The hybrid cloud is considered to be the “safe zone” between the rigidity and poor scalability of private resources and the lack of control in the public domain.
But while it was always expected that hybrids would one day morph into a seamlessly integrated, broadly distributed data ecosystem, that vision is starting to look less feasible, and less desirable, as experience with real cloud architectures grows.
In a recent post on Forbes, Moor Insights & Strategy analyst John Fruehe describes the “hybrid cloud dilemma” in pretty stark terms. He says that from both a security and logistics standpoint, a fully integrated hybrid cloud is proving extremely hard to implement. Rather, current thinking in IT circles is starting to favor a “hybrid cloud environment” in which data and resources may be shared across multiple domains and providers, but individual compute environments will exist in only one. So rather than try to craft a single computing architecture that follows data wherever it goes, the enterprise would do better to focus on the interconnects between clouds to ensure that data can traverse the still distinct computing environments quickly and easily.
This is in keeping with how most enterprises are actually creating hybrid environments, rather than how vendors or cloud providers would prefer. On InfoWorld, IT consultant David Linthicum notes that most organizations have adopted an organic approach to the cloud in which legacy systems are tied to cloud services as needed – an approach he calls the “pragmatic cloud.” A legacy Oracle database running on an on-premises mainframe, for example, can be linked to processes and data on a public cloud, or a traditional client-server app may redirect to an externally hosted Big Data platform. This ad hoc approach is geared more toward finding solutions to real problems than achieving an overarching strategic vision, but is proving to be very effective at improving performance and lowering costs.
This might be food for thought as the top names in IT vie for dominance in the emerging enterprise cloud market. Microsoft, for instance, has long touted its ability to integrate public and private resources under its primarily Windows-based operating environments in the enterprise and on the Azure cloud. This is a major selling point against Amazon, which offers broader scale but is having trouble supporting enterprise workloads on its largely proprietary cloud architecture. Amazon is said to be preparing to counter this argument with an expected agreement with VMware that would allow organizations to support a common data environment on the virtual layer. But for both providers, the idea of offering a single, distributed computing environment might be more than most enterprises are looking for at the moment.
However the hybrid cloud evolves, though, it seems clear that it will emerge as the preferred architecture going forward, even as multiple versions of the concept start to target key use cases, says Datapipe’s Tony Connor. A key example is the rise of community clouds, which provide shared services between non-isolated users, just like a normal cloud, but in a way that supports similar data models or industry verticals. A community hybrid geared toward the health care industry, for instance, would provide key regulatory and compliance services common to all users, while a transaction processing cloud would pay extra attention to latency and availability.
The interesting thing about the cloud, and virtual architectures in general, is how they remove the state of underlying physical infrastructure from the enterprise’s list of concerns. Sure, private clouds still need to be supported, but as hardware becomes increasingly modular and hyperconverged, the time and effort needed to keep everything in working order will diminish.
Going forward, the only thing that will matter to data users is results. As long as their applications and workloads function adequately, it won’t matter what label is given to the supporting environment.
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 and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.