A Rocky Road to the Hybrid Cloud

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Seven Rules for Information Governance in the Cloud

A roadmap to information governance in the cloud.

The popular consensus is that 2011 will be the year of the cloud. Well, not quite. More likely, it will be the year of the hybrid cloud.

Despite what appears to be a mad rush to push infrastructure concerns to someone else, the fact is that most enterprises will be content to test the cloud waters over the next few years. The best way to do that is to integrate local resources with those available on the cloud. In that way, you retain control over data and applications while scaling resources up when the need arises.

But if that sounds simple, it's not. The fact is, there are a number of pain points when it comes to integrating internal and external infrastructure, not the least of which is selecting among the various types of hybrid environments that are taking shape. Cisco's Brian Gracely laid out several options in his "Clouds of Change" blog recently. Among them are an "in-sourced/out-sourced" applications model in which clear lines are drawn between what is to remain in-house and what can be put on the cloud, and the gateway model in which on-site hardware is used to support a growing roster of cloud services. More complex models incorporate techniques like application mobility and portability and multiple cloud/IaaS/PaaS configurations. Selecting a particular model will depend very much on your comfort level with cloud technology and your specific data needs.

Regardless of your organizational patterns, however, every hybrid cloud needs a core set of capabilities in order to be effective, according to Skytap's Sundar Raghavan. Among them are a self-service interface, a secure architecture and a configurable role-based user access control (UAC) mechanism. With these tools, admins will have a much easier time setting permission levels and monitoring exactly how the cloud is being used, and by whom. Other key requirements include clear-cut quota and charge-back policies and robust snapshot and collaboration tools to ensure smooth functioning of multiple interconnected services.

Unfortunately, says Gartner's Chris Wolf, too many people think simply enabling VM portability across internal and external infrastructure is the answer to hybrid cloud operations. The reality, though, is that a whole host of additional factors come into play once you shift from a test environment to actual production workloads. Tasks like backup and archiving become much more complex in a hybrid environment, as does overall data and VM management. Current management systems may be very adept at in-house or cloud environments, but not both.

That may be about to change, however. New mash-ups between virtual and cloud management firms are looking to bridge that divide. Virtual management firm GigaSpaces recently teamed up with CloudTran to devise a cohesive system for transaction processing. The package matches CloudTran's management middleware with GigaSpace's eXtreme Application Platform to create a Java-based system for managing large databases across public, private and hybrid environments.

Cloud purists will no doubt point to these challenges as evidence of hybrid and even private cloud inefficacy. But the fact is that management issues will continue to rear their ugly heads no matter which data architecture you choose to pursue.

Done right, a hybrid cloud can provide a highly fluid environment with all the advantages of both public and private clouds. But getting there won't be a walk in the park.