Hybrid Cloud

According to The Economist Intelligence Unit, over the next two years, client take-up of public and hybrid clouds is set to grow faster than other cloud models. So will Hybrid cloud, which uses a mix of on-premises, private cloud and public cloud services with orchestration between the two platforms, deliver real benefits?

Cloud computing used to be about doing things cheaper; then it was about being more agile. Today organisations are now starting to realise that cloud – and more specifically hybrid cloud – is the real key to new offerings, new business models and new revenue streams.Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 09.54.08

There can be little doubt that cloud is the new norm and, according to the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF), adoption is being strategically driven by the Board.

The driving force in UK Plc behind the move to the Cloud is the head of IT or the CIO, however a wide range of stakeholders are now involved in the decision-making process. This is according to the latest research findings from the Cloud industry Forum (CIF).

CIF reveals in its latest white paper into the levels of Cloud adoption in the UK based on detailed market research conducted in Q4 2015 which polled 250 senior IT and business decision-makers from both the public and private sectors the head of IT or CIO is actively involved in the decision-making process in 94 per cent of Cloud migration programmes and is the final decision-maker in over half of them (54 per cent).

However the findings also highlight the growing influence of other personnel within the decision; some 80 per cent of CEOs/MDs are actively involved, the CFO in 76 per cent of cases and the head of a user department in 73 per cent of Cloud migrations.
“These figures suggest that CEOs and department heads are now taking an active role in IT procurement decisions. This can come as no shock as the move to Cloud is invariably a business driven decision and one that, in some cases, involves additional investment to support Cloud-based applications,” stated Alex Hilton, CEO of CIF.

So will Hybrid cloud deliver real benefits?

Chanaka Ekanayake, Lead Solutions Architect at Insight UK, says that while the interpretation of what hybrid cloud looks like may differ from one organisation to another, the most commonly accepted forms of hybrid cloud are private and public cloud platforms that have an overarching cloud management platform consisting of automation, orchestration and self service capabilities.
“Such a platform would no doubt provide many benefits to most organisations when implemented correctly along with business process changes that are also vital in order to fully realise such benefits.

A hybrid cloud model provides the ability to meet various service level delivery challenges through the implementation of automation and orchestration techniques, coupled with self-service capabilities. While it is true that the basic compute virtualisation that underpins private and public cloud platforms inherently provide a level of agility, a hybrid cloud platform takes this further by introducing capabilities that automate deployment of many different infrastructure and application components to make up a complete service (for example, this could be a distributed business application or any business process such as onboarding a new user into an organisation).

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 09.54.41This service is typically then published on a cloud management portal as a service blueprint or a catalogue item, allowing end users (business) to self-provision the application service along with its infrastructure components, either on their own infrastructure (private cloud) or elsewhere (public cloud), enabling the concept of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). This hybrid cloud platform can also include multiple public cloud end points from multiple providers, in order to provide extra flexibility if required.

Beyond agility, a hybrid cloud based IT model provides the vital scalability that businesses need to support constant growth, based on demand. A legacy IT platform – even with a fully virtualised datacentre – would require planning and perpetual expansion at the infrastructure layer in order to facilitate increasing business demand. Every new business application that requires additional infrastructure cannot go live until the underlying infrastructure demand is measured upfront and scaled out accordingly, which takes time and costs significant capital expenditure. Once that scale out operation is complete, the business is left with that capital expenditure, even if the demand for such scale of infrastructure diminishes in the future.
With a hybrid cloud model, an organisation has access to a perceived infinite pool of compute, storage and networking (at the public cloud end) which means that scaling out is a simple matter of selecting the public end of the hybrid cloud resource pool as the destination when provisioning a new service or application. Similarly, during off peak times or upon service retirement, the environment can now be scaled back through expiration of the infrastructure components. This reduces the operational cost on the public cloud platform, making it efficient in addressing seasonal demand for critical business applications as overflow on to the public cloud only takes place when required, keeping the total cost of ownership of IT to a minimum.”

No Surprises Here…

Martin Taylor, CMO and Co-Founder at Content Guru, is not surprised to see the acceleration of hybrid and public cloud deployments.

“Until recently, larger organisations have typically been drawn towards a private cloud model, with the notional benefits of scalability, security and ownership amongst the key drivers. Moreover, the ability to integrate with existing IT assets not only makes the process of transitioning to cloud much easier, but it also ensures that organisations can make the best of their legacy investments as cloud deployments can overlay existing infrastructure, meaning there is no need to rip-and-replace.
More mature cloud platforms may also have similar native functionalities to legacy systems, allowing organisations to seamlessly migrate services across to the cloud once their on-premises equipment has reached end-of-life, and thereby offering a cost-effective, future-proofed solution.

However, in many cases cloud is actually proving to be at least as secure as on-premises solutions. There are now an increasing number of cloud providers that are able to deliver all the features of a quick-to-deploy, scalable and multi-tenanted cloud-type solution but within a highly secure private network. By combining the best of both public and private cloud in one deployment with on-premises information systems, many organisations are now finding these hybrid cloud models preferable; they are subject to constant improvement and investment to adhere to high industry standards, whilst on-premises based solutions often prove to be less secure as they are infrequently upgraded. And with security concerns at the core of all cloud providers’ businesses (particularly those which have achieved the highest levels of ISO and PCI security accreditation), they also invest far more heavily in cloud security for their centralised platforms than an individual organisation or private cloud provider would, as well as ensuring that all upgrades are universally applied to their customers’ partitions.”

