The Increasing Significance of Hybrid Cloud Computing for Enterprises!

Off late there seems to be a  lot of news  and momentum gathering around the Hybrid Clouds. More than a year ago, the thinking and speculations of the key Industry people (such as Russ Daniels, Hewlett-Packard’s CTO for cloud computing and VP of cloud strategy) heavily involved in this field were reflected in some of the news articles

Similarly ,IBM  joined hands with Juniper Networks in such initiatives to demonstrate Hybrid Cloud computing envisaging the need for Hybrid cloud models. Arthur Cole, in an ITBusinessEdge article reported that the “Future belonged to the Hybrid Cloud”

A week ago, Kamesh Pemmaraju from SandHill research wrote an exhaustive blog post on Hybrid Clouds – Best of the Both Worlds . In a quick succession, Lew Mooreman,President ,Cloud and CSO at Rackspace posted an article on similar lines on SandHill’s website

In this blog post ,I have explored and shared some of the key Hybrid Cloud computing perspectives and there seems to be significant case for the momentum to build up for the Hybrid Clouds in the Industry today,especially for large organisations.

The Hybrid Cloud Perspective

Hybrid cloud is a cloud computing environment in which an enterprise runs and manages some of the IT resources in-house and moves other resources (Database processing or Applications) to be externally run on a Public or a Private Cloud.

For example, a Pharmaceutical company conducting large-scale Clinical trials (that may require significant number crunching workloads) might continue to maintain storage for the operational data inside their data center while they can run intensive clinical analysis computational processes on the cloud . This  hybrid approach may help an enterprise to take advantage of the scalability ,while reducing the costs of  computing at that scale on a pay-per use model that a cloud computing environment offers without exposing mission-critical  data to external vulnerabilities and threats.

Essentially , following are some of the key scenarios that could drive enterprises to increasingly explore,adopt and implement Hybrid cloud computing.

  • Complex heterogeneous,highly interconnected  IT deployments inside an enterprise data centers may not be amenable to changes to the extent of migrating significant parts of the IT operations to the Cloud (from a technical or operations perspective) and hence feasible parts of the IT operations may get moved still integrated with other systems inside the native data centers.
  • Workload possibilities offered by Cloud service providers may not match the workload requirements of the enterprises from the perspective of  business,operations and costs.
  • Enterprises may not want to get locked to a specific CLOUD environment (including APIs) in their deployment ,especially considering certain critical application deployments or from a Cost and SLA considerations or for other business reasons such as flexible options to move the IT to another cloud providers.
  • Companies have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in building and managing their own data centers and they will want to leverage their existing investments.
  • The need to Keep some of the business critical  data/data processing in-house for the perceived security vulnerabilities and risks in the external Cloud environment
  • The need to run business critical applications in a similar manner in-house while integrated to other less mission critical applications deployed on external clouds
  • A necessity to run certain applications only on a burst mode (i-e scale it for a temporary period of time,flexibly) to exploit large computing capacities (elastic)  at significantly lower costs (pay per use)
  • The Cloud which can become an “extended arm” of the in-house data center through the VPN-WAN connectivity, the much-needed visibility and control into the IT operations can be maintained in this model without much change management,because existing network management and reporting systems can continue to be used. All the resources would technically be on the same “network”,therefore existing IT management practices can be extended as well and implemented  exactly as if the resources were locally deployed!

External (Hybrid) Cloud Extensions

It is to be recognized that the broader definition of cloud computing includes not only just virtualized, multi-tenant computing services, but also the traditional managed hosting, that owned and managed by a hosting providers for specific customer operations on dedicated server environments in a highly reliable and secure manner,even better than in-house corporate data centers and at a substantially lower cost. While such operative cost savings may not be very high as compared to multi-tenant cloud computing, but they can still be substantial.

Therefore different deployment models and options are possible from an existing in-house data center perspective and based on the business objectives and strategy adopted by an organization in their cloud computing initiatives.

