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Unlocking the True Potential of Hybrid Cloud

Automation and orchestration is the key to moving a cloud between its private and public manifestations.

There has been a plethora of news announcements this year regarding hybrid clouds, many which blur the distinction between public and private clouds.  So what is a hybrid cloud, and how does it relate to public and private clouds?
One commonly promoted view is that a hybrid cloud is a combination of public and private clouds, where application instances can be moved between them (from private to public cloud, and the reverse). 

In 2011 NIST defined a hybrid cloud deployment model this way (from The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing, by Peter Mell and Timothy Grance):

The cloud infrastructure is a composition of two or more distinct cloud infrastructures (private, community, or public) that remain unique entities, but are bound together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability (e.g., cloud bursting for load balancing between clouds).

This is a good definition -- it indicates that data and applications should be portable between cloud infrastructures, and provides an example of how it might be used.

While these characteristics are sufficient as a basis for discussing hybrid clouds, we need a bit more to make use of them, in practice. One of the big challenges lies in porting the applications and data between the cloud infrastructures.  Another is in the dependencies that an application may have on datacenter services that cannot be relocated.

Getting an application running in the data center to run in the public cloud can involve many manual processes for each component of the application and data. This can be very slow, costly, and prone to errors, negating the benefits of moving the application.

Also, the application may require local services that are unsuitable for movement to the public cloud (eg. for reasons such as security or compliance) or are unavailable there. For example, organizations may not allow their LDAP credentials to leave their datacenter or may have regulatory requirements governing how particular types of data must be protected. These issues limit the use and adoption of the hybrid cloud deployment model, and must be addressed for hybrid cloud to reach its true potential.

The real power of a hybrid cloud operating model extends well beyond manual data and application portability and even the potential for cloud bursting; it sets the stage for a new generation of solutions and operating capabilities that will establish new levels of agility, protection and scalability for physical and virtual apps (including multi-tier ones), without requiring their modification.  It requires what we call hybrid cloud automation.

Hybrid cloud automation provides automatic porting, conversion, and synchronization of the components required for the application to run. This includes not only application binaries and data, but also images of the underlying systems that they run on, down to the operating system kernel. External services that the application requires, such as authentication or file services, are automatically extended to the target cloud or replicated to it.

Hybrid cloud automation enables easy application mobility and extension across, and creating synergy between the different cloud infrastructures.

The hybrid cloud operating model.

Figure 1. Make sure you create the right type of file share if you're planning to store your VMs on file shares. (Click image to view larger version.)

The blue shading in Fig. 1 indicates the seamless integration and management of all environments and locations, including public and private cloud. There should be no lock-in between public and private, no virtualization requirement, no separation of clouds for production versus pre-production. 

A hybrid cloud should not be two separate clouds connected by manual processes, but rather a unified environment with apps and services capable of being deployed where needed as needed for protection, (think cloud continuity), dev-test and patching (think cloud cloning), as well as cloud bursting and new solutions that we have not yet imagined. Ultimately, the idea of cloud migration becomes unnecessary.

Fig. 2 shows the power of synergy and the relative (theoretical) benefits of hybrid cloud virtualization over server virtualization around key efficiency, scalability, availability and protection metrics.

The hybrid cloud operating model.

Figure 2. Hybrid cloud promises to leverage IaaS as a seamless extension of the data center, delivering higher levels of agility, resilience and scalability over private cloud. (Click image to view larger version.)

This chart doesn't present data; but tries to illustrate how a unified hybrid cloud will be more scalable, resilient, agile, and efficient than the same environment confined within a private cloud or a data center.

As more IaaS options emerge over the next few years, it makes sense to keep your hybrid cloud options open and not be locked in to any single cloud, private or public.

So perhaps it is time to think bigger when it comes to hybrid cloud, beyond the limits of older technologies further trapped in legacy mindsets.  Let us utilize hybrid cloud to its true potential, as a revolution in the delivery of IT services.

About the Authors

Anand Iyengar is CTO/Co-Founder of CloudVelocity, which develops software that allows existing and new multi-tier apps to run seamlessly between data centers and clouds without modification.

Gregory Ness is VP Marketing at CloudVelocity.

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