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01 February 2015

Want to know what hybrid cloud is and why you need it? Heng Wai Mun, Head of Hosting and Cloud Services at Singtel, gives you the answers.

Gartner’s 2014 “Hype Cycle for emerging technologies1” lists hybrid cloud as being close to the “trough of disillusionment” and less than two years away from “Plateau”. What does this mean in plain English? Essentially, it means that the hype about hybrid cloud is over and people are about to start rolling up their sleeves to implement hybrid cloud technology. According to a recent report by Tech Pro Research2, 70% of companies globally are currently using or evaluating a hybrid cloud.

We interviewed Heng Wai Mun, Head of Hosting and Cloud Services at Singtel, who said that hybrid cloud is going to be a vital component of almost every data centre. He explained that even though the momentum towards hybrid cloud adoption is gathering pace, they still come across far too many IT professionals looking for answers to a couple of basic questions:

What is hybrid cloud? Why will I need hybrid cloud?

Definition

The “WhatIs.com” definition - A hybrid cloud is a cloud computing environment in which an organisation provides and manages some resources in-house and has others provided externally.

The “Wikipedia” definition - Hybrid cloud is a composition of two or more clouds (private, community or public) that remain distinct entities but are bound together, offering the benefits of multiple deployment models.

The devil is in the details

These macro definitions often confuse more than clarify people’s understanding of what hybrid cloud computing is and should be.

Having a combination of public and private does not mean you have a hybrid cloud immediately.

The “magic sauce” according to Mr. Heng is the connection between the two. “The connection can be achieved in various ways but typically it will be via VPN and it is critical that the network management is abstracted from the networking hardware”. He explains further: “Enabling orchestration across this connection is the other big differentiator”. Orchestration is the ability to run and load balance computing processes and workload across all components of your hybrid cloud. Successful orchestration depends on true interoperability between your on-premise IT and your cloud environment to ensure a seamless experience across these different environments. Any serious cloud provider must provide you with orchestration management via portal access.

Two additional aspects of cloud computing – whether public, private or hybrid – are portability and interoperability. Data may need to move between applications, systems and platforms. This portability requires that the underlying systems, including servers, storage and networks are able to interoperate. These two requirements further introduce complexity in what IT is already expected to manage - in-house, private, public or hybrid.

“The key is to have the correct level of networking skills to create the connection as you need it. Once the connection is in place between your public and private cloud allowing for flexible movement and sharing of data and compute resources between the two, only then, in our opinion, do you have a hybrid cloud,” he continues.

Why you need a hybrid cloud?

Having clarified what hybrid cloud is, the next logical question is, "why does it even matter?"

There are distinct benefits of a hybrid cloud solution for organisations undecided on which technology path to take. A hybrid approach allows an organisation to experience the cloud without a wholesale exit from an organisation’s existing IT strategy. Let’s face it, most enterprises have invested in infrastructure over periods of years and migrating wholesale is neither practical nor risk free.

Hybrid cloud allows an organisation to realise the benefits of flexibility and scalability of the cloud while containing the risks and ensuring compliance. With a hybrid approach, an organisation can keep its data local to meet sovereignty or other regulatory compliance issues, including data security, without sacrificing the ability to draw on resources when needed.

Many businesses must follow cycles of peaks and downturns. A hybrid approach gives them the ability to draw upon the additional computing resources for peak workloads and scale back down when business is quiet.

Conclusion

If the transformation of multinational IT vendors into cloud-oriented companies is any indicator, we are witnessing a seismic shift in corporate IT today.

Mr. Heng highlighted some tangible examples of how providers can assist businesses in their move to the cloud.

Backup and disaster recovery (DR)

For backup, hybrid offers a readymade solution with primary data residing on a private cloud being backed up to a more cost effective scalable storage on a public cloud. When it comes to DR and Business Continuity (BC), hybrid is arguably a revolutionary approach. Hybrid allows companies that previously could not entertain the cost and complexity of building a DR infrastructure to do so.

Development and testing

The benefits gained from using hybrid cloud for development and test environments are simply huge. Test environments can be easily and quickly set up when required. When testing is complete, the task of moving back to production is as simple as making a clone and booting back in the private cloud. Testing workload no longer competes with resources allocated for production. Simply increasing or decreasing the resources allocated to the cloud based test machine can test scale and load more easily.

Cloud bursting

This is the key benefit of hybrid cloud – leveraging public cloud for peak and unexpected usage, and thereby enabling capital investments in hardware to be sized based on average workloads rather than peak load. This avoids over-capacity situations typically found in traditional on-premise approach to data centre build-out.

Very often IT managers are shocked to see just how under-utilised their compute capacity actually is. Mr. Heng also pointed out that the unquantifiable benefit of cloud bursting is the unforeseen spin offs, including new projects, POCs and tests, that you can now run because it’s so easy to create the compute resource and place it in the public cloud where it will not compete for resource with your live applications.

The key takeaway here is that your choice of partner on which to build your hybrid cloud is possibly a more important choice than whom your public cloud provider might be. The most critical consideration is getting your network topology right. Likewise, the connection between your public and private cloud is critical. It’s not about bandwidth. The configuration and management layer is the real “jewel in the crown”. This determines what you can share and move between your private and public setups.

Let us help you with your whats and whys about hybrid clouds. Contact us.

1Source: Gartner Hype Cycles 2014

2Hybrid Cloud: Benefits, roadblocks, favoured vendor, Tech Pro Research's May 2014 survey

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