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The Hybrid Cloud Should Be Whatever You Need It to Be

04.06.2014
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One of the major conclusions revealed in the data from DZone’s 2014 Cloud Platform Research Report was a distaste for trade-offs. IT professionals don’t want to choose between the benefits of public cloud and the benefits of private cloud.  That became clear when 57% of the 600 respondents in the cloud platform audience survey said that a hybrid cloud was their ideal platform. 

A hybrid cloud exists when an organization can use both public and private cloud infrastructure with the ability to move computing workloads between them.  This is a very general definition, but given the significant variety of hybrid cloud architectures, it may be too limiting to write a more specific definition.  That leaves us with a big question: “How do you implement a hybrid cloud?”

First, let’s look at why an organization would want a hybrid cloud in the first place:

Hybrid cloud benefits

  • Application architecture can take advantage of dedicated server performance and public cloud scalability

  • Root access can be given judiciously to the users of sensitive, private infrastructure segments

  • Custom network segmentation can be built to divide your architecture based on public and private cloud usage

  • Custom rules can define if and where multi-tenancy should be used.

  • Customized hardware can be used to meet specific performance requirements

  • Configurations can allow dedicated servers to communicate with cloud servers on a private network

  • Applications have a scalability safety net with the public cloud infrastructure options


Common use cases for hybrid cloud

  • Making extensive backups onto public cloud services from private datacenters

  • Handling traffic spikes on the private cloud with additional, on-demand resources in the public cloud

  • Building proof-of-concept projects quickly with readily accessible public cloud resources

It’s certainly not the case that everyone needs a hybrid cloud to do what they need.  Many startups and other growing organizations don’t have the security requirements or other challenges that prevent some companies from building everything in the public cloud.  Legacy technology built before the cloud era is one of the common roadblocks for moving applications to the public cloud. 

Sometimes these older companies can only hope for a private cloud infrastructure if they lack the resources to build a hybrid cloud solution.  However, the hybrid cloud should rarely be out of reach for organizations that need it and have the resources to build it.  The tools are out there so there’s no reason to wait if hybrid cloud is what you want.  


Hybrid cloud tools and styles

The broad definition of hybrid cloud can be viewed as a good thing when you consider the variety of ways that an organization could coordinate the computing workloads across different infrastructures to achieve the maximum benefit for their use case. 

One common element in every hybrid cloud system is a form of connector technology for moving data, applications, or workloads to another type of cloud infrastructure.  These can be open source, built in-house, or obtained through a hybrid cloud commercial product offering.  The following are features that a connector might have:

  • Production workload mobility across public and private infrastructure regardless of complexity or size without interruption

  • No requirement to change routing or firewall settings at the recovery site when moving workloads, even for highly dynamic networks

  • Support for moving workloads between any type of hypervisor while preserving application properties

Commercial examples include Rackspace’s RackConnect or Microsoft’s Service Bus Relay.  Both technologies will allow you to keep your own on-premise infrastructure or use the vendor’s private infrastructure while connecting to a public cloud.  Sometimes the vendor’s public cloud, if they offer one, is the only compatible connection.  The key feature is the ability to make workloads and data inside the corporate firewall accessible to public cloud infrastructure without requiring intrusive changes to the organization’s network infrastructure.

Connectors can also come from a network technology provider rather than a cloud vendor.  Cisco’s new InterCloud technology is a prime example.  Like many other connectors, it can combine and move workloads across public and private infrastructure while maintaining network and security policies.  Instead of having to use a specific cloud provider from the company that created the connector, InterCloud can connect any cloud providers as long as the private cloud infrastructure is based on Cisco-powered services such as CSC/ServiceMesh, CenturyLink Technology Solutions, BT, and Virtustream.  The customer can choose from any public cloud provider that supports InterCloud.  A vendor of hybrid cloud connectors will usually need to recruit cloud providers to allow support for their technology.  AWS and Windows Azure are two providers that Cisco has partnered with to provide InterCloud support.

HubSpot, a marketing software provider, took this basic connector approach even further by building their own hybrid enabling technology called RainMaker. RainMaker deploys, configures, and tests applications in minutes by spinning up all of the public and private environments available to HubSpot.  RainMaker can do this on-demand with complete control and full visibility.  HubSpot’s example of custom hybrid technology illustrates why it’s important to be broad and inclusive with our definition of hybrid cloud architecture.  There are infinite possibilities for the type of system an organization could craft for their specific use case, and that creativity shouldn’t be stifled.


Build hybrid into your organization’s habits

Getting the maximum potential benefits from hybrid cloud is not something you can achieve in a month by buying and installing a connector.  Hybrid cloud is something you need to build carefully, choosing each technology methodically.  The good news is that there’s nothing stopping you from starting today.  All of the tools and use case examples are available for assessment. 

A public cloud can give you the scale and freedom to quickly build just about any application, but budgets, security policies, or specific performance requirements can become barriers to creating those applications.  A private cloud can remedy some of these barriers but it creates barriers of its own.  A fixed number of on-premise machines can only scale so far, and even if you use a third-party private cloud (Virtual Private Cloud) you will be giving up the fine grained control that you would have on in-house machines.

The point is that strongly defined technologies will have clear barriers that can end up stifling the technological possibilities for your organization.  Using only a few types of technology exclusively will almost always involve trade-offs.  To finally escape this cycle of cloud technology trade-offs, organizations will need to consistently work on building their hybrid cloud, not something out of the box.  It’s requires more effort, but the freedom of building your own interpretation of hybrid cloud into the fabric of your production process will make your organization more competitive.