To Hybrid or Not to Hybrid? Is That the Right Cloud Question?

    The debate over the efficacy of the hybrid cloud is likely to continue for as long as there are hybrid clouds. Pure-cloud advocates say hybrids are merely a marketing ploy by vendors looking to preserve their legacy platforms, while hybrid supporters say they are simply meeting the demands of the enterprise community.

    But it seems that lost in the debate is one salient fact: that infrastructure, and even architecture, is quickly becoming a secondary consideration in the deployment of advanced data environments. Rather, many organizations are starting with the needs of the process they wish to support, and then working their way back to systems and applications. Sometimes this leads to a cloud-native solution, sometimes to a hybrid, and sometimes to physical, on-premises infrastructure.

    In Microsoft’s recent State of the Hybrid Cloud report, the company noted that virtually all enterprises have either deployed a hybrid cloud or are planning to do so within the year. But what’s more interesting, says Redmond Channel Partner’s Jeffrey Schwartz, is the finding that nearly half of those who say they have yet to implement a hybrid actually already have one. Part of this is due to the confusion as to what constitutes a hybrid, but it also reflects the fact that IT deployment decisions are increasingly made by line-of-business managers these days, not IT, and they have little interest regarding the mechanics of their underlying infrastructure – they just want their processes to run.

    While the hybrid cloud is intended to provide an integrated computing environment across internal and cloud-based resources, a recent report from IDC suggests that the most effective way to employ the technology is to split data and processing according to various use cases. On the cloud-facing side, applications like social networking, email and web content management are likely to see the highest levels of performance, while internal cloud resources provide the best support for traditional analytics, resource management and back-office applications like ERP and CRM. There will still be times when public and private clouds will need to work in tandem, but it probably won’t be as common as previously thought.

    According to Cirba CTO Andrew Hillier, the key to a successful hybrid cloud is proper governance. In an interview with Beta News, Hillier notes that as resource consumption, workload deployment and cost structures evolve from cyclical to dynamic processes, organizations will have to adjust their approach to governance as well. Unfortunately, governance is usually one of the last considerations in the dev/test process, leaving many organizations in shock when the true cost and complexity of hybrid deployments emerge in real-world production environments. What’s needed, he says, is a formal set of guidelines regarding workload placement and other factors coded directly into analytics and automation systems so that governance becomes a core principle in the hybrid cloud, not just a documentation or awareness exercise.

    And just as the cloud itself has proved most effective at supporting native applications as opposed to traditional data center functions, the hybrid cloud is likely to produce its own set of optimized services, says TECA President Michael Otey. The most likely areas to receive a hybrid makeover are dev/test, which will gain agile new processes and lower cost structures, and backup/DR, which will see greater diversity among mirrored sites and replication and recovery functions.

    For IT executives asking, “do I need a hybrid cloud,” the answer is decidedly “maybe,” but only because this should be one of the last questions to ask, not the first. The real starting point is to sit down with business leaders, users, partners, and any other stakeholders and figure out the organizational goals and then determine the right mix of technologies to achieve them quickly and efficiently.

    As with any journey, you’ll have a much easier time determining how to travel after you’ve decided where you want to go.

    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.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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