The shift to hybrid cloud computing

Companies ill-prepared for the cloud will end up with their IT mess spread across a wider area, reports Ovum.

Analyst firm Ovum says cloud computing is the most important trend for 2010, as it predicts the rise of hybrid clouds. “Enterprises will mix and match public and private cloud elements with traditional hosting and outsourcing services, to create solutions that fit short and long-term requirements,” says Laurent Lachal, author of a new Ovum report on cloud computing.

Lachal says cloud computing covers infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), software-as-a-service (SaaS) and private clouds.

“The past 18 months have seen a significant shift in focus away from public clouds towards private ones, owing to a powerful mix of vendor push and user pull,” says Lachal.

In a press statement, Ovum says the private cloud is mainly a re-badging of what datacentre-focused hardware, software and service vendors have been doing under different names (such as utility computing, autonomic IT and on demand datacentre) for the past 10 years.

Many users are wary of public clouds’ quality of service in areas such as reliability, availability, scalability and security, but are curious about the possibility of adopting some of their characteristics.

Private clouds, on the other hand, are either defined as the aim of the datacentre evolution journey (a long and patient maturation process) or as shortcuts along the way that push parts of the datacentre ahead to deliver focused return on investment.

What is needed, says Ovum, is a way to reconcile the two approaches (private-cloud-as-a-journey and as-a-shortcut) to understand when, on the road towards next generation data centres, should users take shortcuts. Unfortunately, most vendors currently emphasise the second approach rather than trying to reconcile the two, the report claims.

“Cloud computing promises to tackles two irreconcilable (so far) IT challenges, the need to lower costs and boost innovation. But it will take a lot of effort from enterprises to actually make it work,” says Lachal in the press statement. “Instead of a nimbler IT, with their IT mess for less somewhere else, the ill-prepared will end up with their IT mess spread across a wider area.”

Lachal says moving into the cloud requires preparation and many enterprises are not particularly ready for either private or public clouds, or any type of hybrids in between. Besides the current confusion as to what exactly cloud computing is, many enterprises lack the knowledge, skills and metrics to figure out what is best for them.

Lachal says enterprises need to figure out how to mix and match the following:

• Totally private and shared private clouds (to collaborate with partners on common goals).

• Public and private clouds, with public clouds used, for example, for workloads that have unpredictable spikes in their use, for application that are only occasionally used or to turn the pre-production infrastructure (used for test, migrations and so on) into a production one and use public clouds instead (since pre-production tasks have much lower requirements in terms of quality of service than production ones).

• Public clouds and traditional hosting/outsourcing service offerings: for example hosted offerings are usually cheaper for static web sites than the Amazon IaaS service. On the other hand, for use such as application testing, where a handful of servers are required for a few weeks and a few hours per day, Amazon IaaS is the answer.

• Public cloud offerings (IaaS, PaaS and SaaS), based on their respective cost effectiveness.

“To do so, they need to improve their knowledge of which asset cost what in public and private clouds, as well as traditional hosting/outsourcing service offerings and their ability to monitor, meter and [compute] bill usage. Few enterprises can currently do so. Achieving all of this will take time and tears,” Lachal concludes.