Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: The Art of the Hybrid Cloud

What hybrid cloud? It's hybrid IT

The concept of hybrid cloud is evolving into an enterprise IT environment that encompasses multiple cloud models and vendors, providing agility and scalability as well as creating complexity that needs to be managed.

Hybrid cloud may be garnering increased interest and adoption, but it is already giving way to new terms such as hybrid IT and hybrid enterprise, which industry folks say are the next phase of the cloud evolution.

With increasing maturity and understanding of cloud services through actual deployment, the business IT environment is no longer simply defined as a public, private, or even hybrid cloud model. Instead, it is about managing an infrastructure that can offer agility and scalability, as well as the best platform on which to deliver applications.

"I sense even the term hybrid cloud is approaching a use-by date. If anything, I'm hearing more about hybrid IT," said Bob Hayward, Singapore's managing director at KPMG, at the Asia-Pacific Centre of Excellence for IT Leaders. "As public clouds, private clouds, and community clouds are adopted, the 'old' IT environment is rarely completely replaced.

"As a result, many processes use systems that span cloud of all types, as well as highly virtualized stacks, new software-defined infrastructure, and a legacy traditional IT environment," Hayward said.

Chris Levanes, CenturyLink's Asia-Pacific director of cloud and managed hosting, agreed. He noted that hybrid cloud should be seen as a subset of hybrid IT, with a mix of outsourced and in-house IT services, which can comprise datacenter collocation, managed hosting, network, and cloud services.

He added that a managed hybrid IT strategy offers businesses the flexibility and agility to move IT workloads so they can operate a more optimal platform.

"Cloud technologies can be highly beneficial and offer many advantages, such as elasticity and scalability. However, there often are requirements that may drive organizations toward other deployment approaches," Levanes said, pointing to applications that require exceptional levels of performance, direct access to the underlying hardware, or compliance of regulatory stipulations.

"[These] considerations of bandwidth, data transfer costs, and security can have an impact on a desired solution. Meeting business and IT goals often require more than just a hybrid or public cloud strategy. They require a comprehensive managed hybrid IT strategy," he said.

This approach would allow businesses to easily expand geographically, and scale to meet fast-changing market trends, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), mobility, and e-commerce, he added.

According to Simon Naylor, ASEAN and Japan vice president of Riverbed Technology, IT innovations are pushing bandwidth demands up by 28 percent each year, through to 2017. Citing statistics from Gartner, he said this increase is due to enterprise adoption of cloud computing, mobile devices, and video.

Naylor added that the increase in bandwidth requirements is in turn driving the growth of hybrid networks. "The hybrid cloud has evolved with the appearance of what we call hybrid enterprise. Now, it's not just where apps, compute, or storage are hosted, it's also how they're accessed and delivered," he said, adding that the delivery platform is also going hybrid.

He noted that private networks are being coupled with VPNs and public online offerings for different delivery options, with mission-critical applications delivered on more costly private channels while bulk loads such as backup would run on cheaper public networks.

These applications are also being accessed remotely via a multitude of mobile devices, creating increasing complexities for the enterprise in terms of how they manage their IT environment. "It is this combination of private and public assets delivering essential business services that defines the hybrid enterprise," he said.

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Charlie Dai, Forrester's principal analyst, further noted that hybrid cloud is not simply about running public and private simultaneously, but also about gaining automation for business agility.

She pointed to the need to operate digital businesses as well as the emergence of IoT and mobility as the main drivers for hybrid cloud deployment.

Dai added that businesses should not view a hybrid model as a way to cut costs.

Levanes said, "A hybrid IT environment gives organizations the advantage of customizing their infrastructures and solutions to meet their specific data, security and regulatory, scalability, and capacity needs.

"It strikes the right balance of on-premise and off-premise compute, networking, and storage resources, and is more relevant to customer requirements of aligning business and IT," he said.

Rise of the cloud brokers

Hayward urged enterprises to look past concerns about security and data sovereignty, or even the location of datacenters. While there are issues to consider with any cloud service, they should not necessarily lead to the decision to deploy hybrid cloud.

"In reality, hybrid cloud has very little to do with datacenter location or data sovereignty. It is where processes increasingly require functionality that spans multiple cloud services," he explained. "Everything we do in business is unlikely to be fully available from just one cloud or even just one cloud provider."

He noted that operating a modern business is complex, and supporting all functions necessary in a process typically means deploying several clouds from multiple providers across different geographic locations. These would then have to be brokered, integrated, and orchestrated, he said, giving rise to concerns about how this should be managed.

In fact, this increased complexity has led to the emergence of new business models involving cloud brokers and aggregators.

"Many IT services firms see their future as a new form of intermediary to provide that single point of accountability, while they deal with the back end of multiple cloud services," Hayward explained. "However, many also struggle, since they also provide some of those back-end services and are viewed as having a conflict of interest."

Naylor further highlighted the need for visibility so the root source of an issue or sluggish performance could be quickly identified and addressed.

He said there are tools and technologies in the market that could track down and isolate the cause of service bottlenecks and outages, so problems could be narrowed down and resolved swiftly.

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