Lack of Definition?

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 09.55.00Lawrence Jones, CEO of UKfast, believes hybrid cloud has suffered a little from a lack of a definite definition.
“Until 2015 ‘hybrid cloud’ referred to the space in between public and private – using private compute power but shared storage, all outsourced to a datacentre provider. Now the industry is moving towards using the term hybrid cloud to refer to having some infrastructure in the cloud and some infrastructure on premise, and linking the two.

Hybrid cloud offers a fantastic balance between cloud and on premise. You tend to find that users who want a lot of grunt and workload to burst into, possibly with seasonal or periodic peaks, will utilise hybrid cloud. It’s common to put all web front-end presence, such as websites and payment gateways, in the cloud so they can scale rapidly, whilst keeping all internal business processes and data analytics on premise or in your own private cloud.

What’s enabling the growth of hybrid cloud now is the emergence of software-defined networking (SDN). Traditionally, a hybrid cloud model would have some VMs in the cloud and some VMs on premise and they’d be linked with a VPN. The two environments would be treated very separately. We’ve found this method is extremely successful and works very well for the right solution, but you lose some of the flexibility of having a central management system; the kind you would have with infrastructure exclusively in the cloud or exclusively on premise.

Now though, SDN allows organisations to consolidate dedicated and cloud environments together. This makes life a lot easier and has led to an increased uptake of hybrid cloud in the recent past. The networking between two parts of a solution is done in a more automatic fashion – making networks talk to each other more fluidly. You can move VMs between your in-house kit and your outsourced cloud, and there’s no need to deal with the complex networking issues that used to come along with that. It’s done for you by the software and it all just works, which is an incredible development for both users and vendors.

We are certainly seeing bigger companies adopting hybrid, because it represents a good compromise. Many of the early adopters of cloud were young keen techies who rushed into it, but all the big enterprises stayed back because they either weren’t dynamic enough to move into it or they were worried about the unknown and a perceived exposure to risk. They didn’t want to outsource their entire critical infrastructure, but now they are getting the capability to use cloud whilst safely staying in their own environment. It’s a lot more fluid for them now thanks to a combination of the orchestration platform, SDN and software defined storage all working together. It’s helping large organisations make the decision to use hybrid cloud.

I’ve seen some great uses of hybrid cloud that have opened up fantastic operational options for businesses. For example, a publishing house which did bespoke brochure printing. This firm printed flyers and brochures on an individual basis, automatically customising the messages for each user depending on their browsing and purchasing behaviour. The results were much more targeted than previously and they cut their printing costs immensely.

They were able to do this by separating their back and front end using a hybrid configuration. Their print workshop software and the huge amount of graphic information they used was run internally, but their front end was hosted in the cloud, collecting all that data and sending it through to the back end where they built a picture of their users. The front end was really scalable and perfect for the job.

There’s no one size-fits-all solution to launching a hybrid cloud. It’s about having a provider who can engage in an open dialogue. Success can often depend on discussing the options with a technology partner and choosing the right platform to best match your existing setup.”

Carl Boraman, Commercial Director at Tollring believes that hybrid cloud is incredibly important since it enables companies to transition into the cloud.

“As a disruptive rather than destructive technology, it allows organisations to experiment and to build cloud services on to their existing services.

This is particularly relevant for larger private and public sector organisations with extensive datacentres and legacy technology. These organisations can’t just shoehorn legacy technology into the cloud and equally, the do not want to be destructive by ripping out old technology and replacing it with new.

The transitional appeal of Hybrid means they can test and try applications before moving completely to the cloud. Hybrid offers them a practical and pragmatic approach, where they can pick the best data from their old systems and connect it to the cloud. This delivers significant gains, with less investment and the ability to do more with less.

By taking these initial steps into the realm of cloud-based services, organisations can achieve all the benefits of anyplace, anytime access to application functionality that the cloud has to offer.

The Hybrid model has significant benefits for everyone, including legacy vendors. It gives them a way to talk to their customers and join them on this journey to the cloud. And it delivers a flexible way to transition into this new cloud world with its pay as you use service thus providing a more dependable, commercial model which gives providers improved longer term valuation and greater stability.”

Reseller Comment
John Whitty, CEO of reseller Solar Communications, says cloud solutions are the future of business communications — especially for small- to mid-sized businesses who would prefer not to spend a hefty, up-front charge for PBX equipment.

“Communications technologies are developing rapidly and at Solar we’re seeing increasing interest in cloud solutions, with organisations recognising they can not only spread the cost of communications over a period of time, but benefit from new features and upgrades as soon as they become available.

Some organisations still prioritise ownership and control of their communications infrastructure and opt for on-site equipment, but today, most businesses fall somewhere in the middle of the on-premises to pure-cloud scale. UK organisations want to opt for cloud services for some of their communications applications and on-site for others, and this hybrid cloud approach enables them to take advantage of the best of both worlds — putting organisations in control where they want to be, while letting a vendor or services provider manage everything else.

The resellers that will be successful in taking advantage of the burgeoning hybrid cloud market will be those with the flexibility to offer a truly bespoke hybrid cloud offering to their customers, with the right blend of on-premises and private and public cloud services to suit individual business requirements.”

Ed Says… Unless you have plenty of time, money and skills at your disposal, or are a carrier, why would you ever build your own private cloud? Public cloud services are there to be ‘consumed’ and when you want to have key apps under your own roof you can integrate them with the right public cloud service as well. Hybrid rules, OK.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine