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Enterprises Expected To Move Toward Hybrid Clouds

IT departments are facing a hybrid cloud future and need to move more toward a services broker role within organizations, according to Gartner Inc.

That's the gist of a talk given last week, entitled "Hybrid Clouds and Hybrid IT: The Next Frontier." The argument stems from Gartner polling done last year that showed a high interest among enterprises in deploying hybrid clouds. By the end of 2017, Gartner expects that about half of large enterprises will have hybrid cloud deployments in place, according to Gartner's announcement.

The Four Clouds
Gartner conceives of four cloud types: public, private, community and hybrid, according to the talk by Thomas Bittman, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. Public clouds share services among multiple users. Private clouds are based on a single entity or a business unit. The private cloud is defined by the isolation of services, and not who owns it, so it's possible to have external service providers that offer private cloud services, he explained, although he added that 95 percent of private clouds today are located on the customer's premises. Community clouds are public in terms of where the sharing takes place but they still remain private. Example of community clouds include banks that share a cloud service or state governments working together in using a cloud service. The hybrid cloud scenario crosses the lines of public, private and community clouds.

Bittman said that the private cloud is still within Gartner's "hype cycle" as a phenomenon. Still, he said that roughly 40 percent of enterprises have some private cloud pilot testing going. It's possible to get economies of scale at the back end with private cloud infrastructure, but the primary benefit for organizations is agility. Gartner feels that most private cloud deployments eventually will become hybrid ones. Decisions made by IT departments today should be made with hybrid cloud architectures in mind, he added.

Capacity and capability are the two reasons why the hybrid cloud will meet organizational expectations, according to Bittman. Organizations could determine that a public cloud service does nearly all that's wanted but that service may still need some customization or aggregation with other services. The organization could use a hybrid cloud to enable the aggregated capability, he said.

Cloud computing has relatively low barrier to entry at present. However, no service providers are currently making it easy to get out of the service, Bittman said. Organizations that have private clouds in place will have greater flexibility in that respect because it may be easier to shift workloads, he added.

Hybrid clouds come with lots of challenges. Bittman said that there currently aren't any standards yet to interoperate between multiple clouds. The key cloud standards might be CloudStack, OpenStack, KVM or Xen, or standards spearheaded by Microsoft or VMware, or anything that Amazon might announce.

Management will be a key part of handling the hybrid cloud, but not much is available at present. Microsoft and VMware have early tool offerings for managing clouds, but managing isolation is still tricky, and in a world that aims to be more flexible, there will need to be tools to handle flexible isolation, Bittman said.

Compliance will be an ongoing issue with hybrid clouds, as well as software licensing. Integration between two cloud services sounds great but a language to enable that communication still needs to be invented, Bittman said. Interoperability is still an issue, which will require fundamental plumbing changes. Software-defined networking technology is still in its very early days to facilitate interoperability. Organizations also potentially face latency gaps in using the public cloud.

Aim for Hybrid IT
IT departments should aim for a "hybrid IT" approach, according to Bittman. They can try to ignore the cloud, but the business units in an organization will just start using cloud services anyway, he argued. Another approach for IT departments is to compete against cloud service providers but that's not a realistic approach, he said. In that case, IT departments will be seen as just one provider among many and end users will go around IT to get services. Instead, Gartner recommends that IT departments should shift into the role of being a trusted broker, in which IT manages the sourcing of services.

Bittman said that Gartner believes that the choices are stark: either IT should become a cloud broker, or it should leverage cloud brokerages. Cloud services are growing in levels of complexity, which means that there will be a need for integration via a broker, he added.

In general, Gartner recommends that IT departments design private cloud services with a hybrid cloud in mind, and they should focus on standards. IT departments should make architectural decisions to be either a great provider of services or a broker. Lastly, IT organizations should commit today to a hybrid IT strategy, and reposition the department as a services broker.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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