Thoughts on Hybrid Cloud from a Cloud Architect

For me, hybrid cloud computing brings to mind images of an animal-robot hybrid Godzilla coming down out of the clouds, breathing fire, and looking to make life difficult for the citizens of Anytown.

Perhaps my imagination was prodded that way when my granddaughter recently ran by with a plastic dinosaur, flying it around in my office and making monster noises before scooting off. 

Frankly, the “animal robot hybrid Godzilla coming down out of the clouds” isn’t too far-fetched a description of what some customers are dealing with as they slog their way through figuring out cloud, mixing cloud computing with traditional IT, and managing information across systems, platforms, and locations.

The result?  Chaos.  Not everywhere, but it’s out there, making things confusing.

Today cloud is a fact, not a fad, in the enterprise.  There’s still the “honeymoon” thing going on where some of the IT and Line of Business people are all thinking everything is bliss – that they’re going to achieve Nirvana, or find the Holy Grail, because of cloud.

That’s partially driven by the fact that there are so many definitions of cloud.  In a recent sample – consisting of me asking a few folks while out and about a few days ago (totally statistically significant, right?) – here are some of the responses I got:

 

“The cloud is iTunes.”

“The cloud is Dropbox.”

“The cloud is that thing from Amazon.”

“The cloud is having your stuff stored somewhere else.”

 

That last one was from my daughter, and they all apply.

Being a technologist and cloud guy, I’m partial to the definition that NIST came up with in their publication SP 800-145:

“Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”

Boiling that down, cloud computing represents agility and flexibility, where services are paid for on-demand.  It eliminates much of what folks dislike about traditional IT - expensive multi-year contracts, not being able to predict infrastructure needs (which leads to oversubscription and more $$), and in the case of DR, your expensive standby site that appears as a black hole, and drains resources for just being there.

So cloud is cool and cloud is hot, because it can solve a lot of that.

But there’s also that chaos factor, because it doesn't do any of that automagically.

How do we get the benefits of cloud (public or private or hybrid or whatever comes next), not abandon the existing traditional systems, and all while not having your environment turn into an animal-robot-hybrid-fire-breathing Godzilla?

Here’s some basic guidance:

  1. Recognize that cloud requires a different mindset.  Cloud offers virtually unlimited agility and flexibility.  But does every workload require agility and flexibility?  Some workloads require stability and resilience with very little change. Every operational environment is different, so recognize those differences and architect accordingly.  It’s not rocket science, but it is a shift in how we think about the IT universe.
  2. Let your workloads dictate the infrastructure requirements, not the other way around (which it has been traditionally).  In IT terms, this means your Service Level Agreements.  What are the RTO/RPO/Governance requirements of application XYZ?  How about for your data?  Can those SLAs be best met in the public cloud, on prem in a private cloud, or in traditional IT?  Use a management platform that provides information visibility across all of those infrastructure options.  Use the force.

There is no shortage of vendor claims of how to more efficiently utilize the current infrastructure.  Some of them are tried and true/old hat, some are very cool, some are questionable, and some are cutting edge.  I really like cutting edge technologies, but those sharp edges can be tricky.  And when something sounds too good to be true, dig around for some details and specifics – because it probably is.

Look for solutions that manage information heterogeneously, because data centers contain gear from a lot of different vendors.  Look for solutions that can integrate with your cloud platform of choice, not append to it.  This means leveraging your private or public cloud as a key component of the information lifecycle.  In the world of information management this makes cloud a player on the team, not a new team altogether.

There will be a follow up to this post with a dedicated focus on the two points above.  Hybrid clouds are still a couple of years out from being widely adopted according to Gartner.  Regardless, it doesn’t have to be a scary fire-breathing Godzilla destroying your “Anytown.” 

For some light reading on point 1 above, check out what Gartner has to say about “Bimodal IT”.  For point 2, this Hybrid Cloud Infographic is pretty prescriptive.

This technology is pretty cool, I wonder what the next iteration is going to look like?

Thanks for reading,

   -John