Challenges with the Hybrid Cloud model

The key challenges are attributed to

  • The connectivity between the inhouse data center and the external cloud . Conductivities can exhibit potential traffic congestion,latency or  may have performance issues.
  • If you have a shared leased line,data traffic volume limitations may affect your operations depending on the expected workload volumes and peak workloads.
  • If you choose dedicated network leased lines,then the % utilization of such networks combined with consistency in the performance would be crucial. (e.g. you take a 50 mbps leased line subscription for a year and if your utilization is only 50% , your base cost/TCO goes up)
  • Network disruptions can act as a single point of failure increasing your risks in the hybrid cloud model, if you go for redundancies, your cost also increases.
    • This suggests ,that the deployment objectives Vs costs and risks have to be weighed and tuned as per your business objectives.
  • Network & Systems monitoring and management  overheads can be potentially high as you would need to continuously monitor and optimise both the sides

Even though there are challenges and risks posed such as the ones cited above, the hybrid Cloud model may be well exploited especially by large enterprises in terms of optimizing their IT operations and costs, thereby allowing them to realize the benefits of the cloud computing model without a great change to their IT operations  (policies,procedures,control,resources etc)

Rapid Projected Growth of Hybrid Clouds

A survey by SandHill Group , “Leaders in the Cloud,” points to the envisaged rapid growth for the hybrid cloud model that involves  combined multi-tenant cloud computing, managed hosting, and in-house data centers. The survey indicates that within the enterprise IT firms surveyed, 43 % expected to adopt a hybrid-cloud approach over the next 3 years, up from the present 13% !!.

Another recent  study by SandHill mentions that One Fortune 500 financial company CIO they interviewed as part of our “Leaders in the Cloud” research study said their company will move 20% of their application portfolio to specific clouds that meets the workload characteristics of their applications in the next 3-5 years. With a typical large enterprise application landscape of between 10,000 and 15,000 applications, that 20% translates to 2,000-3,000 applications!

These are significant numbers especially when you map these numbers to several of the large Global 2000 corporations.

Software Vendors enabling the Hybrid Cloud adoption

  • IBM’s Tivoli Cloud management provides a number of software products that can help enable and manage hybrid clouds. But this also comes with significant knowledge of using IBM’s products and it perhaps has more synergies with enterprises which has deployed IBM’s tools.
  • CloudSwitch enterprise about which I had written earlier seems to be a fantastic product and a service just made for deploying Hybrid clouds. It has a very low learning curve and provides very powerful features. E.g.CloudSwitch can help you to slash your time to adopt hybrid cloud models.I will definitely recommend a large company exploring to implement Hybrid Cloud to seriously explore this product. They have a free explorer product where one can start an evaluation within a few hours!!

To Summarize,

  • Hybrid Cloud computing is likely to see a rapid growth in the coming years and especially has a great/strategic  significance with large enterprises. ( in my viewpoint)
  • Cloud Service providers offering least lockins for the clients would be better placed and this can also help drive the adoption if many of the cloud service providers institutionalize common standards,offering flexible movement from one cloud to another.
  • Large companies have to create the right kind of strategy and plan to exploit the Hybrid cloud implementation models for their organizations as they will have a number of options to evaluate different models with different Cloud and Hybrid cloud enabling software vendors.
  • While there can be specific challenges, still Hybrid cloud computing model can provide significant advantages to (large) organizations.
  • Cloud Service providers providing cost-effective,flexible ,highly secure and robust cloud services with extraordinary support and ownership for their clients is likely to gain significantly from this movement as even a small % of business garnered from a few Fortune 2000 companies can provide huge business volumes.
  • Emerging Cloud enabling Software vendors such as Cloudswitch also seems to have a niche segment to play with  significant opportunities to grow

Finally , the Economic uncertainties still lingering in the world today after the depression a year ago,combined with the increasing pressures for large organizations to cut costs and get better ROI could very well increase the significance and adoption of Hybrid clouds for organizations in the coming days!


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DEFINITIONWhat is a hybrid cloud?A hybrid cloud is a cloud computing environment in which an organization provides and manages some resources in-house and has others provided externally. For example, an organization might use a public cloud service, such as Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for archived data but continue to maintain in-house storage for operational customer data. Ideally, the hybrid approach allows a business to take advantage of the scalability and cost-effectiveness that a public cloud computing environment offers without exposing mission-critical applications and data to third-party vulnerabilities.

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