Still Some Wrinkles in the Hybrid Cloud

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Hybrid clouds are certainly catching on in the enterprise even though many questions remain regarding their configuration and overall purpose.

As management firm RightScale noted in a recent business survey, enterprises of all sizes are ramping up private cloud infrastructure largely as a means to pursue hybrid strategies. The goal, it seems, is to provide as much redundancy in cloud architectures as possible, ensuring that data loads are spread across a wide footprint of both internal and external resources. The survey revealed that more than half of businesses are closing in on hybrid clouds while nearly 70 percent say they are pursuing multi-cloud infrastructures.

Wanting and getting are two different things, however. As Network Computing's Mike Fratto pointed out recently, hybrid clouds require a fair bit of juggling to ensure applications and data can get to the right place at the right time. Generally, this will require multiple copies of applications housed on various resources, with associated maintenance and updates so that all is ready when the need arises. Keep in mind that this will have to be done without the well-defined VLAN IDs and IP subnets that you're used to in-house. At a minimum, static IP addresses will have to go so applications can sync host names to IP on their own.

The ability to shift both workloads and development efforts onto the cloud has not been lost on top data center platform providers either. Microsoft has been pitching Windows Server 2012 and the Azure cloud as the next-generation operating system capable of boosting capacity at a moment's notice. The platform supports up to 320 logical processors per server and 4 TB of memory. It also allows you to host apps or entire virtual machines (Linux included) in the cloud while keeping data tucked safely behind the corporate firewall, which Microsoft hopes will go a long way toward easing fears about security and data loss on the cloud.

Meanwhile, Red Hat is building its hybrid strategy around CloudForms, an open management system designed to allow enterprises to build complete IaaS architectures with self-service provisioning and a full suite of governance and security tools. The package enables cloud functionality across multiple third-party platforms, as well as Red Hat's own systems like Enterprise Linux and Enterprise Virtualization, JBoss Enterprise Middleware and Red Hat Storage. The intent is to provide easy portability of compute, data and services across public, private and hybrid infrastructure while avoiding vendor lock-in of proprietary systems.

Clearly, it will take some time and a fair amount of experimentation before enterprises gain the confidence to push hybrid clouds to the level of functionality that vendors and system developers envision. Things like cloud bursting, dynamic load balancing and limitless scalability sound good on paper, but numerous practical considerations will need to be addressed before the imagined can become reality.