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There are No Strangers in True Hybrid Infrastructures

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October 1, 2014
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“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” Translation: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The aforementioned aphorism is true of technology in general and the challenges of implementing and deploying a hybrid cloud.

A generation ago, in the late 1980s, IT departments grappled with integration and interoperability issues related to technology silos created by disparate server hardware, server operating systems, applications and application programming interfaces (APIs). In 2014, IT departments face a similar conundrum in surmounting the difficulties presented by disparate hypervisors and APIs. This lack of interoperability creates infrastructure silos and makes it difficult to integrate myriad and multiple virtual machine (VM) workloads and move them among private and cloud infrastructures.

These issues are exacerbated as hybrid cloud adoption ramps up. A Gartner Group October 2013 report titled, “Private Cloud Matures, Hybrid Cloud is Next,” estimates that 50%  of businesses will have hybrid cloud deployments by 2017.

The most straightforward definition of a hybrid cloud is that it is a combination of both a hosted off-premises public cloud as well as an on-premises private cloud. But a hybrid cloud is far more than the sum of these two parts.  In theory, a hybrid cloud should let businesses align their corporation’s requirements to leverage the best technological features of both public and private clouds in order to maximize the business benefits.

This is often easier said than done.

Initially, many businesses opted for a public cloud infrastructure, hosted off-premises by third party providers, because of well-documented benefits such as a pay-for-use utility services model; the ability to offload daily operational managerial tasks and the ability to leverage shared resources and services to lower capital and operational expenditure costs.

Private clouds, which are typically (but not exclusively) hosted on-premises, were initially much less popular than public clouds. Recently, they have steadily gained favor among many organizations for the benefits that they deliver including the ability to provide organizations with greater levels of security and managerial control behind the firewall to secure the most sensitive corporate data. This includes safeguarding the company’s intellectual property (IP) and sensitive employee data. Private clouds appeal to companies across all vertical markets but particularly to those firms in banking and finance, healthcare, government et al, where compliance regulations and governance are of paramount concern.

Infrastructure Silos Impede Hybrid Cloud Adoption

In its white paper, “Cloud Fabric, Enabling the Hybrid Clouds,” Peak 10’s technology partner Zerto, details the inherent barriers and challenges to hybrid cloud adoption.

Infrastructure silos, incompatible hypervisors and the inability to perform full workload conversions currently constitute the biggest barriers to hybrid cloud adoption, according to Zerto.
In hybrid cloud environments, the workloads may or may not be integrated and connected. However, in the interest of seamless monitoring and security, the hybrid cloud should always allow the IT department to have common management of and a singular view into the workings of both its public and private cloud environments.

Information silos and integration concerns can delay or altogether derail a corporation’s hybrid cloud deployment because they are unable to integrate their existing IT infrastructure to support mission critical workloads across their data centers, mobile platforms and social networks. Customers’ hybrid cloud initiatives are further stymied by a lack of available third-party independent software vendor (ISV) and application support and seamless integration between their public and private clouds to enable end users, business partners and suppliers to share and exchange applications and information.

Cloud Fabric Overcomes Hybrid Cloud Barriers

Organizations that opt for a hybrid cloud environment must ensure that their public cloud service providers and their internal IT departments provide crucial integration and interoperability between the public and private clouds. End users need seamless, transparent access to corporate data irrespective of whether the data resides in the public or private cloud.

The key tenets and foundational underpinning of a hybrid cloud is to maximize business and technology efficiencies by deriving optimal value from both the public and private clouds. Unfortunately, organizations find it difficult to easily meld the two environments because applications cannot simply be shared if there are disparate hypervisors, different cloud providers and different APIs. Corporations also have no guarantees that their existing managed cloud providers will work with them to architect a singular, managed and secure hybrid environment. The absence of true integration between an organization’s public and private cloud networks will severely curtail its business agility and flexibility. Additionally, the company may find itself unable to quickly respond to changing market dynamics or security threats.

Many of the major cloud providers, including Peak 10, offer services to assist mid-sized and enterprise organizations in architecting, deploying and maintaining hybrid cloud environments. Zerto’s white paper makes the case for the adoption of a “Cloud Fabric,” which it defines as a “new infrastructure concept which enables application mobility and protection across public, managed and private clouds, and across different hypervisors.”

Zerto posits that deploying a Cloud Fabric infrastructure will enable organizations to achieve a “true, production grade hybrid cloud that has the ability to mobilize and protect production workloads between different infrastructure types. “

To reiterate, hybrid clouds must be properly architected, deployed and managed in order for corporate customers to realize the technology and business benefits. This is a complex task. For starters, organizations must have a robust, reliable, security and highly manageable private cloud that is flexible and agile to provide the scalability to grow with the business needs. That means re-architecting the on-premises network to an open platform that can support VMs, public clouds running Big Data and analytics applications.

The conversion from a traditional IT computing environment must also incorporate the capabilities inherent in public cloud deployments such as workload balancing and the ability to support scalable dynamic; the ability to quickly and efficiently provision new applications and provide a well-defined chargeback capability to delineate costs among various groups and departments. Security is another crucial consideration, and it is one of the top issues most often cited by corporations as a deterrent to hybrid cloud adoption.  Some 74% of mid-sized companies and large enterprises listed security as one of their chief concerns and an impediment to their hybrid cloud deployments, according to an August 2014 survey of 800 companies by Boston-based research firm Information Technology Intelligence Corp.

Above all, any organization contemplating a hybrid cloud environment must have an overarching management platform that seamless integrates the public and private clouds to enable IT managers to have a singular overview of all network resources.

The Cloud Fabric workload mobility and protection layer in a hybrid cloud environment can overcome the barriers to hybrid cloud adoption, according to Zerto. The Cloud Fabric provides “seamless connectivity, portability, protection, orchestration and application encapsulation.”

This fulfills the promise of hybrid cloud and enables the seamless mobility of workloads across private and public clouds. 
Mid-sized corporations often lack the budget and in-house IT expertise to seamlessly and successfully build a hybrid cloud.  Utilizing Cloud Fabric provides businesses with a technically elegant and full-featured solution. At the same time, they are not locked into to any one cloud provider, technology or vendor.

Cloud Fabric: Seamless Stepping Stone to Hybrid Cloud

Cloud Fabric melds the disparate infrastructure components of public and private clouds allowing workloads to run on any network, hypervisor or storage product. According to Zerto, Cloud Fabric has “no infrastructure interdependencies.”

Cloud Fabric offers businesses the potential to seamlessly and efficiently realize the benefits of a hybrid cloud deployment minus the potential disruption and managerial headaches as a result of integration issues. Cloud Fabric can deliver a slew of technical and business benefits, including:

  • A reduction in hybrid cloud deployment, provisioning and management complexity
  • Improved flexibility in terms of configuration and response times
  • Built-in application infrastructure protection via application encapsulation that links crucial configurations as well as data and applications
  • A more dynamic, scalable environment that protects the company’s investment in legacy equipment, applications and networks, future-proofing the environment.

Conclusions

Before proceeding with any cloud deployment, businesses should first conduct a thorough assessment their existing infrastructure and determine and prioritize the business drivers for a hybrid cloud environment. Additionally, all of the appropriate stakeholders – including the C-level executives, network managers and application developers– should be involved in providing input on: budget, timetable for the deployment and the specifics on which portions of the infrastructure will be incorporated as part of the private and public cloud deployment.

The key elements to any successful deployment are the “Three C’s:” communication, cooperation and collaboration. The technology is only as effective as the people who are managing it.

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