Myths and Realities of Hybrid Clouds

Arthur Cole
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Five Ways to Migrate Applications to the Cloud

Migration strategies organizations should consider when moving to the cloud.

Given the desire to tap the cloud for its enormous scale and low cost, coupled with concerns over availability and security, it shouldn't be a surprise that many organizations are looking to split the difference with a hybrid architecture.

Integrating both public and private clouds into an amalgam of resources that can be deployed and configured to specifications has a tremendous appeal. However, the complexities involved and the capabilities that are available today, as opposed to those that are somewhere between the conceptual stage and the drawing board, should give many organizations pause - at least for the moment.

According to InfoWorld's David Linthicum, the most important step enterprises can take today regarding the private cloud is to base development on what current architectures can accommodate, rather than on vendor promises. The fact is that most infrastructure today has only recently made the leap from the physical to the virtual, so grand visions of instant cloud nirvana often meet up with cold, hard reality during the conversion process - usually when part or all of the budget has been spent.

A key sticking point, it seems, is that few online applications are ready to handle such complex environments, says TMCnet's Carolyn Dawson. SaaS providers, for example, have devoted much of their development dollars to providing top-notch software and services, which is a notable goal but does little to ease the integration pains of porting those apps into hybrid environments. Upcoming integration platform-as-a-service (iPaaS) offerings could help, although the field is still in its infancy.

Another potential solution is the industry-specific cloud. As described by Computerworld's Esther Shein, some clouds are forming around certain vertical industries like airlines and financial institutions. That allows more specialized expertise and intellectual property to be posted up, with the understanding that it will be used by organizations that share common interests. It's not a perfect solution, but at least it offers the opportunity for like-minded organizations to identify what works and what doesn't.

And as expected, many of the new cloud management platforms are being built around the hybrid concept. IBM, for example, is pulling together a veritable laundry list of tools and techniques from its Tivoli, WebSphere and other lines for its new SmartCloud portfolio. The goal is to devise an integrated management regime that can manage data across public, private and hybrid infrastructure. Saying it and doing it are very different things, however, so it will be interesting to see what kind of user experiences come in as SmartCloud and other top management platforms gain field experience.

Hybrid clouds still represent the best way to maintain control over data environments while gaining the flexibility and operational efficiency of the upcoming dynamic data infrastructure. But building them is not an easy task, particularly if the underlying internal physical and virtual infrastructure is not ready.

Rather than simply rush to get something, anything, up on the cloud, a wiser strategy would be to set specific operational goals and then pursue a development path to achieve them, regardless of whether it leads to a public, private, hybrid or any cloud at all.

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