Hybrid Cloud: Are you ready?

Maybe you’ve finally figured out why you need to incorporate clouds into your thinking. Let’s see: agility, flexibility, cost savings, new business models, etc. Any one of those is likely enough to warrant a hard look at how a cloud can help.

At the risk of making life more complicated than it already is, you may want to start the process with a reality check: you will be using multiple cloud providers. Possibly one or more SaaS providers and one or more for IaaS.

While you may only use one SaaS provider for, say CRM, you may end using a different provider for say, travel reimbursement management. Then, when the time comes to build your own private IaaS cloud, you may find that you will also need so called burst capability. This, in turn, will cause you to create relationships with one or more external partners to host those IaaS workloads. Some of those partners may implement an extension of your private cloud in their facilities, something I refer to as an “extended private cloud”. Some of the IaaS partners may be public cloud providers such as Amazon, Rackspace, Joyent, etc.

Some things to consider in these situations:

  • For the IaaS workloads, you will need to build them in such a way that they can in fact be hosted at multiple providers. This means you may end up maintaining multiple versions of the VM image which are then validated in each of the environments. This sounds bad but there are format conversion tools emerging and you have to do the environment specific validation anyway.
  • When your internal users get ready to deploy a workload into one of the IaaS clouds, which one should they use and what credentials will they use to access that cloud? The cloud selection needs to be implemented based on an IT policy, in turn, implemented in an automation tool. Univa Unicloud is one example of such a tool (there are others). The developer credentials need to be derived from the organization, not from the service provider. Therefore, when the developer gets ready to push a workload to an IaaS or access the application environment, they need to use their corporate credentials but the credentials needed at the cloud vendor will be specific to the cloud vendor. Products such as the Intel Cloud Access 360 can perform this ‘translation’ function (authenticate a developer with corporate credentials but access the cloud using service provider credentials).
  • Not all of your applications will be in your cloud managed environments. Some of the applications will need to remain in their ‘traditional’ enterprise environments. Therefore, we need to put in place the means for the ‘cloud applications’ to securely and transparently access ‘traditional enterprise applications’. One example of solutions in this space is the Citrix Cloud Bridge.
  • Make sure your internal processes (such as help desk) are ready for the complexity of managing these relationships, being able to easily locate workloads, and handle support escalations into multiple providers.

If you are a small business, all of this may be overkill. And, there may be another option: AppUp Small Business Service. This is a way for a small business to get access to software solutions with support from a channel partner. The trade-off can be the software solutions you need to keep 'on-site' but managed 'off-site' vs. SaaS solutions (that are almost always 'off-site').

These are some of the things to consider. I’m sure there are many more.

In any case: start getting ready. Hybrid clouds are coming to an IT shop near you.