The Many Faces of the Hybrid Cloud

Arthur Cole
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The hybrid cloud consistently ranks as a top priority in enterprise infrastructure development plans. Indeed, many view the hybrid as the end-game in the simultaneous provisioning of both public and private clouds—the makings of an integrated yet broadly distributed data environment that provides both the scalability and security to effectively handle burgeoning data loads.

As far as visions go, this one is not all that far-fetched, but it seems that few IT executives are aware of the actual complexity that such architecture entails, nor the vast number of decision points that lie ahead given the wide variety of deployment and configuration options that are arising in the cloud.

Clearly, though, the enterprise is gunning for the hybrid cloud even if all the details have yet to be worked out. According to TechNavio, nearly half of large organizations are planning to field hybrid solutions by 2017, along with a large portion of the SME market. And interest seems to be cutting across nearly all of the top industry verticals, from banking and financial to retail, telecom and health care. The overarching goal is to boost productivity by reserving private resources for critical apps and data while leveraging the public cloud’s scale and ease of deployment for lower-level bulk operations.

While it’s safe to assume that most CIOs have at least a rudimentary plan for their cloud operations, the danger is that technology could be deployed for the wrong, or at least poorly defined, reasons. As tech consultant Ed Featherston points out, the cloud is not the destination but merely the vessel to reach your true goal: solving problems and increasing value. Once you have that side of the equation worked out, you can then weigh the various cloud options like Iaas, PaaS and SaaS accordingly.

Another key issue is how much reliance you plan to place on either the public or private resources in a hybrid configuration. ZDNet’s Larry Dignan notes that the popular image of the hybrid cloud as a broadly federated, singular infrastructure is not fully in tune with reality. Depending on your needs, a hybrid cloud could be 90 percent private with only a token public presence for occasional data bursting and dev/ops. Or it could be a 50/50 split with broad application support and integrated DR and backup. Or it could tilt more toward the public sector as a means to keep capex low and maintain a robust systems/software upgrade capability. Again, though, figure out what you want to do first, and then build the infrastructure that suits your needs.

Ultimately, many of these decisions will come down to what you want to do with specific workloads. According to InformationWeek’s new Hybrid Cloud survey, very few organizations are planning on a 50/50 split at this point, with a clear majority, 58 percent, running more than half their workload on private infrastructure. This may change in the future, however, given that most enterprises seem intent on building out private infrastructure first before tying it to public resources. About 28 percent of respondents say that Big Data workloads are the most likely candidates for simultaneous public/private deployment.

The takeaway in all this seems to be that even the hybrid cloud will have its strong and weak points, which makes it more suitable for certain functions rather than as a general-purpose environment.

If ever there was a time to look before you leap in IT infrastructure deployment, the hybrid cloud is it.

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