Arguing over which kind of cloud is “best” for the enterprise is like arguing over what kind of apple tastes better than the others. Some people like the crispy sweetness of the Red Delicious, others the floral spiciness of the Courtland or the classic apple-taste of the Macintosh. And then the criteria change completely if you plan to bake a pie, make applesauce or press some cider.
The best cloud, therefore, is obviously the one that satisfies strategic and operational objectives to the highest degree, which means that most enterprises are going to rely on a mix of public, private and hybrid infrastructure to get the job done.
The public cloud has been available at scale for some time, which is why it has garnered much of the workload thus far. But with the enterprise finally making headway in converting legacy infrastructure into clouds, it stands to reason that public and hybrid solutions will start to show significant gains. This is being borne out by a recent report by Sandler Research, which pegs compound annual growth of the hybrid cloud market at 29 percent from now until 2019. Part of this is due to a demand push by vendors like Microsoft and Fujitsu, who are devising integrated on-premises-to-cloud solutions, but it also results from the desire among enterprise users to accommodate both the scale and management/security needs of key applications.
The management infrastructure, of course, is one of the more difficult things to accomplish precisely because it needs to encompass both internal and external resources. This is why providers like AT&T are teaming up with data management experts to provide built-in capabilities for their hybrid platforms. AT&T’s NetBond service is now backed by the CSC Agility Platform that oversees workload management across the cloud. A key attribute is the ability to apply internal security policies to cloud resources while at the same time providing a single dashboard to manage and automate the environment.
Again, though, the hybrid cloud is only the best solution if it is deployed for the right reasons. As V3 Broadstreet Co-CEO Shelly Kramer explains on Dell’s technology blog site, if an application is functioning properly at the moment and there is no pressing need to scale, it probably does not need a hybrid cloud. This isn’t to say that the enterprise should hold off on the hybrid cloud entirely, just that a successful deployment will require a deep understanding of applications, operations, strategic visions and the overall connectedness of everything in the enterprise. And more than likely, you’ll need to bring in outside experts to see it through.
It’s also a bad idea to let headlines drive your cloud thinking, says IT consultant Keith Townsend on TechRepublic. A case in point is the recent Amazon outage, which many pundits took as an opportunity to tout the hybrid cloud. While it’s true that hybrids can provide a level of redundancy that is lacking in pure-public approaches, this has to be weighed against factors like scale, complexity, cost and flexibility. The true challenge is not to build an infrastructure that is immune to failure, but to create applications and services that can navigate around failures when they do happen.
All of this is still further evidence of the fundamental shift that virtualization and the cloud has brought to the relationships between infrastructure, applications, data and users. Whereas the limits of infrastructure once dictated exactly who could do what with their data, the situation is now almost completely reversed: Users and apps define what they need and the infrastructure is compiled to suit. We’re not quite at the point of anytime/anywhere infrastructure, but with a strong mix of public, private and hybrid resources, we are getting awfully close.
Apples, however, remain a purely personal choice.
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.