are set to kick into high gear toward the end of the decade, driven largely by their need to quickly ramp up data infrastructure and their limited reliance on legacy silo-based architectures.
Indeed, when viewed in terms of security, reliability, flexibility, scalability and virtually every other ability in the IT lexicon, it’s hard to beat the hybrid cloud. But probably its most desirable trait is the ability to be different things to different people, or different business units. If speed is the top priority, a hybrid cloud can be created just for that. The same goes for capacity, agility, compliance and all the rest. In the hybrid cloud, users are no longer forced into the confines of existing IT but are free to create the environment that best suits their needs.
This may be technically true, says HP’s Margaret Dawson, but this kind of hybrid functionality will not materialize on its own. It’s fair to say that the corollary to the above rule of thumb is “Effortlessness takes effort,” and in that regard the hybrid cloud is very much like the technologies of the past. A true hybrid cloud will provide seamless integration between internal and off-premise infrastructure, but such broad federation cannot come about simply through open APIs or common SLAs. Infrastructure will have to be coordinated across multiple levels, which is likely to be an ongoing process for quite some time. The hybrid cloud, then, is more of a journey than a destination.
Nevertheless, many of the basic elements are already in place. Microsoft’s Brad Anderson recently posted a how-to guide to harness key System Center tools, like the Service Provider Foundation orchestration platform, in conjunction with IaaS provisioning functions in the Windows Azure Pack to build the kind of hybrid environments that the enterprise is looking for. To be sure, myriad pitfalls come about when it comes to customization, migration, change management and the like, but as experience with cloud deployments grows so does the troubleshooting and work-around knowledge base.
Of course, the time to imagine all the possibilities of a new technology is before it is actually in place. Real-world deployments have a way of bringing the expectations back to, well, the real world.
The hybrid cloud is most certainly coming. All we need to do now is figure out what we need it to do.