A lot of people in the IT industry are pulling for the hybrid cloud. Enterprise executives are intrigued by the idea of low-cost, broadly federated data infrastructure distributed over large, geographic areas, while traditional data center vendors are trying to preserve their legacy product lines in the new cloud era.
But just because people want it, does that make it a good idea? If the idea is to capitalize on the benefits of both public and private cloud infrastructure, will hybrid solutions undermine that effort by watering down the advantages of pure-play approaches?
One thing is clear: Many enterprises see the hybrid cloud as the end-game of the virtual transition. A recent survey by Gigaom indicates that more than three-quarters of top decision-makers have adopted hybrid as a core component of their ongoing cloud strategies. However, it is becoming evident that this is more than a simple change in technology—it’s a top-to-bottom shift in the entire enterprise structure that will affect everything from data and infrastructure to business processes, governance and the ownership of digital assets.
On the vendor side, even companies that had initially hesitated to embrace cloud infrastructure are now moving full steam ahead with hybrid platforms. EMC, for example, recently came out with a new system called the EMC Enterprise Hybrid Cloud Solution (what else?) that is said to be field operational within a month and is capable of stitching together disparate resources from VMware vCloud, Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and various EMC products to provide an integrated cloud environment. The platform will be supplemented with technologies from the recently acquired Spanning, Maginatics and CloudScaling Group to provide key functions like backup, data mobility and data protection.
As well, NetApp is looking to supplement its hybrid platform with the SteelStore appliance that it bought from Riverbed this week for $80 million. The device is slated to provide backup and data protection for off-premises data and applications, allowing the enterprise to migrate to any management infrastructure across virtually any public cloud on the planet. By locating the connectivity piece of the cloud in the data center, enterprises will be able to establish key elements like data protection and governance before they extend their infrastructure into the cloud, and then provide tools like dynamic resource allocation and backup management to continually optimize the environment once it is operational.
So if the hybrid cloud is the goal, what are some of the ways to ensure success? According to Synergy Research Group’s John Dinsdale, the key is in knowing what you want to accomplish before you start building. As he explains to ClouderPC.com, a solutions-driven approach calls for the enterprise to identify its needs first and then set about building the optimal solution in terms of both capabilities and costs. This is different from the general-purpose strategy that has guided data development for the past several decades, but will become standard procedure in the cloud because virtual resources are so fungible. Enterprise executives should also maintain a steady dialogue with other cloud users to keep up to date as to what works and what doesn’t and who the reputable cloud providers are.
Keeping the focus on solutions rather than technology is also the best way to get past the public vs. private vs. hybrid quagmire. All three approaches have their strong and weak points, and what you gain in functionality and control usually comes at a higher price point. But as long as you build a cloud architecture around your needs, you won’t have to worry about what is “better” – you’ll have a solution that works for you.
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.