For companies protective of their IT operations and data, wholesale public cloud computing adoption can be a difficult pill to swallow. But cloud momentum is too strong a trend to ignore. Enter the hybrid cloud — a panacea of sorts, enabling companies to maintain a mix of on-premise and off-premise cloud computing resources, both public and private, managed through a common framework to simplify operations. This concept has steadily gathered steam over the last year and a half, and now appears poised to capture the minds, and wallets, of corporations in 2010.
First, let’s take a look at the reasons leading corporations to consider hybrid clouds, then the means for them to get there. Data security and control are most frequently mentioned as the drivers for corporations to own and manage a portion of their infrastructure. Most corporations have longstanding cultural biases toward keeping core IT assets in-house that are unlikely to change anytime soon.
That said, companies also want to take advantage of public cloud resources. One reason hybrid clouds are proliferating is to enable “cloudbursting,” or the ability to seamlessly and automatically grow workloads into public cloud resources for a period of time, and then decommission them once the heavy loads subside. For industries such as finance and health care, compliance regulations limit the number of public cloud offerings they can use, forcing some of their infrastructure to remain in-house.
Simple negotiating leverage will lead companies not to put all of their eggs in one public cloud basket, and maintaining private infrastructure provides one way to control, although not necessarily minimize, infrastructure costs. Also, the demands of a typical enterprise do not have the wide load swings of web applications, and in the cases where resource demand can be forecasted, owning infrastructure as a financed capital expense can be more advantageous than high monthly operating expenses.
The hybrid cloud market is being addressed by large technology vendors as well as open-source software projects in what might be classified as the ultimate battle between lock-in and unlock. On the large vendor side, VMware has been busy enabling both enterprises and service providers with a range of virtualization tools to deliver migration of virtual machines between on-premise and off-premise infrastructures. The company’s vCloud Express initiative allows service providers to offer infrastructure as a service offerings for enterprises while maintaining compatibility with internal VMware deployments.
HP recently announced three offerings aimed at companies using both physical on-premise and cloud servers, including HP Operations Orchestration for provisioning, HP Cloud Assure for cost control, and HP Communications as a Service for service providers to offer small businesses on-demand solutions.
Microsoft has focused its Azure cloud platform on enterprises that can use the same Windows and .NET development frameworks on services internally and on the cloud. See our posts “Microsoft Azure Walks a Thin Blue Line” and “Will Microsoft Drive Cloud Revenues in 2010?” Even Amazon has started to reach towards hybrid deployment models with its Virtual Private Cloud service positioned as “a secure and seamless bridge between a company’s existing IT infrastructure and the AWS cloud.”
Approaching the market from another direction is a set of companies and open-source software projects that provide on-premise and public cloud integration. Eucalyptus is perhaps the best known in this category and provides open-source software infrastructure for on-premise cloud computing. Eucalyptus includes the ability to work within VMware environments and provision resources to Amazon Web Services.
Open Nebula, an open-source project out of the Distributed Systems Architecture Group at the Complutense University of Madrid, creates a new virtualization layer that “supports the dynamic execution of multi-tier services on a distributed infrastructure consisting of both data center resources and remote cloud resources.” And Nimbus, focused primarily on the scientific community, also provides a virtualization framework to help manage cloud deployments for infrastructure as a service.
The good news for enterprises considering hybrid cloud computing deployments is the range of options on the table. From the fully integrated end-to-end solutions like VMware or Azure, to the open-source solutions that provide more choice, the time is right to jump in and benefit from the cost savings, flexibility, and technology advances delivered by hybrid clouds.