The hybrid cloud is evolving along a strange sort of dichotomy as the year comes to a close: It is getting easier to deploy but more challenging to optimize.
This is partly due to the fact that the enterprise itself is tasked with managing multiple types of workload – everything from traditional business applications to mobile computing and device-driven analytics. But it also points to the fact that the hybrid cloud is not a single entity but a collection of components that must work together near-flawlessly in order to provide the seamless data experience that users expect.
Tech writer Alan Joch noted on BizTech recently that the emergence of turnkey solutions and hybrid management tools is making it easier to deploy distributed cloud environments. Leading IT vendors have taken to leveraging both their home-grown systems portfolios and third-party contributions to craft hybrid architectures that can be easily launched and then quickly scaled to production-level environments. VMware’s Cross-Cloud Architecture, for example, provides for consistent deployment models, security policies and governance across multiple clouds and can be delivered under the company’s Cloud Foundation architecture that incorporates legacy platforms like vRealize, vSphere and NSX software-defined networking.
But what are the critical elements of a functioning hybrid cloud? According to IT consultant Keith Townsend, the three pillars are advanced networking, orchestration and automation. In distributed data architectures of any kind, latency is an application killer, and since hybrids require a high degree of multipoint connectivity, the new enterprise network will need both more bandwidth and advanced fabric-style architectures. This drives the need for both orchestration and automation to handle the diversity of data flows and the scale of operations that far exceed the capabilities of traditional management practices.
Already, says Digital Realty’s Andrew Schaap, the difference between success and failure in the digital economy is coming down to networking. Speed and scale are the two main opposing forces in the hybrid cloud: As data loads increase, network resources become overloaded and performance suffers. To bridge this divide, the enterprise must craft an environment in which networks can be provisioned on the fly to meet data demands as they ebb and flow throughout the application lifecycle. At the same time, organizations should keep a close eye on the proximity of data as it leaves the local data center. The farther data has to travel, the greater the latency.
For this and other reasons, the selection of the third-party host is an important factor in the hybrid cloud. In a recent whitepaper, Frost & Sullivan pointed out that colocation providers are becoming increasingly attractive as the new hub for enterprise hybrid clouds because they can provide both the dedicated hosting services and cloud functionality that emerging applications require. Using a carrier-neutral provider, organizations gain access to secure, private resources for sensitive data while still enjoying the scale and flexibility of cloud resources under a fully integrated computing environment. And in many cases, this type of hybrid can be deployed and provisioned even faster than a turnkey solution.
No matter what technologies are employed in the hybrid cloud, it is fair to say that every environment will require a fair amount of customization in order to meet the unique data requirements of the enterprise and individual users. This will be a lot easier to do compared to traditional infrastructure, of course, given the flexibility that arises from separating data architectures from underlying infrastructure.
But it also means that the hybrid cloud will still require a lot of hands-on development even as day-to-day functions are taken over by automated, devops-oriented processes. The data environment may no longer be limited to the data center, but we are still left with the age-old questions of where, when and how to support the applications that fuel economic activity.
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.